directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Monday, March 31, 2008

Stat of the day - Voracek starting to heat up

After a slow start in the QMJHL playoffs, 2007 7th overall pick Jakub Voracek is starting to heat up.

Tonight he posted 3 assists in Halifax's 7-0 victory over the Victoriaville Tigers.

Two nights ago he had 1g, 2a in their 7-2 victory of those same Tigers.

So after scoring just 3 points in his first 4 playoff games....Voraceck has thrown up 6 in his past 2 games to give him 3g, 7a in 6 games.

The leading QMJHL scorere is Claud Giroux, a Flyers first round pick a couple of years ago, he has 4g, 10a in 5gp.

Lets see if Voracek can catch him.


Jackets hit 80 points for first time, but fall to Chicago in shootout

4 goals typically means a guaranteed win for the Jackets. Not last night as they blew a 2 goal lead and then a 1 goal lead late in the 3rd period to the Chicago Blackhawks.

That loss makes 12 in OT/shootout. Where would this team be if they only had 6 of those wins? They certainly wouldn't be eliminated from the playoffs yet that's for sure.

Among many other things this team must find a way to collect more wins in the extra session this offseason. Whether it be acquiring a player who has a proven track record in the shootout, Leclaire/Norrena stopping more pucks or hell, I'll even take waiving some magic dust on sticks if it gets me 6 more wins.

Of course you could also say where would this team be if it won half the games from Nashville, was stronger during the home stretch in December, didn't lay an egg after the All Star Break, had a powerplay that was even average and wasn't the lowest scoring team in the league.

Lit it up

Two players really stood out to me last night. Rusty Klelsa who logged over 31 minutes of ice time and finished even on the night....and Andrew Murray who I thought had his best game as a Jackets....hustled every shift, had a goal an assist, was +1, and I can't remember him losing one battle out there..Mr. Reliable.

Secondary scoring. Murray, MacKenzie, Peca with goals... Russell and Brule with 2 assists. Different names on the score sheet.

Dim the light

That was Nik Zherdev's best game in a looong time. He controlled the puck well last night, skated hard and well how bout that goal? Nik cracked 60 points for the first time in his career with that tally.

PP got a goal and looked better, especially in the first period. It helps not having Hainsey out there to screw it up.

Franchise hits 80 points for first time in history. You can tell expectations have raised as this seems to be merely an afterthought. Could you imagine Doug MacLean's spin on this if he were still here?

Busted bulbs

The penalty kill was horrendous. It gave up 3 PP goals although the 5 on 3 goal they gave up was on the refs for a ridiculous call...and all Norrena for not making the big stop when needed.

Norrena. As a friend of mine says, guy is just good enough to lose with. Just hasn't made a lot of "game saving" stops and the win-loss record reflects. Still though, if you want a high pick, keep playing this guy.

Russell. Bad bad game from Russ. I know he was rusty but you can't fall down like that in the NHL. Something else that has really started to bother me about this kid, he just doesn't look like he skates with a lot of urgency. Its almost like he thinks he's back in junior and has all this time to make plays -- message to KR -- got to skate and move the puck quickly, the more time you give NHL players the more time they have to get in position and shut down your options.

OT/Shootout. 12th loss speaks for itself. The team is not 5-12 in the extra session. Not nearly good enough.

What was the deal with everyone falling last night. Hejda, Boll and Russell all lost edges last night. Do we need to acquire a better skate sharpener in the offseason as well?

..and of course we didn't score first which meant we had to find a way to lose the game.

3 bright lights on the night

1. Rusty Klesla - really stood up last night and played huge minutes
2. Andrew Murray - good all around game last night
3. Milestones - Z with 60 points...the Jackets hitting 80 points for first time in franchise history

So the dream of Stamkos lives on another night. The Jackets sit tied for 6th in the draft rankings with Phoenix. With only 3 games left there is still an outside chance that St. Louis could pass them by to push the Jackets into that 5th worst record thus giving them a shot to win the lottery to get Stamkos. Of course the Jackets will be just good enough not to get that chance and will probably end up with the 6th - 8th pick in the draft -- the key is to be in the top 7.

I think the Jackets have about 1 more win left in them and it will most likely come at home in the season finale against the Blues this Sunday.
For those keeping score the Jackets ended up going 4-3-1 against the 'hawks this season.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Jackets officially eliminated....eyes turn to draft...

With the Jackets officially eliminated from playoff contention after the Nashville Predators grabbed a point from Detroit this afternoon its time to look at the draft.

Currently the Jackets sit in the 6th spot with 4 games left to play. From the research I've done there are a couple of tiers making up the top 12 including 4 potential franchise defenders. Here are some names and some pictures (courtesy of HFBoards) of the top 12 and what some of them project to:

1st tier
Steve Stamkos - center - Franchise player, a potential hall of fame player in the mold of Mike Modano/Joe Sakic

2nd tier
Drew Doughty - franchise defensemen with most offensive upside, very gifted with the puck
Zack Bogosian - franchise defensemen, moving up draft charts quickly, solid all around d-men, does everything well
Alex Pietrangelo - franchise defensemen with good size, great on both sides of the puck, probably best all around defensemen, some compare to Chris Pronger
Nikita Fitalov - left wing - Elite offensive 1st line centre. Potential franchise player he's the second best forward in the draft
Luke Schenn - top 2 shut down defender, said to be the hardest hitter in the draft
Cody Hodgson - center - All around player: Great offensively, great defensively, future captain. Potential franchise player

3rd tier
Kyle Beach - left wing - BIG TIME boom/bust player. If he reaches his potential and has a good head on his shoulders, he will be a franchise player in the mold of Ryan Getzlaf. If he busts, he will be a Simon type
Colin Wilson - center - Potential 1st line player, awesome defensively. Future captain.
Tyle Myers - defense - Top 4 defender. 6' 7" has a chance to be a poor man's Chara.

This is said to be the strongest daft since 2003 and the Jackets will have two first round picks in it. One should definitely be in the top 10 and the other, Colorado's pick, could be anywhere from 16 to 30 depending on how they do in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

So *if* the Jackets hang onto their pick, you can expect one of the names above to be a Jacket at the end of June. However, I think that is a big *if* as the Jackets will be exploring every opportunity to improve their team and that will most certainly include trades and putting their first round picks in play.


Cap estimated at 56.3 million next season

Larry Brooks of the NY Post is estimating the cap ceiling to be set at some 56.3 million next year. That would represent an 11% increase from this year's 51 million:

Slap Shots has learned that the Players Association - with input on the number from the NHL - projects revenues to reach $2.575B this season, an 11.1-percent increase over the 2006-07 Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) of $2.318B. The cap should increase at a slightly higher rate because the players' share of the gross increases from 55.5 percent to 56.333 percent at the $2.5B revenue threshold. It assumes the players will once again exercise their option to approve a five-percent inflation bump.

Thus the PA estimates that the cap will be approximately $56.3M - give or take in concert with the final HRR number that will be determined by playoff revenues - next season, an increase of $6M from this year. It means clubs will be able to maintain summer rosters of up to nearly $62M in payroll before personnel decisions come due at the end of the training camp.
It also means the floor next season will be $40M, or slightly above that. It seems like expensive flooring, but not so much, actually. For of all 30 NHL teams, only Columbus (barely), Nashville and Phoenix will have invested less in payroll this season.

Read more here.

If your a big market team close to the cap this year then this is great news. If your a small market team like Columbus then this is horrible news.


The lesser amount of teams available to bid on free agents the better it is for the Jackets. Even with a projected 45 million dollar budget the Jackets were going to have 20 million to spend. Now with the cap increasing some 5 to 6 million that just put a lot more teams, team who were close or at the cap, back into the mix to bid on this year's group of free agents which will not only drive prices for UFAs even higher but make things even more difficult attracting UFAs to a market like Columbus that has never won anything.

