All-Blogs.net directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pre-game thoughts: Does Darth Vader strike back?


The Jackets take on the Nashville Predators for the 5th time tonight. They are 1-3 against them so far this season. The good news is that the finally got the Preds' monkey off their backs in a 2-1 shootout win in their last meeting.
So the question I have is does "Darth Vader" (the name given to the Preds by Hitch) strike back tonight? The Preds have lost two straight and will surely be motivated tonight as the team they've owned comes to town. Columbus has been their medicine to a bad cold in recent years so to speak. They've been slumpbusters.

The Jackets who are riding a 1 game losing streak will look to rebound against those pesky Preds. Will they be able to build upon their break though victory the last time they met? Can't they turn the tables on the Preds and make them slumpbusters?

Keys to lighting em up

Play your game. Hitch said it in the paper this morning that the Jackets got away from the game that makes them successful. That's a tight checking, know your role, know your system, everyone competes style of play. The Jackets tried to get to cute on multiple occassions, had missed assignments and didn't make that Coyotes work hard enough for their goals. That can't happen again tonight if the Jackets want to be successfull and grab the all important 2 points.

Leclaire. Needs to be our best player on the road. He let in a couple of goals he normally stops but unfortunately with our offense the way it is, this team can't afford that.
Offense. Rick and Nik showed stalled a bit on Tuesday. Nash looked tired from the All Star break. Nik looked rusty after his break in Florida. Need these two to be the offensive catalyst tonight.

Build off momentum of past win. The Jackets finally broke through against the Preds. They know they can beat these guys. They owe them a couple of good thumpings. Mindset needs to be not just beat these guys, but pound on em, mop em up. Jackets are due to lay down a good ass kicking tonight and who better to do that against than the Preds in their house.

Don't use Shelley as an excuse. Jody Shelley was a great Jacket and a great leader. The Jackets can't use his trade as an excuse to come out flat or play poorly. At the end of the day this is a business and each player has a job to do - player movement is an invetiable part of the business where they (or the fans) like it or not. The time to move forward is now.

Pred high tempo at home. Hitch mentioned on his radio show that the Preds play different at home than on the road. On the road they are a carefull conservative bunch. At home they play more of a wide open style. Jackets can't get caught reacting to that. They need to be ready and stick to their game play - they need to dictate how the game flows and thats control the neutral zone.

Preds are a pretty tough group to play against at home. They are 14-8-2. That's good but not world class. This team can easily be beaten at home.

Arnott and Dumont.....they are the Nash and Z of the Predators. Keep these two off the score board and the Jackets stand a good chance at winning this game.

Special teams identicle. Preds are 26th on the PP and 4th on the PK. Jackets are 25th on the PP and 3rd on the PK. Pretty obvious to me whomever can muster up a goal on the PP gains the advantage here.

Tootoo. I just want to see Boll take care of this guy. Tootoo just signed an extension btw -- so Jacket fans get used to seeing this clown a few more years.

SCORE FIRST (you knew it was comin!)

Will the B's play togehter? Boll, Brassard, Brule? Could be an interesting line. Something to watch for anyways. A goal from this group would go a long way towards a win.

****************************

Jackets have responded well after losses. Another challenge tonight. Another big two points. Both teams are still right in the thick of it for a playoff spot. Both teams should go after each other hard.

GO JACKETS!

-LTL

Week 17 Power Rankings - back up they go

TSN.ca - up 1 to 13
Hart: Pascal Leclaire Norris: Ron Hainsey Selke: Michael Peca Calder: Curtis Glencross Underachiever: David Vyborny Overachiever: Nikolai Zherdev Key Injuries: C Sergei Fedorov (concussion).

Yahoo.com - up 2 to 17
On pace for 90 points, the Blue Jackets are on the fringe of the playoff chase this late in a season for the first time. The recent injury bug has improved somewhat, which helps, but Columbus must survive a tough stretch of playing 10 of 13 games on the road from Feb. 7-March 4 to remain in contention.

CBC.ca - up 3 to 13
Two big wins before the break.

ESPN.com - stays put at 19
How will this team, and its fans, rebound from losing local favorite and tough guy Jody Shelley (who was traded to the Sharks this week)?

FoxSports.com - up 2 to 17
(.549) Stellar goaltending and special teams helped the Blue Jackets climb two places in the rankings. Pascal Leclaire stopped 61 of the 63 shots he faced in Week 17, including all 30 attempts he faced in a 1-0 win over the Blackhawks. The Columbus penalty-killing units were also superb last week, not allowing any power play goals to the opposition in 12 chances.

