directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Nash and Norrena lead Jackets past Preds 3-0

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Nash and Norrena lead Jackets past Preds 3-0

Despite getting outshot 41-17 the Jackets blanked the Predators 3-0 last night in Nashville evening their preseason record to 3-3-1 (3-0-1 on the road).

Fredrik Norrena (pictured right) earned the much deserved shutout after making countless saves off point blank shots and held the Jackets in the game during 11 PP opportunities for the Predators. He certainly made a strong statement for that #1 starter position last night.

Rick Nash capitalized on his opportunities tonight scoring a short handed goal and knocking one home off a Manny Malhotra faceoff win in the offensive zone. Nash ended the preseason scoring 4 goals in 5 games and for the first time appeared to be rounding into regular season form and becoming the best player on the ice for the Jackets. Nash's ability to kill penalties has been a tremendous asset that coach Ken Hitchcock has uncovered since his arrival. "(Nash) is a horse right now and we're going to ride him," coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Sergei Fedorov added the 3rd goal from Derick Brassard and Nikolai Zherdev 83 seconds after Nash scored his second.

This was the first time beating the Nashville Predators in preseason or the regular season in more than a full calendar year.

Lit it up

Outside of the Nash and Norrena there were a number of other players who played well, the first of which was Manny Malhotra. In the Columbus Dispatch this morning, coach Ken Hitchcock was quoted as saying "Malhotra has been the team's best all-around player in camp". Manny, who won 68% of his faceoffs last night going 11 for 5 in the circle, played a solid North American style game last night. Manny, who isn't known for his scoring prowess, may find himself in that #1 center position on opening night due mostly to the fact that nobody else has stepped up and b/c of his strong 2-way game and ability in the circle he won't be a liability as Nash and Vybes work their magic.

The kids are alright. Kris Russell continues to shine pulling 18+ minutes and going a +2 on the evening. He's been given a big test in the preseason and appears to be ready for the challenge of the NHL grind.

Derick Brassard, who tallied an assist last night off of Sergei Fedorov's 2nd period goal and was a +2 also is making a strong case - he has 5 points in 5 preseason games.

Finally, fireball Jared Boll did just about everything short of a score a point in the preseason to make his case for this team. He almost single handedly changed the momentum of last night's game getting under the skin of the entire Nashville team - this team needs his agitation and in-your-face style of play. He also fought Nashville tough guy Darcy Hordichuck (although I don't want this kid fighting every enforcer in this league).

All three of these kids should be in the lineup opening night and they have all earned it which is the key -- no inherited roles based on draft positions or individual biases here - that ship has sailed thankfully in this organization. Look for Derick Brassard to play further down the lineup as all signs point to Hitch not being ready to put the pressure of a #1 center job at the recently turned 20 year old's feet quite yet. Kris Russel should play in the top 4 but pull mostly even strength power play minutes - he won't see much PK time. Boll will be a fourth liner initially but could move up to the 3rd line as the season progresses.

Dim the light

Russians playing better. Both Nikolai Zherdev and Sergei Fedorov appear to have lifted their game's a notch or two. Fedorov has 3 points (2g, 1a) in his last 3 preseason games and Zherdev scored his first point of the preseason last night and has averaged 22 min in ice time his last two outings. So for a pair that had some real bad stretches during the preseason for them to start finding their games as the regular season approaches is a real plus for this team.

Defense and PK. The team defense and more specifically the PK continues to play strong. Last night was more of Norrena standing on his head but PK and team defense has been strong throughout the preseason which is an excellent sign of things to come. This team is not going to blow teams out of the water in the scoring department most nights so it must excel in goaltending and team defense and win those close games.

Busted bulbs

Penalties. This team continues to rack up the penalties and must reduce them as teams are too good in this league not to capitalize most nights. We also can't expect Leclaire and Norrena to stand on their heads night in and night out. I realize the referees are calling some extremely suspect penalties but the hooks, holds and trips must be limited especially in the offensive zone.

Evaluating the preseason as a whole there a lot of signs here to get excited about. We've had some young talent emerge - especially in key areas that are lacking on this team like a highly offensively skilled defensemen in Russell and a playmaking center in Brassard.

More importantly we are seeing strong signs of the style of play that Hitch is installing which is an intense, checking, strong team defense in your face style of play. Checking, according to Hitch, is what generates offense and as you watch this team thus far they have shown that to be true. There was only one preseason game where this team did not play this style and that was Thursday's game against Carolina - the positive is that they bounced back from that effort on the road the following two games.

Now lets see if this momentum and style carries over to the regular season and this team gets off to a good start.

Injury update: Peca is expected to practice Monday for the first time in two weeks, Hitchcock said. The coach offered no timetable on a return for Modin and defenseman Adam Foote (hamstring).

I think the odds of Foote and Modin playing in the season opener on Friday are low. So if your wondering where kids like Brassard and Boll fit in the lineup you can start piecing it together from there.

The Dispatch also has an excellent piece on Ken Hitchcock regarding the similarities between how he turned Dallas around 10 years ago to how he looks to turn Columbus around:

"There's nobody talking about our team who is picking us in the top 12 of the conference," Hitchcock said. "There's nobody. What they're missing is that this is a very competitive group of players. I can see it. I know it's there. But you can't measure it until we start the competition."

Read more of that here.

Look for final cuts to be made today or Monday. Final 23 man rosters are due to the NHL by this Tuesday.

On a final note, are we ever going to see the Jackets play in their road white uniforms? I don't believe they broke those out once this preseason.


1 comment:

Matt said...

Looks like Brassard will be taking top-line duties in Syracuse. I'd hoped for him to stay with the club, but I can understand the decision. I bet the Crunch will have a pretty good season with all the talent we've put there to season.

Not shocked if he's an early callup, though.

Mason is still with the roster as of today. I wonder if this means we're platooning with Mason as the guy on the bench each night while the other starter gets rest, or if there might be something else going on.

Can't wait for opening night!