Looking at the Jackets are the 3rd lowest spending team this year coming in at just under 40 million. As mentioned they have a number of players coming off the books which will free up some 20 million. However even with a budget of 45 million that would have only put the Jackets at 20th in league spending. Not good enough.

For the Jackets to be serious about winning they are going to have to get serious about spending. They need to be in that top 15-18 range and obviously spending it on quality talent.

Its the old adage - you have to spend money to make money - and now with the right management in charge its time to open the wallet.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

TSN's look at free agents

Over the coming weeks I'm going to take an in depth look at available Unrestricted and Restricted Free Agents and provide some insight as to whom I think the Jackets may be the most interested in.

For now though, TSN has a great look that could wet your appetite as the Jackets prepare to overhaul this roster this offseason.

Here are some comments on the Jackets pending UFAs and RFAs:

Ron Hainsey, D, Columbus - The 27-year-old tends to fly under the radar in Columbus, but he's a solid puck-moving defenceman with size and logs better than 22 minutes per game; an attractive commodity on the open market.

Jan Hejda, D, Columbus - The 29-year-old has surprisingly emerged as a defensive force in Columbus, playing more than 21 minutes per night on his way to a plus-20 rating.

Pascal Leclaire, G, Columbus - It's inconceivable that a team so void of stars like the Blue Jackets wouldn't match any offer for the 25-year-old who is coming off a breakout campaign.

Of course Michael Peca, Dick Tarnstrom and David Vyborny are other Jacket roster players who will be UFAs while Dan Fritsche will be a RFA.

I would think the Jackets will try very hard to get Hejda signed and I also can't see any scenario where Pascal Leclaire is not a Jacket next season.

Read rest of article here.


No 'O'

Even by outshooting the Nashville Predators 43-25 and keeping Jacket killers Arnott/Dumont/Radulov off the score sheet the Columbus Blue Jackets found a way to lose, yet again, to the Preds 2-0.


Once again no offense and you couple that with two bad goals by Freddy Norrena and lose for the 7th time in 8 games to the Preds.

There are a lot of "what ifs" this season but where could this team be if they hadn't given the Predators 15 of 16 points?

Lit it up

Jared Boll. Kid once again did his job and took care of Tootoo 3 minutes into the game. Tootoo, like he usually does, tried to get the drop early but this isn't Jan Hejda your fighting here bub....Boll took a couple early punches and then went on to control the fight and got the decision... in fact, Tootoo had to leave the game for a bit to get repairs. Quite honestly I'm surprised Tootoo had the guts to face Boll.

Jason Chimera. Talk about lighting up Darcy Hordichuk. That hit was beautiful and certain to be played over and over again on CBJ highlight reels.

Dim the light

Clay Wilson. Kid played over 22 minutes. Sure he had a couple of turnovers but once again he made all kinds of things happen. I just can't get over how bad he makes a guy like Hainsey really look offensively.

Hejda and Klesla did their job shutting down Nashville's top line. Unfortunately they got no help on the scoreboard.

Jackets only took 3 penalties which is pretty good for them and the PK killed em all off.

Decent crowd of over 15,500 but I sure do miss the days of that placed being packed for a Friday night game.

Busted bulbs

Not sure which was worse - Freddy No or the offense. What is unfortunate is that any weak goal given up is magnified X1000 because of this offense's inability to score. So when Freddy gives up two bad ones is almost always game over.

PP. Better movement but again failed to convert.

Nash with only 16 minutes last night. He did have 7 shots and I didn't think he played a bad game.

3 bright lights on the night

1. Jared Boll. You know he still had to be hurting but he showed up and did his job out there. Love this kid.
2. Hit on Hordy. Karma isn't it? Hordichuk running his mouth and gets embarrassed by Jason Chimera's hit onto the CBJ bench. Only thing that could have made that play better is if he went into Nashville's bench right onto Tootoo -- but I'll certainly take it the way it happened.
3. Wilson. I continue to be impressed by this kid. I think Hainsey is gone regardless but his emergence will make that decision easier.

Whelp the Jackets still have a shot at Stamkos. They are currently the 6th worst team in the league with St. Louis and NYI Islanders 5 and 4 points behind them respectively. Of course on the other side of that is there are 3 teams ahead of them with 80 points and 1 with 81 so if the Jackets decide to win a few of these remaining games and the rest lose, they could easily end up outside the top 10.

Unfortunately (or depending how you look at it, fortunately) I don't see that happening. I think they'll be lucky to split their remaining four games of which 3 are on the road.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Boll and Hordichuk both in

Just read from Puck-rakers that both Jared Boll of the Jackets and Darcy Hordichuk of the Predators are in the lineup.

Figures Preds head coach Barry Trotz couldn't let Tootoo stick up for himself so he had to dress some backup.

Apparently Hordichuk is already flapping his gums by saying that the Jackets shouldn't have traded Shelley.

I can tell you this, if the Jackets could call some people up they certainly have capable guys in the minors more than willing to dance with anyone the Preds have.

I hope the Jackets really bring it tonight.


Week 25 Power Rankings - further down they go - down 4 to 28
While it's not changing the Jackets' fortunes, C Manny Malhotra is on a late-season scoring surge, with five goals and seven points in his last four games. - down 2 to 25
Keep trying, it was a good run. - down 2 to 25
Ditto Chicago and Phoenix. - down 1 to 25
Three straight losses and coach Ken Hitchcock had a closed-door meeting with his team in the last week. Not pretty. - down 2 to 24
Since being named captain March 12, Rick Nash has points in each of the five games. "He's tried to carry us on his back," coach Ken Hitchcock said. - down 1 to 25
Back-to-back losses to Detroit was the final nail in the coffin for the Blue Jackets. Captain Rick Nash has 10 points in his past six games. - down 4 to 24
The power play, hit-and-miss all season, has hit a rough spot. Since Feb. 17, the unit is just 3-for-57 to slip to 28th in the league. During that span, the PK hasn't been much better, allowing 16 goals on 71 chances. With the playoffs out the picture, it's time to look at individual marks. Rick Nash (38 goals) is just four away from a new career high. Pascal Leclaire is one win from 25.

Average score: 25.14 (last week 22.75)

It was indeed fun while it lasted. continues to kick squarley in the with the lowest ranking at 28. Most have us in the 25 area with CNNSI and year long nemesis CBSSports again ranking us the highest at 24.

I think the 28th ranking is a bit rediculous as the Jackets are certainly not one of the bottom 3 teams in this leauge.

Oh well, hopefully they take it all out on Tutu's face tonight .


Pre-game thoughts: Those damn Preds are back

Those dirty Preds are back in town tonight for the final meeting of the season against the Jackets.

For the Preds, facing the Jackets is like an automatic 2 points on the schedule the past couple of years. They are 1-5-1 in 7 meetings thus far.

Of course the Jackets hope to change all that and in the process knock them out of any playoffs hopes.

How sweet would that be?

The story of the game is certainly going to revolve around Pred agitator Jordan Tutu (if only I was good at Photoshop I could have some real fun with that pic) after his antics on this past Tuesday.

Keys to lighting em up

Poopoo on Tootoo. If the Jackets get a chance to hit the guy, hit him but don't let him get under your skin -- he thrives on that. If its a game then Tootoo will become irrelevant. The best payback is to get the two points.

Nash is due. Nash has been held to 0 points in 6 games versus the Preds this year (I believe he missed one due to an inury) and is a -2. He's due to break out tonight.

MUST. SCORE. FIRST. Not only that but we must take advantage of very suspect Predator's goaltending. I don't care if they go off Jason Chimera's ass and in - they need to put some home...and put a couple home early.