CBSSports.com - up 6 to 15
Pascal Leclaire will get Vezina votes in goal and Rick Nash has been a human highlight reel all season, but the Jackets are one of the league's surprise playoff contenders because they've bought into coach Ken Hitchcock's system and made other teams realize they can't take a night off against them.

THN.com - stays put at 19
With all due respect to Eric Staal, can anybody explain how Rick Nash didn’t win the car at the All-Star Game? Just wondering.

CNNSI.com - awaiting latest rankings

TheFourthPeriod.com - up 7 to 13
If you didn't see Rick Nash's amazing goal on Thursday night, go find the highlight and watch it over and over and over.

Average Score: 15.75 (last week 18.00)

Wes Goldstein of CBSSports.com must be going soft on us, either that or he's finally coming around the Jackets -- he moved us up 6 spots this week.

The low ranking award goes to THN.com and ESPN.com this week -- both have us at 19.

3 sites have us tied for the highest with TSN.ca, CBC.ca and new to the rankings this week -- TheFourthPeriod.com -- all have us ranked 13th.

The Jackets have 3 games this week. They've already lost 1 to Phoenix and things don't get any easier with Nashville tonight at Nashville and Minnesota at home on Saturday. Jackets will need to win both to keep climbing the ranks.

-LTL

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What gives with Brule recall?

Lindsay Kramer reported over on the Crunch blog that Gilbert Brule has been recalled by the Jackets. By most accounts Brule has been average at best...especially for a #6 overall pick who is touted to be an "impact guy". He's collected 4g, 4a in 12 games. 3 of those goals came in one game.


Yet by all accounts Howson stuck to him promise that Brule would get recalled if he was playing well. Apparently 8 points in 12 games is playing well.

I don't buy it. Obviously with Shelley traded a roster spot opened up that enabled the Jackets to recall another player...but why Brule? Quite frankly I think this kid should spend the rest of year down on the farm.

There is only one explanation. The Jackets want to showcase this kid. They want to make a move to bolster this lineup and Brule could be a key part of a package to make that deal. After all the trade deadline is less than 21 days away.

Otherwise I don't see the point in calling this kid up to play 8 minutes a night...and don't fool yourselves as that is all this kid is going to see. Hitch won't rely on these kids (Brassard, Boll, Brule, Russell) to make or break this playoff push. He won't put that kind of unneeded pressure on them so early in their NHL development.

I hope the real explanation behind closed doors is to showcase. Otherwise I think we are wasting valuable development time letting this kid toil on the 4th line when he could be earning major minutes down on the farm.

-LTL

Jackets let precious points slip away

Well the boys scored first. In fact they scored just 21 seconds into off a nice Freddy Modin wrister. Scoring first is usually a lock for a 2 poitns for this squad right?


Not on this night.

After that early score it was all Phoenix. Really other than a few shifts by the Jackets, the Coyotes played harder and wanted this more than the Jackets. Sure the Jackets had a 1 goal lead heading into the 3rd but with the way Phoenix was playing it was no suprise that they tied it up and then went on to score two more goals to seal the win.

Final score - 4-2 bad guys.

That one hurt. It dropped the Jackets down to 11th in the standings while Phoenix surged ahead to grab that 8th playoff spot. It was a rare home game in the month of January and the Jackets squandered it.

Lit it up

Really nobody on the Jackets. I would say only Peter Mueller of the C0yotes had a stand out performance collecting 2 goals including the game winner. To think this kid was passed on by the Jackets for Derek Brassard. Granted Brassard is just now getting his feet wet while Mueller has played this entire season collecting 15g, 17a for 32 points -- that would be good for 3rd on the Jackets - yikes!!!

I will give OK Tollefsen and Rusty Klesla a bit of a nod here. For a defense that desperately missed Adam Foote I thought both of these guys played very well defenively. OKT also had a good fight and collected an assist.

Dim the light

Rick and Nik show defintely had an off night. Nash looked tired after his All Star stint. Z looked like he had a whole in stick that first period missed passes, mishandling the puck and generally looked off all night long. Z did collect a nice 1st assist on Chimera's goal though.

Freddy Modin had a nice goal to open the game. I thought he was the best forward on the ice. Using his big body to shield pucks, getting some solid scoring chances.

PK allowed 1 goal on 3 attempts.

Ron Hainsey logged a lot of ice time last night....lead the team with 26+ minutes.

Busted bulbs

Just not their night. They hits posts. The 'yotes had that flukey second goal. Pazzy couldn't come up with that big save in the 3rd. Jan Hejda got beat on a play he usually doesn't get beat on. Team was just out of sync all night long.

PP was dreadfull. Really couldn't muster much on its two chances. In fact I only remember one good chance on that second PP and really that was it.

Team really missed Foote last night. Maybe he's a little more important to this squad than a lot of us give him credit for. The plus side is a good opportunitey for Howson to see what this team would look like without him in the lineup which may come in handy trade deadline time.....or even as the organization decides if they want to throw alot more money at Foote to keep him.

Not much out of Brassard last night. Pretty invisible.

David Vyborny. He's to the point now where he's just becoming a complete liability out there. Not adding any value to any aspect of the game. His confidence is completely shot. It won't be long until the last remaining orginal Blue Jackets follows Jody Shelley out of town.

3 bright lights on the night
1. OK Tollefsen - played his best game of the year for the Jackets...although that's a little scary when he's our best player
2. Freddy Modin - was our best forward and collected his 2nd goal
3. Rusty Klesla - he made a lot of those "little plays" in the defensive zone that stood out to me last night

So the Jackets drop to 25-21-6. Their next game is against the Nashville Predators in Nashville tomorrow night. The Jackets have rebounded well after losing tough games but this is "Darth Vader" we are talking about here and this is in Nashville. Road to the playoffs doesn't get any easier.

-LTL

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why was Shelley dealt?

Alot of fans are probably asking themselves this very same question. So why was Jody Shelley dealt...why now...why deal him for a 6th round pick in 2009?


Here's my take on it.

Jody Shelley was a fine Blue Jacket. He's been here for 7 years. He was great in the community. He worked his butt off in games and in practice. He was a leader in the locker room. The fans loved him. He was a voice that was listened to by everyone on and off the ice. He had that leadership and respect about him even if he didn't play a lot of nights.

Jody's role is an enforcer. In other words his job is to police the ice and protect the skill players. The bottom line though is that post lockout, the role of an enforcer has been drastically reduced and its impacted guys like Shelley. Prior the the NHL lockout Jody Shelley had 87 fights over 4 years. Post lockout he's had a total of 32 fights over 3 years. His role, and many roles like his, have been greatly dimished.

There just isn't enough room for guys whose primary talent is fisticuffs. You have to be able to play now in the league. You have to be able to roll 4 lines during the regular season and if you have an on ice liability like a Shelley, that really limits the flexibility in your lineup.
Couple that with the emergence of a guy like Jared Boll, who while not a heavy weight, can take care of a lot of the dirty business on the ice..... and with tough guys with more skill like Tommy Sestito and Derek Dorsette in the minors, it made Jody expendable.


..and to GM Scott Howson's credit, he's giving Jody an opportunity to still play in this league with San Jose as its obvious Jody is no longer part of the CBJ plans. It was the right move for the Jackets and #45.
That said, dealing Shelley is a bit of risk. He didn't make much money in NHL terms but to move a popular locker room guy like Shelley could upset the locker room. Especially when the team is moving in the right direction on the ice.

This won't be a popular move amongst the CBJ faithful as its easy to get attached to the lunch pale guys like Shelley. To that I say this is a move to improve the team. Its a move that had to be made to turn another page in the evolution of the Columbus Blue Jackets. It similar to the Tyler Wright deal in that sense.

A word of advice I have to Jacket fans is not to get too attached to any name of this roster. The moves that are being made now and will be made in the future will be names we've grown used to over the years. Its not personal. Its not to slap CBJ fans in the face. These moves are made as stepping stones to build a winner....and at the end of the day, that's what we want - a winner.

Jody Shelley played his first game as a Blue Jacket. He scored his first goal, his first assist, had his first NHL fight here. He married a woman from Ohio and spilt a lot of blood and weathered a lot of down years in a CBJ sweater. He was loved in the community, was fan favorite and was a great guy to talk to. He will forever be a Blue Jacket.

Thank you and good luck Jody. You wore and represented the jersey and city with class every day of your seven year Jacket career. I wish you all the best in the future whether it be with San Jose or antoher team.

When the day comes and you hang em up for the last time, Columbus will be here welcoming a true Blue Jacket back home.

-LTL

Pre-game thoughts: Thank gawd hockey's back!

Yeah so its only been 4 days since the Jackets last played a game! That's a loooooong time for us hockey nerds. Especially when your team in on a roll and fighting for its first playoff birth ever!


I can't wait to get this show back on the road and it all kicks back off tonight as the surprising 25-20-6 Columbus Blue Jackets take on the equally surprising 26-21-2 Phoenix Coyotes.