Flat. Great game against Chicago. Need that same effort and more against Nashville. The Jackets can't afford to come out flat or its game over..... Nashville will be ready to play as they are fighting for their playoff lives.

Special teams. PP finally did something positive (thanks Clay Wilson) last game with some good control and chances. More of that will be needed.

Arnott/Radulov/Dumont -- Jacket killers. Pretty obvious what needs to happen here.

The Preds PP is 25th in the league. Our PK is 8th. Damn, lets shut it down. No excuses.

Peca, Novnty and Vyborny. They all actually looked like they cared against the 'hawks. Lets not dissappear out there tonight when the temperature turns up.

Hitting. I don't want to see any Jacket pass on an opportunity to hit a Pred -- that means you Malhotra and Vyborny.

Game spotlight

No need to sugarcoat it. All eyes will be on Tootoo....and if Jared Boll does make it back into the lineup that certainly could be a recipe for fireworks. I'll put money down that Tootoo won't drop em with 40 though - that just how the coward will play it.


Only two home games left and 3 left on the road. The Jackets sit in 13th place with 79 points. That's already 5 points better than where they have ever been.

With a win tonight they could move as high as 11th in the conference as both Chicago and Phoenix sit above them with 80 points.

Also with a win tonight the Jackets would crack the 80 point barrier for the first time in franchise history.

Still plenty to play for. Especially when you listen to Hitch's thoughts that finishing strong would make it a much easier sell to potential UFAs to come to Columbus as it would help sell that Columbus is in a "win now" mode.

Sure the lower the draft pick the bigger the trade asset but honestly this team just needs to win and whatever pick they end up with, well it will be what it will be and it will still be a valuable trading chip.



Thursday, March 27, 2008

Jackets show a pulse

Not sure if it was because the Chicago Blackhawks decided to skip last night's game or if it was because the Jackets, who had lost 3 in a row, decided to show up but regardless the CBJ turned in a dominating 4-0 shutout performance last night.

Really there wasn't one aspect of the game that the Jackets did not control last night. They outshot, outhit, outchanced, outspecialteamed, outeverything...well for once they actually did not win the faceoff battle...

Hey I'll take it. The Jackets needed a win like that. They are still mathematically alive but that's just semantics... for all practical purposes they are out of it but for me last night was fun because the play of guys like Aaron Rome, Clay Wilson and Alexandre Picard... Fun to see callups like that making an actual impact out there.

Lit it up

Freddy Norrena. Probably the easiest shutout he'll ever get but he made some key saves when the game was still close and for sure, especially after his horrible performance against the Preds a night earlier, that had to be a confidence builder.

Clay Wilson. For one night anyways the kid was great. Notched his first goal and assist in the NHL. Really though, when an AHLer can step in like that and make all of our other defensemen look so offensively inept it should send a strong message to every fan out there just how poor our offense is from the blueline and why this team needs an upgrade so badly back there --- Brian Campbell anyone? Anyhow, great game...hopefully he can keep it up the remaining 5 games and make a case for hisself next season.

Secondary scoring. Lindstrom, Vyborny, Peca, Wilson. I must be seeing things. A little late now but its good to see some different names on the score sheet for once. Peca and Novotny in particular raised their competitive levels last night.....hopefully it wasn't just one night. Peca had 5 hits -- where has that been all year?

Nash. He was a beast again. 7 shots but just couldn't get any to fall. I LOVE the way he's playing...dude just needs some help.

Z. Also a better game last night. Good move by Hitch to put him with Nash to see if they could get anything going. His feed to Wilson was a beauty.

5 rows off the ice. I had some sweet seats last night for this one. About the only benefit of having a non-playoff team.

Dim the light

Is Brule ever going to score again? He had so many good looks last night (5 shots actually) and just couldn't get one to fall. Good game though.

Murray. His name didn't show up on the score sheet but his hit to free up the puck behind Chicago's net led directly to Vyborny's goal which really sealed this game. Those are the kinds of plays this team needs night in and night out. Murray is not afraid to pay a price -- need much more of that throughout the lineup.

PK. Killed off 4 penalties. It certainly needed a night like last night. Hopefully that get it back on track.

PP. Actually scored a goal. It got a much needed shot in the arm with Wilson back there. Any time we see less of Hainsey on the PP its a good thing.

Busted bulbs

Just over 14k in attendance. Place was pretty empty. Hate to see it but after 7 years of no playoffs its not unexpected.

Chicago Blackhawks. I think someone forgot to tell them they had a game last night. Can't bust on them to bad as we've seen plenty of performances like that from the home team lately.

3 bright lights on the night

1. Clay Wilson. First NHL goal and point. Congrats!
2. Freddy No. Boucned back to record his 2nd shutout of the season and 11th total for the CBJ.
3. Team. Solid 60 minute team effort all around.

The Jackets move to 4-3 against the 'hawks and will face them one more time in Chicago this Sunday (which is close to a sell out from what I'm told).
They also move to 79 points and with 5 games remaining shouldn't have a problem cracking that 80 point barrier for the first time ever.

The Jackets get a shot at Nashville one more time this Friday. It should be a spirited one.

If you haven't made it out to a game this season your running out of chances. Only home games left are as mentioned this Friday and then the final game of the year is at home on April 6th against St. Louis.



..and as I friend of mine said last night after Jordan Tootoo's antics of waiving his two hands in the air with signaling "2" and "2" after he got the best of a couple of non Jacket fighters..... on Friday is should be the fans waiving "2" "2" and then with middle fingers fully raised....F-U.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stat of the day

Got this from

The Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Atlanta Thrashers, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators are the 12 lowest payroll teams, and the Penguins and Sharks are the only teams in that group in a playoff position.

Its time to start spending Howson/Preist/McConnell!


Rick Nash has 4g, 3a in 7 games played against Chicago this year - the most of any Jacket. He is also a -1.


Pre-game thoughts: Elimination

Really not much to be said about tonight's game other than if the Jackets lose in regulation or OT they will be officially eliminated from the playoff picture which at this point is just a formality as far as I'm concerned.

The one thing I'd like to see tonight is the young kids to play more. I'd like LoCosta in net and I'd like to see Rome/Wilson/Picard/Brule/Mackenzi/Lindstrom get over 10 minutes a piece. Play the hell out of these guys.

Sorry for the short pre-game post but to be honest with 6 games left and with the effort this team has shown over the past 3 games I think its pretty obvious what this team needs to do to be successfull....the problem is I just don't think this team, especially the vets not named Rick nash, have it in them. always though I'll be down at the game (RBar pre-post game) and will watch to see how this one unfolds.

I'm sure there will be plenty of seats available.



Groundhog day

Dig a hole early. Outplay them for 40 minutes. Outshoot them. Make an average goalie look like a Vezina winner. Result = 3-0 loss.

That's not to say the Jackets deserved to win. Norrena with two bad goals. The Preds got an early lead they sat on the majority of the game....and why not when you have an opponent with such on anemic offense and PP.

It all wraps up neatly into a perfectly packaged shutout loss.

Lit it up

The game wasn't without a couple of bright spots. I thought Alexandre Picard played well -- man if this kid could just get a goal. To me he looks bigger and faster out there and his hands looked better....of course he agitated well. Pair this kid with Boll when he comes back and let those two run around. Picard isn't ever going to be a scorer but he could carve a niche as a 3rd/4th line energy guy.

Hejda, Rome and Chimera. All aren't fighters but stood up for teammates against the Preds and that clown Tootoo. I tell ya, I've never wanted Boll in the lineup more than I did last night. Hitch needs to roll out a a line of brawlers for the final game against these douchebags....if they are gonna go out, at least go out with knuckles flying.... Konopka, Sestito, Doresette.... all guys who can bring it that could be called up who could give circus acts like Tootoo a real lesson.