Of course the Coyotes are the team that fell victim to "the goal" scored by Rick Nash on January 17th that led to a loss but since then they rattled of two consecutive wins and come into Nationwide on a high note similar to the Jackets who are also riding a two game winning streak and 6 out of their last 8.

Keys to lighting em up

Don't lay an egg. This is the Jackets first game back since an emotional and successful 5 game road trip. This Coyotes team comes to work every night and if the Jackets think for a second this will be an easy win tonight -- they'll have a quick wake up call. I have a lot of hesitation regarding this game as it just feels like things could snowball in a bad way quick if the Jackets decide to take a night off.

No nights off if they want to stay in the hunt. This is a little redundant but it can't be stressed enough. The Jackets have to regain their focus quickly and get back to work. If they want to stay in the race, the can't afford any passengers.

Out work the workers. The Coyotes are a hard working team. Much like the Jackets they don't have enough skill to outskill opponents - they have to outwork them. Win battles along the boards, races to lose pucks, go to those dirty areas to score, strong backchecks, play physical in front of Pazzy, no missed assignments. All areas that the Jackets will need to be better in to win this game.

Slow Doan. Shane Doan is the 'yotes best player. Need to slow this guy down. He is a rock to knock off the puck and has a nice scoring touch. Can't let this guy beat you.

SCORE FIRST!

Home advantage. The Jackets have one of the best home records in the league (16-6-4). With only 15 games at home they need every point they can muster in their own barn. Again, the Jackets need use every advantage they can get and this is one of them.

Special teams. PK has been a lifeline this season -- keeping us in many many games which is why its ranked #1 in this league. Need some offense from the #22 ranked PP tonight. On the flip side the 'yotes are average on special teams 15th on the PP and 18th on the PK. What that means is that on any given night they can beat you on special teams alone -- Jackets need to be ready.

Rick and Nik show. Its gets harder and harder from this point forward. Both of these guys need to be even better than they have been. They are the catalysts for this offense.

Secondary scoring. That said, Nash and Z can't do it alone. Need guys like Modin/Brassard/Russell/Feds/Glencross/Vybes/Chimera/Fritsche/Manny to step and contribute offensively.

Leclaire. Has to be better than Bryzgalov who is playing great this season. This should be a good goaltending matchup tonight.

**************************
Also look out for a Daniel Carcillo vs. Jared Boll show down. Both sit 1st (Carcillo 172 PIM) and 2nd (Boll 157 PIM) in overall penalty minutes in the league and both are in the same weight class so to speak.

Really this game is going to come down to who wants it more and is the more motivated team after the break. The Jackets have the series lead this season winning both contents. The 'yotes may be lookin for a little redemption after giving up that spectacular Nash goal late in their last meeting.

These are two similar teams going at it tonight. If you don't have your tickets go out and buy some and support this team! We'll see you at the Rbar for pre-game!

-LTL

Monday, January 28, 2008

Screwed again

I'm not sure what its going to take for the Columbus Blue Jackets to get a little respect in this league. At this point I wonder if winning the Stanley Cup would do it.

Rick Nash, for the second straight year, was snubbed as an All Star MVP. He scored 3 goals, two of the spectacular variety, and more than any other player in the game. Somehow Eric Staal who had two goals (one a tap in) and an assist (a 2nd assist mind you) walked away with the hardware.

That's not even mentioning the two All Star records Nash broke. Nash's first goal was an All Star record as the fastest goal ever scored and he also became the first All Star in history to score two or more goals in back to back years.

Or the fact that Nash single handily got the West back into this game after they fell down 5-1 after the first period.

Some say it was b/c Staal was on the East which was the winning team. I say try again. The last 4 MVPs were from the losing team.

It was unfortunate ending to what really was a fun, probably the best, All Star game I've ever watched.

At this point, Jackets fans shouldn't be surprised by the snub after Colin Campbell failed to select Pascal Leclaire, who leads the league in shutouts and save%, is 2nd in GAA and is 10th in wins was left out of the game. Not to mention was voted 2nd by the fans.

Here was Campbell's explanation for Leclaire's snub from Mike Arace's blog:

1. “We like to try to get a representative from each team.” (Admirable, but not fair in every case.)

2. “The Stanley Cup champions should be well represented.” (Last year, the Carolina Hurricanes had two representatives, Eric Staal and Justin Williams, and Williams was a late add. This year, the Anaheim Ducks have four, including late addition Scott Niedermayer, who has played 19 games since coming out of retirement. So, which year did the league get it right?)

3. “We like to make sure teams that are doing well this year are well represented.” (Detroit has three representatives – all of them starters – one of them, goaltender Chris Osgood, who plays in a platoon.)

4. “For people who come to the games and pay a lot of money for tickets and travel, they want to see true, year-in, year-out All-Stars here.” (I can only take this to mean that Leclaire is not a true All-Star, and Manny Legace is).

“You look at Leclaire,” Campbell said, “and he is having a career year. Hopefully, he continues like that into other years.”

I say again: Leclaire ranks first in shutouts and save percentage and second in goals against average, and he got the second-most votes among goalies in the Western Conference, and the leading vote getter begged out. Doesn’t the league look bad for such an egregious slight?

“My counter to that is, if he’s that good, he’ll be here next year,” Campbell said. “If he’s that good, don’t worry. Tampa was all over us because we didn’t select (Dan) Boyle last year, but they already had three guys on the team. It’s tough to put four on and get every team represented.”

Unless Niedermayer is unretired.

“I hope (Leclaire) faces us,” Campbell said, meaning that he hopes Leclaire gives the league a facial by tearing it up in the second half. “I hope he sticks it to us by winning the Stanley Cup.”

I hope Campbell didn't tweak an any kind of muscles reaching for some of those "explanations".

The 2nd half? C'mon the Jackets only have 31 games left -- we are way beyond the point of "2nd half". The plain truth of the matter is the Campbell screwed up and he screwed the Pascal Leclaire, the Columbus Blue Jackets organization and its fans. Its crystal clear now that the All Star game is a popularity contest and not a true representation of the best players in the league that season. If it were, then certainly Scott Neidermeyer would not be at this event after playing 19 games.

Props to the broadcast team of Doc Emerick and Eddie Olcyk for at least acknowledging during the broadcast the Leclaire snub. Just goes to show it wasn't just Jacket fans scratching their heads over this one.

For the Jackets one thing is obvious, respect for this market and team will not come easily. As Rick Nash was quoted in the paper this morning:

"It's up to our team to prove something to them," Nash said. "The ball's in our court. We've got to make the playoffs and play better. It's all up to us."

He's right.....and if the Jackets were smart about it, they just use this as more motivation/ammunition in that room to come out swinging in these last 31 games.

I applaud Rick Nash for his spectacular performance last night and his job of representing this team and market.

I applaud Pascal Leclaire for his spectacular performance to date and his professionalism in handling the snub.

I applaud Nik Zherdev, who if anyone outside of Columbus payed any kind of attention to this team, would realize he has been the best Jacket on this team, for his transformation from zero to hero.

I applaud the team for staying in the hunt when everyone had written them off at the start of the year.

Next step, for the city of Columbus to applaud this team as it embarks on its first ever legit playoff push!

Also there is a great article in the USAToday today regarding Nash -- Nash's picture-perfect goal is snapshot of talent

-LTL

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Some CBJ vids as we wait for the All-Star game...

Here's a couple of classic CBJ vids:

Tollefsen hit


2007 Opening Night - the "cannon" makes its first appearance


Rick Nash New Year's Hat Trick


Nash vs. Vandermeer


Pacal Leclaire 2007 tribute


Jared Boll being Jared Boll


Enjoy!

-LTL

Plenty of work left to do on new skills format

So what did you all think of the new skills competition format?

For me it was so-so.

The Positives

BREAKAWAY CHALLENGE
I think this event has a lot of upside. The players seemed very hesitant and we didn't get that highlight type goal - even though Ovechkin tried his best - I think now that the players have an idea of to expect we'll see some more creative attempts next year.

HARDEST SHOT
This is a classic event that has a lot of history and fun. It gets especially interesting when guys start topping that 100 MPH mark like both Chara and Lecalvalier did last night. This is a keeper.

ACCURACY SHOOTING
Another classic. It looks easy on TV but believe me its a rare occasion for players to hit 4 of 4 targets -- and this is the best players in the world we are talking about here. Again lots of history here which makes it fun to compare current stars to those of years past.

YOUNGSTARS GAME
I thought this event worked much better this year. Last year it was almost embarrassing how the young stars coasted through the game. This year with two 5 minute 3on3 periods there were lots of offense and fans to cheer on the future stars of this game.

The Negatives

OBSTACLE COURSE
This was a new event and I personally thought it was horrible. I knew the intent here but I thought it was very difficult to follow exactly what was going on. Of course the terrible job by Versus in terms of televising this event did not help. The one aspect I'd like to see them retain was the goalies shooting at the empty nets.

FASTEST SKATER
Another new event that did not work as well as the old version. A couple of things. One if they are going to make it a time trial then just do individual skaters as the way it was presented it looked like a two man race, the first one across the finish line wins -- that was not the case as it was the best time. Secondly, after seeing this format versus the old format, I think it add more to see the players turning and rounding the net.