Dim the light

Clay Wilson. I have no idea what was wrong with his skates (I swear he lost an edge at least 4 times) but I thought he had a decent debut. Reminded me of Russell quite frankly and you can see this kid "has it" offensively but definitely needs to work on his defensive game.

Lindstrom and MacKenzie. Again showed a lot of energy last night. I'm glad Hitch played these kids a little more last night but he should played them even more.

I also liked Andrew Murray again last night. At least you notice this guy for his hard work every shift even if he doesn't get rewarded offensively....will be a very good 4th liner for us.

Dan LaCosta. Congrats on your NHL debut....and you already looked better than Norrena. Big test tonight though if he gets the start against a very potent Chicago offense.

Busted bulbs

Freddy Norrena. HORRENDOUS! Start LaCosta tonight Hitch. Why the hell not at this point. Leclaire can't get back soon enough.....well unless we want a higher draft pick which to be honest....isn't such a bad idea at this point.

Peca, Vyborny, Novotny.....why even give these guys over 10 minutes a game? They have provided exactly squat for this team over the past 10 games or so. Just playing out the string.

Powerplay. Shitty per usual.

PK. Its starting to look as bad as the PP and that's a hard thing to do.

Tootoo. Stay classy hammerhead.

3 bright lights on the night

1. Alexandre Picard - for me he was the brightest part of the game as he really looks like he could carve out a niche for himself as a bottom 6 forward. Love his energy and agitation...just needs to get some confidence offensively.

2. Sticking up for teammates. Rome/Chimera/Hejda. Although they didn't win their fights they at least had the guts to stand up for teammates. We need a whole lot more of that in this lineup.

3. Stamkos. Jackets are still in the running for the #1 overall pick.

3 losses in a row. I'm expecting a 4th tonight against the Blackhawks. This team has mailed it in...especially a lot of the veterans.

In fact as a fan I've definitely mailed it in. At this point I'm not the least bit surprised or upset when they lose...its come to that. My attention has completely turned to the gutting of this fish that I fully expect to occur this offseason --- this team needs an excorcism in the worst way and if Howson doesn't deliver Nationwide may look like a morgue instead of arena next season.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pre-game thoughts: Here's to hoping there is at least some fight tonight

Its just about any one's guess how the Jackets will respond tonight in Nashville after their pooper of a performance against the Red Wings on Saturday night.

The Preds have a lot more to play for than the Jackets. They are only 4 points out of the final playoff spot with 6 games remaining.

Of course for the Jackets, its a different situation entirely. They are 9 points out with 7 remaining and would need nothing short of a miracle to even make a run for it. In short, they are all but mathematically eliminated.

Seems pretty easy who you would expect to be the motivated team right?

Not so fast. Nashville is 4-6-1 in their past 10 have have been dismal at home of late only winning 1 in their past 5 home games.

The Jackets on the other hand have been better on the road than at home of late winning 5 of their past 9.

Unfortunately this is Darth Vader we are talking about here and unlike the movies, he seems to strike back over and over again against the CBJ.

Keys to lighting em up

Win or lose I just want to see this team play with some heart and with some pride. Not roll over before the puck even drops. Yes I know injuries are mounting up and yes I know there isn't a whole lot to play for at this point but hey, at the very least you can help knock the Preds out of the playoff picture.

A broken record here but how about some secondary scoring, a powerplay goal or two and scoring first? Those areas could (in best sarcastic voice) just slightly contribute to a win dontchya think?

If the vets are phoning it in again, play the kids Hitch...why the hell not at this point.

Norrena...he has to be better than whatever shaky goaltender the Preds put in their pipes. How much longer is Leclaire out again?

Arnott/Dumont/Erat/Radulov -- they make the offensive engine go and can make you pay in a hurry. Must. contain.

Finally they have to outwork a hard working Preds team. If there is one thing this Preds team does well its compete regardless of who is in or out of their lineup. If the Jackets don't bring their lunch pales tonight.....fageddaboutit.

Game spotlight

Defensemen Clay Wilson will make his CBJ debut tonight. I've read that Wilson is like a "Walser with a brain". Regardless I just hope he can make an impact on the PP. Sure would be nice to see Hainsey permanently supplanted from that job.


8 o'clock start tonight. I'm not getting my hopes up for much tonight but of course will tune in to see how it unfolds. The Jackets do seem to surprise when my optimism is at rock bottom so knows -- that's why they play the game right!



Monday, March 24, 2008

Stat of the day

Since his trade from the CBJ, Sergei Fedorov has 1g, 4a for 5p in 12gp. He's also a -6 in that span with 6 PIMS.


Where to go from here...

The Jackets are off today but are right back at it tomorrow against the Nashville Predators. They are coming off one of the most uninspired lackluster performance of the season.

There are just over two weeks left in the season. They are out of the playoff picture. They have 7 games left. 3 at home and 4 on the road.

So where to go from here?

Quite frankly there are only two ways to go:

1. Easy way - mail it in and tank the remainder of the year

2. Hard way - win or lose, play out the string hard and with pride

If Detroit is any indication of how these final games will go then we all might as well start scheduling tee times.

They have the Preds tomorrow in Nashville. The Jackets have only won twice against them over the past two seasons. That game will give a real good indication of how this team plans to play out the stretch.

There are some story lines for fans to keep an eye on though regardless of the team's performance in the win/loss column:

* Its officially draft watch time. As of today the Jackets would have the 6th overall pick. With 7 games remaining and assuming the Jackets win at least half of those game they should be drafting anywhere from 5th overall to 10th overall.

The draft is said to be about 7 deep in terms of the top tier. Its also said to be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. So if your looking for maximum trade value for that pick, as I am, ideally you'd want to be in the top 7 although I think its more important to finish this season on a high note.

* Will Hitch play the kids? Its doubtful b/c if there's one thing we've learned about Hitchcock is that he never gives up. Make no mistake about it, he wants to win every last one of these 7 games which means youngsters like Picard/McKenzie/Russell/Lindstrom/Brule will continue to see limited action.

* Nash. Since the All Star Break Nash has 23 points (12g, 11a) in 24 games. He is also a +5 in that span. Nash has really stepped up his game and has become the clear cut leader of this team. He also has a very good chance to break his single season record of 41 goals. He sits on 38 with 7 games remaining. He also also blown past his previous best point total of 57p with 66 thus far.

* UFAs to be. Ron Hainsey, David Vyborny, Jan Hejda, Michael Peca, Dick Transtrom. This is their last chance to make a case for themselves. I expect one maybe two of those names return and quite frankly I wouldn't be surprised if none were brought back.

It will be interesting to see if Howson signs any of them before the season ends.

* David Vyborny. The only original Blue Jacket. He's had a forgettable season and in all likely hood he will be playing his final games as a Blue Jacket. Hopefully he can stay healthy these final games and get a proper send off.
* Colorado. Remeber the Jackets get their 1st round pick this year if they make the playoffs. If they miss they get next years. Having two 1st round picks this year could really come in handy as trade bait...on the flip side, it sure would be fun seeing the quiter miss this playoffs.

* Trade bait. Vyborny isn't the only one playing his last games as a Jackets. If the rumblings hold true this team is in for a major shakeup and any number of players could be dealt. I would be shocked if this team still had its original first round draft choices this team next year. Nash and Leclaire I would consider to be the only "locks" to be back next season so that would leave Klesla/Zherdev/Picard/Brule/Brassard/Voracek as potential trade bait with Brassard/Voracek the least likely of that group to be moved.

* How high in the points standings can they climb? They've already broken their single season points record of 74. The sit on 77.