ELIMINATION SHOOTOUT
Again a new event. To me this was to redundant and confusing to the fans. If your going to have the "Breakaway Challenge" then why have a similar event? Plus we get to see the shootout many times a year, this skills competition should feature events we normally don't get to see.

So while I applaud the NHL for shaking things up, I think there is plenty of improvement left to do here.

I'd can the Elimination Shootout and try a new event or go back to an event like the puck relay or 3 on goalies breakaway. I'd also return to the previous "Fastest Skater" format and either find a better way to broadcast the "Obstacle Course" or again return to a previous event or try something else new. Finally I would certainly encourage the players to reach deep down into their bag of tricks for the "Breakaway Challenge" -- the fans want creativity and something they've never seen before -- not typical deeks and shots.

-LTL

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Time to lockdown Hitch

Reading the latest articles regarding the Wings working to lock down Mike Babcock long term it got me thinking....shouldn't Howson be doing the same for Ken Hitchcock?

My reasons:

- I've seen enough. Hitch's overall record with the Jackets in 113 games is 53-49-11. Prior to his arrival the Jackets overall record was 144-229-33-24. Hitch has taken a team that has been built the wrong way and turned them into a competitive group who plays to their strenghts and minimizes their weaknesses. Just think what this guy will be able to do once Howson gets the weeds out and brings in more "Hitch type" guys.

- The maturization of young stars Rick Nash, Nik Zherdev and Pascal Leclaire. All three of these players are off to career years under a full year of tutilage under Hitch. A knock on Hitch was that he doesn't like younger players -- bologne.

- Hitch is in the 2nd year of his 3 year deal. No coach like coaching in the final year of a contract.

- Hitch and GM Scott Howson seem to be on the same page in terms of the kind of team they want to build. From the outside looking in anyways, it appears they have a great relationship.

- He's great with the fans and media and will do whatever he can to help promote the organization and team in the community.

I know as fans we all get caught up in players like trade rumors, who should we try to sign in the offseason, etc, etc. Honestly though, is there anyone as important to this organization right now than Ken Hitchcock? I would argue no there isn't and he should be the team's first priority in getting him signed to a contract extension.

-LTL

More signs of breakdown in NHL/NHLPA realtionship


Ever since the hiring of NHLPA boss Paul Kelley there have been more and more signs that the "partnership" that the NHL/NHLPA has enjoyed since the 2004 lockout is starting to deteriorate.

The latest example being Paul Kelly's public statements regarding the NHL's announcement regarding the two European games the league plans to open its season with next year. Here are some of Kelleys comments:

"The NHL put the cart before the horse."

"If they want the Players' Association to be a true business partner, then they have to include us in discussions about these matters at the earliest stages," Kelly said. "We shouldn't read about it in the press and we shouldn't find about it after the fact."

Kelly said he was approached by league officials Friday night and asked to sign off on the European games, which would mark the second straight year the NHL has opened its season on the other side of the Atlantic.

His response: "Look guys, you know we have a lot of details to work out. Travel, promotional issues, NHLPA involvement, accommodations, the schedule, etc. So there's still lots of details to work out, but if you want to announce it generally, that's fine."

Here was deputy commissioner Bill Daley's response:

"There seems to have been a breakdown in communication somewhere along the line," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "We felt the PA had specifically authorized today's announcement. We'll address it directly with Paul and try to make sure it doesn't happen again."

The more and more I read about Paul Kelly the more and more I feel this league is returning to the "old days" in which the NHL and NHLPA work against each other instead of the for each other which resulted in some dark days for the league.

When I read these kinds of statements from Paul Kelly the first thought that comes to mind is Bob Goodenow, the former confrontational NHLPA commissioner. I know Kelly has a job of representing the best interests of the players but is it really necessary to go public with these kinds of statements? No its not. It makes the league look disorganized, conflicted and Mickey Mouse -- all this during a weekend when the game and is stars are supposed to be showcased.

This is procedural stuff. This could be resolved with a phone call. Its a transparent attempt to pick a fight and make a needless statement. That's all this is.

The more and more this relationship continues to deteriorate the less optimistic I become regarding there being extended labor peace in this league.

For fans who could care less about the business stuff and just want to see games....all this means is that when this CBA expires in 2011 we could be looking at another work stoppage.

Lets hope both sides are smarter than this and don't let their relationships return to the dark days. I really don't know if this league could take another work stoppage so soon.
I guess this is what we get for letting a guy like Chris Chelios pick the union's leader.

-LTL

Friday, January 25, 2008

All Star weekend upon us...


Skills competions starts tomorrow night - 01/26/08 - at 7:00 P.M. ET

56th All Star game is Sunday at 6 p.m. ET

Rick Nash will be the Jackets only representative but Leclaire, the fans and the rest of the league outside of the "good ole boys club" at the NHL offices knows #31 should be there.

Both events will be televised on Versus which is channel 70 for the Time Warner Cable subscribers out there.

Full coverage can be found here.

-LTL

Mid term grades


Allan Muir of CNNSI.com recently gave out his mid-term grades for the league.

Here is what he had to say about the Jackets:

Season So Far
Grade B-

Finally committed to coach Ken Hitchcock's system, the Jackets have taken a major step toward their first-ever playoff berth.

The Skinny

MVP: Pascal Leclair. Breakthrough season for the goaltender -- among the league leaders in save percentage (.926) and goals-against (2.66) who has powered the team's rise to legitimacy.

BEYOND EXPECTATIONS: Jan Hejda, Nikolai Zherdev. Unheralded Czech league vet Hejda slid comfortably into shutdown role alongside Adam Foote. Down to his last chance, Zherdev ditched the bad attitude, got with Hitchcock's program, and became one of the most exciting players in the game.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: David Vyborny. So much for cashing in on a big season. Vyborny, typically the best playmaker in the lineup, was called out by Hitchcock for "overthinking." Forcing plays instead of making them, Vyborny has been too easy to neutralize. Watch for the impending UFA to be dealt by the deadline.

HARDWARE HOPEFULS: Leclaire (Vezina)

Playoff Prognosis

Their 8-3-2 start raised expectations of a playoff berth. Although one's still within reach, this season looks more like just another stride toward respectability.

Now of course here is what I have to say:

How anyone can give this team anything other than an A grade overall is beyond me. Everyone, and I mean everyone predicted this team to be a doormatt this season and finish along with Phoenix either dead last or close to it in the league.

Overall Grade: A

Coaching: A+

Hitch and co. have this team playing to its strengths which are solid team defense, exceptional goaltending, and using checking to create its offense.

Offense: D+

With the 5th worst goals for in the league, the offense has struggled this year putting pucks in the net.

On the bright side both Rick Nash and Nik Zherdev on pace for career years - both are tied for the team lead with 43 points. Zherdev has already doubled his goal total from a year ago. Nash is only 1 goal away from matching last year's season output of 27. Both sit 47th and 48th respectively in overall league scoring.

On the downside David Vyborny has been a major dissapointment collecting only 16 points in 41 games and is a -9. Freddy Modin has been dogged by injuries and is just not returning to the ice. Jason Chimera, Gilbert Brule, Dan Fritsche have also struggled most of the year offensively.

Defense: A

On the flip side the Jackets have given up a the 5th best goals against in the leauge. In other words its damn hard to score against this team. The team has completely bought into Hitch's system and the top four in Foote, Hejda, Klesla and Hainsey have done a tremendous job on the blueline this season.

All four of those defensemen are '+' players with Jan Hedja leading the way with a +10. After being a -16 and -17 in his first two years as a Jacket, Adam Foote is second on the team with a +6.

Goaltending: A+

Is there any bigger surprise in the league this year than Pascal Leclaire? He's having his breakout season and leads the leauge in shutouts with 8 and is second in GAA ans SAVE%. Leclaire is a BIG reason why this team remains in the hunt.

Special Teams: B

Power play: C-
While better of late the powerplay really struggled at points this season and is ranked 21st in the league.

Penalty kill: A+
The leagues #1 penalty kill heading into the All Star break.

Expectations versus actual performance: A+

The Jackets have certainly followed Howson's manta of under promising and over delivering. This team has by far and away exceeded expectations.

Need improvement:

The Jackets will need to win more on the road to stay in the hunt. They are currently 9-14-2 on the road. Things have quietly begun to change in that area as they went 3 for 5 on their last road trip. With 9 of their next 15 on the road that will have to continue if they want to stay in the race. The good news is that 9 of their remaining 16 games are at home to round out the season.

The offense has got to score more goals. With the addtions of Brassard and Modin into the lineup and the continued development of guys like Russell, Murray and Boll its hopes scoring will pick up. Don't rule out a deal to help in this area.

Predictions:

The Jackets will be very actice at the deadline. They will be both buyers and sellers. Fedorov is dealt for a younger roster player. David Vyborny, Dan Fritsche and Jody Shelley are dealt for picks or prospects.

The Jackets stay in the hunt for that final playoff spot in that final week. They will finish 7th, 8th or 9th.