* I believe they also have a good chance to break their road record in wins. I'm still in the process of trying to verify this but I believe their most victories on the road was 16. They currently have 14 with 4 left to play. They'd have to win 3 of 4 but I think tying it is a realistic target.

* Start keeping an eye on potential trade targets. Names like Vermette, Marleau, Jokinen, Lombardi, Campbell, Langkow, Liles and Redden have been tossed around quite frequently. Also keep an eye on teams who get eliminated from the playoffs early -- those teams will also look for shakeups and could offer some potential juicy trade targets for the soon to be made-over Jackets.

* Which Jackets players get selected for the World Championships? Nash and Chimera played for Team Canada last year -- do they do it again? Does Leclaire get the nod for Team Canada? What about Hainsey, Boll or Fritsche for the US? Norrena for Finland? Does Hitch coach team Canada?

* Zherdev. Post ASB he's got 5g, 10a for 15p in 24gp. He's a -3 in that span. Clearly 13 has lost his competitive edge since the trade deadline especially over the last 10 or so. Does he finish the year strong or does he continue his lathargic play which will again have the trade rumors swirling?

* Coaching. We know Hitch will be back next year but what about his staff? Could there be a shakeup there? Speaking of Hitch -- can the Jackets afford not to keep this man happy with a big offseason? He's only got one more year on his deal. At some point Howson has to start worrying about the coach bolting if he can't bring in some big pieces to make this team competitive.

This franchise CANNOT afford to lose a Ken Hitchcock.

So plenty of story lines to keep us occupied while we ride out yet another non-playoff year.

Hopefully *fingers fully crossed* this will be the final year we talk about a top 10 draft pick and moves this summer can really re-energize this fan base and we can all look forward, finally, towards a playoff run in 2008-2009.

Lots of work to do before then.
p.s Nash's jersey looks much better with a 'C'


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Stat of the day and Happy Easter!

Since February the Jackets are 3-5-3 at home.

They are 5-4-2 on the road.

Happy Easter.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Life Jackets

What a craptastic effort by everyone wearing union blue besides #61. That game made me literally sick to my stomach. Luckily I wasn't able to make that one live.

12 god damn shots....are you serious? 4 of them by Nash so that leaves 11 other forwards and 6 d-men to collect 8 shots...

...and how pathetic was our defense? Ron Haisney looked like a pee-wee player out there with god knows how many unforced errors. Could Rusty Klesla panic any more with the puck -- how many times you gonna rim it out Rusty? The whole D just sucks... nobody can make a transition pass.

I feel so sorry for Hitch for having to put up with this...and the fans who made the trip out to watch this sorry ass performance by the home team.

I know the playoffs are a pipe dream but the least this team can do is friggan compete for themselves, the coach, the fans and the city. Nash gets it....noone else does.

Time to blow this whole thing up....just blow it up Howson.

Lit it up

Rick Nash. Was the ONLY Jacket player who even made an effort tonight.

Dim the light

Alexandre Picard had a nice showing....I have no idea why Hitch didn't play this kid more though. At least he had some jump and I thought he looked bigger and smoother out there since the last time we saw him.

Busted bulbs

The powerplay sucked.

The defense sucked - especially Ron Hainsey.

The effort sucked.

The PK sucked.

Red Wings fans sucked.

Zherdev sucked...again.

The broadcast sucked.

Norrena...1 big save and that was about it...he sucked.

Every veteran outside of Nash sucked. Modin...he blew. Peca...coasted. Novotny..invisible. Klelsa...a bumbling fool. Chimera..a warm body (an offside one at that).

I even thought the coaching sucked. Why not play MacKenzie, Picard and Lindstrom more when its clear the veterans are nothing but passengers...?

It even sucked how the Jackets left the ice without an ounce of a message sent to the Wings. My couch has more backbone.

3 bright lights on the night

1. Rick Nash - only CBJ player who gave a shit
2. Alexandre Picard - only 5 minutes of play but I noticed him more than any forward not named Nash
3. At least the Crunch won - Brassard with 3 points

Its a sad state when a rookie like Jared Boll has to carry this team emotionally and physically. Its even worse when you notice how much this team's intensity drops when he's not in the lineup.

You know I'll probably wake up tomorrow and be back supporting these guys but now I'm pissed. This team had something to play for tonight...they could have beat the Wings in a sesason series for the first time effort in front of a home saturday night crowd and they play like that.

Just once.....ONCE....I'd like to watch a team play with some heart and actually give a shit for 82 games a year. As it stands now the way this team as its currently composed has not shot at that. The Jackets have been here 7 years (8 years including the lockout year) -- teams like Pittsburg, Chicago, Edmonton, Carolina, etc have been good then bad then good again in that span. The Jackets -- well they've sucked the entire time.

I can only hope that Howson can ice a legit playoff contender next season. I just don't know how much longer even the die hardest of fans can continue to stomach performances like tonight.

They'll just give up like the team does every March.


Pre-game thoughts: Hockey night in Columbus

Another night..another games against the Wings.

The Jackets are 3-2-1 against the league's best team so far this season. That after blowing a 1 goal lead in the 3rd period last Wednesday in Detroit. With two games remaining in the series can the Jackets win a season series against this team for the first time in their history?

Keys to lighting em up

60 minute effort. As Hitch stated in the paper this morning the Jackets have to play a full 60 minutes of checking defensive hockey. If they get off their game like they did on Wednesday night we all saw how the Zetterbergs of the world chewed them up.

Got to contain Zetterberg/Datsyuk/Lindstrom. That only happened for 40 mins last game.

Norrena. Can't lose his composure like he did Wed after that 2nd goal. If he doesn't lose it then he doesn't miss play that ridiculous 3rd goal by Zetterberg and blow what was already a low chance the Jackets could tie it up.

The other Z. Need this guy to kick it up a notch in the scoring department. He's only got 1 point in the past 4 games and is a -1.

STAY OUT OF THE BOX! I can't stress this enough. The Wings make their living by using their 4th ranked PP and I don't care how good of PK you have its damn hard to stop.

Jackets PP. This special team has to do more out there. Its killing the Jackets. 2 PP goals and my bet is the Jackets win this game.


Final Sat night crowd of the year. Of course there will be plenty of Wings fans on hand but its a home game and the Jackets need to use it to their advantage.

Boll / Frtische / Leclaire. Jackets have their share of wounded players but so do the Wings. Can't use this or any crap like "coming out flat" or "we were tired" as an excuse to play poorly tonight.

Unlikely heroes. Malhotra has been just that lately but the Jackets need more of that from guys like Brule/Lindstrom/Murray/Novotny to help get a win tonight.

Game spotlight

Its been a long road back after a MCL injury but 2004 7th overall pick Alexandre Picard makes his CBJ season debut tonight. Apparently he's been playing so great touch hockey down on the farm and the team would look to him to provide some of that physical play lost in Boll's absence.

Man it sure would be nice to see this kid notch a goal.


The Wings are winners of two straight while the Jackets have dropped 1 in a row. The Jackets have played Detroit well this year and will need more of the same tonight along with some timely goals and saves.

The Wings have scored some 57 more goals than the CBJ and allowed 25 less. No doubt an "A" effort is needed in every aspect of this game tonight to secure a "W" and a season series win for the first time ever.



Friday, March 21, 2008

Week 24 Power Rankings - depressing - up 1 to 24
D Ron Hainsey, who had been so strong for much of the season, has just one point in the last dozen games, not exactly helping his value as he heads towards unrestricted free agency. - up 2 to 22
It was a good season. - up 2 to 22
Even if the playoffs remain elusive for the only NHL team never to get there, signs of progress are real in Columbus, where the Blue Jackets have already posted a franchise high in points. - down 1 to 23
Fredrik Norrena has appeared in 29 games for the Blue Jackets, who have seen Pascal Leclaire emerge as their No. 1 with an impressive breakout season. Norrena doesn’t have a sparkling record (8-14-5) and his other numbers (2.82 GAA and .897 save percentage) are a tad below average. With 84 games of regular-season experience, Norrena has yet to appear in the playoffs. - down 2 to 24
Let the scouting begin. - stays at 20
Behind Manny Malhotra's career night (two goals, career-high three points), the Jackets knocked off the Wings 4-3 to set a franchise record of 75 points. Think that impressed coach Ken Hitchcock? "Oh really," he told the Columbus Dispatch. "Whoopee." I guess not. Then again, his team has gone just 7-9-5 since the All-Star break. Last Week: 1-1-0 - down 2 to 23
The Blue Jackets split the two games they played in Week 24 and fell two places in the rankings. The Columbus penalty kill was horrendous last week, giving up four goals to their opponents on nine chances. - down 3 to 24
The Blue Jackets have been in a win-one, lose-one mode for too long to be considered a serious playoff contender. That said, a 4-3 win over league-leading Detroit was sweet.

Average score: 22.75 (last week 22.375)

Lots of depressing comments like "let the scouting being" and "it was a good season" litter this week's crop.

Just about everyone has written off the Jackets' chances in this edition. Once again has them the highest at 20 with TSN/ESPN/THN all the lowest at 24.

Hard to argue with them though, the Jackets chances ended with their horrific home record post all star break.

Lots of work to do this offseason but it would be nice to see the boys finish up strong over these last 8 games and crack that 85 point barrier.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Stat of the day

The Jackest have won 33 games, lost 30 and had 11 OT/SO losses.

19 of those 30 regulation losses have come by 2 goals or less.

Here is a bigger breakdown of their losses:

* 11 OT/SO games
* 7 games by 1 goal
* 12 games by 2 goals

Think the Jackets are going to look back and reflect on some "what ifs" after the season? -- of course. The key though is to evaluate why those "what ifs" occured and address those areas in a big way this offseason.


Powerplay sputters....again.

It was a good effort last night but ultimately the ability to only cash in on 1 of 7 powerplay chances cost the Jackets a chance to win this game.

Its been the same old story this season. Timely goals, especially from the special teams, just have not been generated enough by the powerplay unit. Think for a second, just how many games this team could have won if they had just gotten that extra goal from their 27th ranked PP unit -- how many 1 goal losses has this team had?

Then you a look at a team like Detroit and their 4th ranked PP. They make their living on it. Really at even strength they aren't that impressive but once they get that extra man advantage they carve you up and send you packing.

Of course then there is the reffing....more on that later.

Lit it up

The Jackets lit it up through the first two periods. They controlled large portions of that game and held the Wings off the score sheet. It was a solid road effort for 40 mins - to bad the game is 60.

Manny Malhotra. What can you say, this guy is still on fire. Scored his 5th goal in 3 games. Nothing fancy but was in the right place at the right time and got a stick on it -- love the dirty goals as much as the pretty goals -- they all count baby!

Dim the light

Norrena. Played decent until the wheels completely fell off on that 3rd goal. He was obviously still emotional from the nonsense that went on for the 2nd goal and completely lost his composure which was evident when he tried to challenge Zetterberg so far out of his net.

Busted bulbs

The powerplay falters yet again. This team just does not have the horses to send out an effective unit. Ron Hainsey is a 5/6 guy at best... Dick Tarnstrom had a bit of a run but he certainly isn't the answer. Kris Russell is to young. We have no center and the only player who can bring the puck in the zone on the rush with any regularity is Nik Zherdev. To say the PP needs an GINORMOUS upgrade would be an understatement.

I've heard alot of this nonsense that the Jackets were tired b/c they were playing back 2 backs. I call BS. How many times have we been beaten by teams this year on their 2nd nights of back 2 backs? The Jackets have a lot more on the line than the 1st place Wings and at no time should any player lay down on an excuse that "they were tired"....and to the players credit its been the media and fans that I've read that from.....not the players. That Doug MacLeanesque.

Very unfortunate to see Jared Boll and Dan Fritsche go down. Two guys that are playing good hockey for this team this last stretch. Fritsche looks to be out for the last 8 games, I haven't heard anything yet on Boll.

The officiating. Nothing irks me more than when an official decides the outcome of a game which is exactly what the case was last night. To call a very VERY questionable tripping call on Rusty Klesla with the game knotted up at 1 with just over 2 minutes remaining is flat out unacceptable -- no excuse for it. Without that PP the games goes into OT and hopefully the players decide the outcome. This game reeked of makeup calls, missed calls and just bad calls on both sides.

3 bright lights on the night

1. Malhotra - collected his 5th goal in 3 games and continues to play his best hockey as a Jacket
2. Effort - Jackets played a strong road game until the 3rd period when they backed off and officiating took over
3. Zetterberg - guy had a hat trick and just seemed to turn it on and dominate -- Z could be that type of player if he wanted it

Tough loss to take last night both on the scoreboard and in terms of injuries. The loss drops the Jackets to 33-30-11 and to 13th in the conference tied with Chicago and Phoenix.

They take on these same Wings (anyone else sick and tired of this schedule?) on Saturday night in Columbus where they will have a chance for some payback.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pre-game thoughts: Another serving of Wings

All I have to say is thank god the NHL is going away from this division heavy schedule. Back before the lockout seeing the Wings 6 times a year was enough but this 8 times is overkill.

The good news is that the Jackets have been on a role against this Wings team. They've won the past 3 games against them and are 5-3-1 in their past 8.

Who out there remembers the 2005 season when the ingenious schedule makers of the NHL scheduled back2back home games for the Jackets against the Wings -- remember the outcome?

I do b/c they Jackets got absolutely ripped up and down the ice in both contests losing 6-0 and 6-2. Really it was rock bottom - the Jackets looked like a bunch of clowns out there - an ECHL team at best.

If there is one thing about the "Hitch-era" that I love is that the Jackets are now competing against teams like Detroit/Dallas/Colorado and even though they may not win them all, they certainly look like they belong and most games have been tightly contested.

Now just imagine when the gets an upgrade in talent.

I like nothing better than sending those band-wagon Wings fans home with their heads between their legs.

Okay on to the game at hand tonight:

Keys to lighting em up

Keep it going. The Jackets are on a mini-roll here but they go into the Joe tonight on a back2back against the best team in the league who has lost two straight. If the Jackets think they played a good game last night, they'll need an even better effort tonight. Do they have enough left in the tank? I have my doubts personally but again, this team seems to play its best hockey against higher competition.

Norrena. Two solid outings. The team will need a 3rd if it hopes to win this one.

Manny. Can he keep the hot streak going? I tell ya the teams desperately needs goals from players like him. So if he cools off need others to step up.

3 headed monster. Lindstrom-Datsyuk-Zetterberg -- can stop them but can only hope to contain them. Klelsa-Hejda, just keep on keepin on. The rest of the team needs to play these 3 physical.

Speical teams. The Wings light you up on their PP. Jackets have to be smart and stay out of the box.


Z played a much better game last night. The teams needs him to keep the motor running. He is the only guy on the Jackets who can control the game on his stick and make the difficult plays off the rush. If Z decides to take another night off the Jackets will be in trouble.

Nash. Don't change a thing. This guy is playing his best hockey right now.

Boll. See Nash.

Game spotlight

Norrena gets another start tonight. How will he perform on the 2nd night of a back to back? How will the Wings respond to a loss on Sunday they should have won?


Tough one to predict tonight. On one hand I could see this team just getting completely blown out of the building as they may have spent it all last night. On the other hand this team has shown at time this year their mental toughness in winning games no one gave them a chance at.

A win would guarantee a season series win over this team for the first time ever. A loss could open the door for the Wings and with two more games against them could it could snow ball on the Jackets.

Lets see what the boys got left.



Stat of the day

Since being named the 5th Blue Jackets captain in team history, Rick Nash has 2g, 4a, 6p and is a +4 in 3 games.

Over the last 4 games Columbus has scored 15 goals for an average of 3.75 per game. In the previous 4 before that Columbus had just 7 goals for an average of 1.75 per game.

Its no coincedence that the Jackets are 3-1 over their last 4 and were just 1-2-1 the 4 before that.


Manny Mal-HOT-ra!

Not sure what is going on but Manny Malhotra is doing his best Brett Hull impersonation notching 4 goals in a variety of ways the past 2 games.....and as Hitch said "where in the hell has this been all year?".... In fact if you throw the assist he had as well and he's got 5 points over his last two -- I think we can consider him hot!

Not to be outdone of course is Rick Nash or Freddy Norrena. Nash picked up 1g, 2a for a team leading 64 points. Freddy Norrena collected his first shutout of the year and his 2nd straight win.

The win over the Flames marks the 10th shutout of the year for the Jackets.

Lit it up

The entire team came to play last night. It was a fantastic suffocating 60 minute effort. Everyone played a part in collecting the two points.

Line of Nash - MalHOTtra - Fritsche. They combined for a +9 and 7 points. The worked hard, took the body, made smart plays and converted on their chances. They also went head to head against Calgary's top line of Iginla - Langkow - Hueselius and shut them down.

Klesla - Hejda. Both were +3 and played a big part in shutting down that Iginla line as well. Klelsa also collected an assist. Does anyone really miss #52 with the way these two have stepped up since he quit on this team? I don't.

Physical play. With the trash Fritsche talked in the paper the Jackets could have set themselves up to lay an egg - but they didn't - they all competed, they all stood up for each other, they outhit the Flames 29-23. Fritsche also backed up his talk with a solid effort.

Freddy Norrena. Really was an unspectacular shutout but was one nonetheless. He made all the stops he should and there is one area where he is head and shoulders above Leclaire and that his stickhandling -- he can really be an asset back there when he handles the puck unlike Leclaire.

It was cool to see Iginla and Nash lined up to one another on faceoffs -- but sporting their team's C's.

Jared Boll. Man I love the way this kid competes....and its not a dumb blockhead compete either. He gets under team's skins...he backs it up with his fists and he rarely takes a dumb penalty for his efforts. I love to have 10 Jared Boll's on this team.

THEY SCORED FIRST!! Seriously, how much better does this team play when they get that first goal when compared to when they give up the first one? Night and day.

Dim the light

Much better effort from Zherdev last night. Something tells me a certain coach whose name starts with "H" and ends with "H" lit a fire.

Kris Russell. I think this kid is playing much better lately and is looking a lot more comfortable out there. He's moving the puck well and really utilizing his supreme skating.

Jackets PK was perfect last night killing off the 2 minor penalties it faced.
Okay who else noticed that Nash wound up and actually took a slap shot last night? I bout fell out of my seat.

Busted bulbs

The Jackets powerplay continues to stink.

Attendance was weak. I hate seeing all those fans dressed up as blue seats. They are missing some great hockey even though the chances of the Jackets making that "P" word are bleak. The crowd that was there though was loud which was cool.

3 bright lights on the night
1. Norrena - anytime a goalie gets a shutout in this league I'll give them the brightest light
2. Manny/Nash/Fritsche - that line really stepped up and combined for 7 points and +9
3. Team - played 60 minutes and more importantly they played for each other out there

The win moves the Jackets to 33-29-11 record with 77 points with 9 games remaining.

The Jackets can't savor this one very long as they head into Detroit who are certainly looking for a better result after losing a game they should have won in Columbus this past Sunday.

It will be interesting to see how the boys respond on the 2nd of a back2back against the best team in the league.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Stat of the day and more..

With their win against Calgary the Columbus Blue Jackets surpassed their best ever point total of 74 -- they now sit at 75 points.

With 10 games remaining how many points do you think they'll finish with? I'll on record as saying they'll win half of those games and finish with 85 points.

Also -- the Sports Business Journal just published this impressive article regarding some troubled times for self proclaimed "Worldwide Leaders in Sports" (ESPN) -- extremely good read.


Pre-game thoughts: Expect some nasty boys tonight

The words were certainly flying back and forth between the Jackets and Flames in this morning's paper. There is definitely some animosity brewing after the last time these two teams met with the highlight being a wicked slash from Daymond Langkow to the leg of Jared Boll - of course it went uncalled.

Both teams are coming off wins. Both teams are 5-3-2 over the their past 10. Unfortunately Calgary sits 9 points ahead of the Jackets in the standings and currently hold down that 6th playoff position. Vancouver and Colorado sit 7th and 8th each with 84 points as well. Needless to say a win by the Jackets trims that margin to 7 points but as we all know, playoffs at this point are a distant possibility.

Keys to lighting em up

Well no doubt neither team should find it hard to get motivated for this one. They key is who gets more motivated? Dan Fritsche gave the Flames plenty of bulletin board material in this morning's paper but can the Jackets back it up? Or is it the Flames who use it to their advantage and come out swingin? If the Jackets want to win they better be the instigators out there.

I sure hope Boll lights up Phaneuf tonight. Speaking of, I hope Hitch plays Boll with Nash again to open up some space for big #61 out there. If you recall Boll was in Phaneuf's face all night long and was able to throw his game off -- Phaneuf took 4 penalties that game and Nash had a little more room to operate.

Norrena vs. Kippersoft. Kippersoft got the best of the Jackets last time out in leading them to a shutout - can't let that happen. Norrena needs to play like he did against Detroit -- hopefully he hasn't thought about this game to much and just comes out and plays well. He seems to play better lately when he doesn't have time to prepare.

PK. Jackets PK has dropped like a rock recently. Its not 6th in the league. It desperately needs to regain its form.

Watch out for the bombs from the point. Phaneuf, Aucoin, Regehr - they can all absolutely unload them back there and its creates a lot of chaos and offense.

Iginla. Leads the Flames with 87p in 72gp. He's their leader in every facet of the game. He'll drop em too if need be. Need to stay in the guy's grill all night -- air tight hockey.

Zherdev. Good god has he mailed it in or what? He needs to firmly remove his stick from his ass and play like we know he's capable of. He's giving maybe 50% effort out there the last 5 or 6 games. After all the steps forward he's made this year it would be a shame if he decides to piss it all a way b/c the Jackets playoff hopes are remote.

Secondary scoring. Its been up lately. Manny with a couple. Tollefsen potting one. Novotny/Peca/Vyborny all getting on the board. Need more guys to step up tonight - Brule anyone?

Physical game. EVERYONE needs to take the body tonight. This won't be a game for the faint of heart.


Game spotlight

Key your eye out for Flame Mathew Lombardi. He's rumored to be a target of the Jackets this offseason to fill a top 6 center position. He looked great next to Nash in the World Championships last year but really isn't having a great year this year (11g, 19a for 30p -6) -- in fact those are Michael Peca type numbers.


10 games to go. This is the last game against a non-central opponent. The Flames play a very physical brand of hockey and it always makes for an entertaining game.

See ya'll at the RBAR pre/post game!



Monday, March 17, 2008

Stat of the day

Since Adam Foote's trade, Rusty Klesla is a collective +7 over that 8 game span.

Jackets steal one off of unlikely performances by Norrena & Malhotra know what, how many times have the Jackets outplayed teams this year only to fall short of two points?

That is the first thought that crossed my mind after the Jackets managed to pull a rabit out of the hat against a dominant Detroit Red Wings team last night.

The Jackets were outshot 46-17. The 4 goals they did score were about as ugly (outside of Manny's tennis swing) as they come. However they scored first, they were timely and they certainly took advantage of a shaky Dominik Hasek.

Funny.... I didn't see a quote this morning from the ole Dominator saying "we should be a team like Columbus".... where's the confidence now Dom?

Norrena, who was a last minute start, played fantastic stopping 43 of 46 and Manny Malhotra perhaps played his best game as a Jacket scoring 2 goals, an assist, registered 5 hits, 3 shots, finished a +2 and won 63% of his faceoffs -- oh yeah, I'd say that was a pretty complete game -- although it would be nice to see that kind of game from him more than every 3rd or 4th year.

Lit it up

Manny / Norrena --- already explained above but make no mistake about it, they carried this team.

Aaron Rome. Is this 24 year old making a case for himself or what? He had some thunderous hits, was in Wings' faces all night long, rang a shot off the post and collected his first ever NHL point in an assist. Plus he played a career high 18 minutes. He keeps this up and he may find himself with a 1 way contract and guys like OK Tollefsen and Marc Methot may find themselves on the bench. He is a restricted free agent which plays well for us.

Rick Nash. He's really picked up his game since collecting the C. He's got 5 points in his past 3 (1g, 4a) including 2 assist last night. He led all forwards in ice time. He's hitting. He's playing defense. He's chatting it up with the officials. He 100% embraced his new role and is thriving. Really its pretty awesome and exciting to see.

My neighbor - he hooked me up with a pair a free bees last night. Now that's lighting it up!

I know Hitch isn't excited about it but with 10 games to go the Jackets surpassed their best points total in their 7 year history. Their previous best was 74 and with the win last night they move one point ahead of that to 75. As Portzline stated in his blog -- the days of celebrating mediocrity are over -- seriously though, could you image MacLean's spin on that one?

Dim the light

Sell out crowd. I put it in this category because 3 to 4 thousand of those were the enemy.

Kris Russell. Kid played one of his better games and finished a +2.

Jan Hejda / Rusty Klelsa. Continue to get the job done as the Jackets top pair. Klesla led the team once again in minutes played with over 26 and finished a +1. Hejda was 2nd with over 23 mins played and also finished a +1.

Jared Boll / Andrew Murray. Really I wish Hitch would have played these two more. They just bring so much energy to the table. Boll with his hard hitting and in your face style of play (how bout that penalty he drew on Datsyuk?) and Murray with his smart dependable play -- kid is really starting to find his place and feel like he belongs out there.

OK scores! Hey anytime this guy can pot one its a huge bonus and deserves a mention.

Busted bulbs

The Jackets got beat in every phase of the game last night besides the score. I'm glad they found a way to win but 9 out of 10 times you play a game like that against the Wings and you will not win. Need a much better effort in the 3 remaining games against this squad.

Nik Zherdev. Look I know he got a goal but as Hitch said regarding our points total - "whoopee" - I thought he played horrible. Where is the Z from before the All Star Break? He look like he was skaiting in quick sand and just doesn't seem to be into out there. He needs to pick up his game.

Officials. Did the Jackets really commit 6 penalties to their 2? I saw a few legit ones but c'mon -- that call with 2 minutes to go was horseshit. Still though the Jackets need to find a way to take less penalties against - Peca has commited a lot of needless ones lately.

PK. They got torn apart by a very powerfull powerplay. Cross ice passes, using the points, quick bang bang plays. Just watch the Wings defense to see why we need a HUGE upgrade in that department this offseason.

Powerplay. Our two opportunities were pathetic. We looked like the keystone cops out there.

Ron Hainsey. He cannot run a powerplay, he can't find the open man on the rush and how many times did Zetterberg use and abuse him last night? He just isn't the answer and I'll be extremely disappointed if he's back in the same role next season. Let someone else overpay for this guy.

OK's hit on Manny. Nice hit, wrong player.

Jason Chimera. Got to bury your chances big guy.

Leclaire. I haven't heare much yet on his injury but hopefully he's okay.

Same with Vyborny. Depending on his injury we have have seen his final game as a Blue Jacket. Hopefully he can make a few more starts and receive a proper send off from the fans as he's the only remaining original Blue Jacket.

3 bright lights on the night

1. Manny Malhotra - arguably his best game as a Jacket
2. Freddy Norrena - 43 saves off 46 shots -- all that when he didn't even know he would be starting until 7 mins before the game
3. 3 hour drive home - always nice to send those Wings fans who make the drive home with a loss (although as I mentioned before, alot of those fans are local "turncoats")

The Jackets keep their very faint playoff hopes alive and jump ahead of Chicago for 12th in the conference. They are still 7 points behind the Cancuks for that 8th spot and have a game at hand on both Nashville and Edmonton who are above them in the standings.

Realistically I'm just hoping that this team can finish strong and crack that 85 point barrier, continue to let our young players like Nash/Z/Leclaire/Klesla get some valuable experience this time of year when games still mean something and go into next year with a lot of confidence and "hopefully" a revamped roster.

Calgary next up on Tuesday. That's always a physical battle.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pre-game thoughts: Next 3 of 4 against Wings

3 of 4 aginst the league's best team. The first team to clinch a playoff birth and the first to crack 100 points.

I just heard that collective groan throughout the remaining Jacket fans still hangin onto some thought that this team can still somehow, someway still push for the playoffs.

The Wings as well as the Jackets are coming off losses. The Wings lost to Nashville yesterday while the defensively disorganized Jackets lost sloppy one to the Hawks on Friday night.

Keys to lighting em up

What ever they did against the Blackhawks defensively, do the opposite.

Leclaire needs to find his game. Of course that starts with a better team defense in front of him but he also needs to start making those "big saves" again. No room for easy goals against this Wings team.

Energy. Outside of Boll, Murray, Modin and Nash there were a lot of no-shows offensively last game....and I don't mean just scoring goals.. I'm talkin about winning battles and races to pucks...talkin about playing physical and going to the difficult parts of the ice.

Zherdev -- he's had over 7 days since he last played...yeah - I don't count his no-show against the 'hawks as a game played. I'm seeing signs of last year's Z rearing his ugly head which is concerning.

For all things rubber and 6 ounces --- get the first goal!!!!

Wings have edget on Special Teams... they are 4 on the PP and 9th on the PK... they can beat you a lot of ways but the Jackets have to be smart and stay out of the box and their fading PK will need to be on its game today.

Three headed 60 point monster. The wings have 3 60+ point players... Datsyuk (83p), Zetterberg (78p) and Lidstrom (61p) -- meanwhile the Jackets don't have 1.... I think its safe to say who the Jackets need to focus on shutting down here or at least containing.. the question is can they?

Need at least 3 goals in this one...which means more scoring from unlikely sources... Brule -- c'mon kid your due!

Game spotlight

Believe it or not the Jackets actually lead the series agains the Wings 2-1-1 including a 5-1 win at Detroit in their last meeting. Can the Jackets keep up the momentum against the leagues best team?


I'm sure Nationwide will once again have its fair share of Wings fans in the house. Many of which are Jackets fans until the Wings come to town (turncoats!).

I don't have a good vibe about this one. I think the Jackets will come out hungry but I think the Wings will remember the last outing and their skill will take over....

However...the Jackets have had some surprises this year like the 4-0 shutout in Buffalo...the 3-0 shutout in Montreal and the 5-1 win in Detroit... they do seem to get up against better opponents..


...this game is at home and this team has been absolutely atrocious in front of their fading crowds.

Regardless I'll be there to see how this one unfolds.

Go Jackets!