-LTL

Leclaire, Boll power Jackets to key road win


Well the Jackets almost gave me a heart attack as they hung on in the 3rd to collect their 6th victory in their past 8 and 3 of 5 on this latest road trip swing.
They did it though....mostly on the back of Pascal Leclaire who stopped all 30 shots from the 'hawks including 14 in the 3rd period alone.

Jarred Boll collected the lone goal for the Jackets whom moved into a tie with Colorado for that 8th and final playoff spot in West as they move into the break.

Lit it up

Pascal Leclaire. You know the All-Star snub who leads the league in shutouts and is second in both Save % and GAA. Its an absolute joke that he is not in the game and he threw it right back in the NHL's face with an exclamation point in the form of a shutout. Leclaire was the reason this team collected two points last night.

Team defense. Adam Foote and Jan Hejda were rocks all night long. The rest of the 'D' did their part as well and we can't forget about the forwards who were also digging and clearing pucks. Leclaire earned the shutout but as any goalie will tell you, its a team effort as well.

Jarred Boll. In front of his home town fans (Boll is from Illinois) Boll collected his 5th goal of the year which proved to be the game winner. Its was a goal that was created off of his hard work and forecheck.

PK. Did its job once again killing off all 5 penalties against including a double minor from Rick Nash. In a night where the first team that blinked lost the game, the PK once again held its ground. Oh btw -- PK is now #1 IN THE LEAGUE!

Nik Khabibulin. Chicago's goalie really played a great game as well. He stopped 27 of 28 shots and really deserved a win as well.
SCORED FIRST! WHOOO!
Dim the light

I thought Freddy Modin and Mike Peca had great games. Of course they didn't get on the board but they were both HUGE on the PK....digging pucks out, winning battles, smart positioning. I had forgotten how good Modin can be on the PK.

Z. Once again was our best offensive force. He rang one right off the post that could have really given the Jackets some breathing room. He also had a couple of beautiful setups -- unfortunately guys like Chimera couldn't bury them.

Tollefsen. Collected an assist but more than that he looked more solid last night. Made the smart plays, got under the skin of guys like Ruutu and generally a point to play against. Looked more like the Tolly of last season.

I liked Brassard again a lot last night. Hitch pulled him out of the game in the 3rd when the Jackets were holding the lead and couldn't afford any defensive mistakes but when he was out there he was making things happen. His role will continue to increase with more experience. He's certainly not going anywhere for a while.

Busted bulbs

Powerplay. Failed to covert all night including 3 early opportunities that could have given the Jackets an early lead.
Offense. They got buy with 1 goal last night but that will not get you a win on most nights. Need more goals.

Jason Chimera. Guy is killing me. Hands of stone..turnovers (which he leads the team with)....need Chimera to pick up his game.

David Vyborny. His season from hell continues. Missed two golden opportunities and was generally a non-factor again last night.
Faceoffs. Jackets only won 35% of their faceoffs last night... uck!
NHL for snubbing Pascal Leclaire. The best goalie in the league so far this year will not be represented.

3 bright lights on the night
1. Pascal Leclaire - 8th shutout...spectacular performance
2. Jarred Boll - 5th goal of the year in front of home town...game winner no less
3. Team defense - everyone worked for that shutout

If you would have told me this team would bounce back from those Dallas and Colorado losses to pick up two straight wins on the road I would have called you a liar. This team did it though, they dug deep and got it done. They now find themselves tied for that 8th spot in the West with Colorado.

Fun stat I heard today on the radio driving into work. The earliest the Jackets have ever collected their 25th win was last season - March 2nd. They did that yesterday on January 24th. I'd call that marked improvement.

The Jackets take on Phoenix at home an Tuesday January 29th. Lets all get out there and support these guys!

Enjoy your break boys, you've earned it!

-LTL

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Live bloggin

Well done boys, enjoy your break...you've all earned it! See ya back at home against another tough oppenent in Phoenix on Tuesday!

Jackets finish this 5 game road trip going 3-2 and still right in the hunt for a playoff spot. So far in January they are 7-5 with two games remaining... overall they improve to 25-20-6. Depending on how the standings finish out tonight they could move into a tie with that 8th spot.

Holy cow..what a hard fought win by the Jackets.... Leclaire hands down the best player on the
ice.....Jackets were absolutely dominated in the 3rd but Leclaire held them in it...

*takes breath*

**END OF GAME**

JACKETS WIN!!! LECLAIRE WITH THIS 8TH SHUTOUT OF THE YEAR!! EAT IT ALL STAR GAME!!!! WHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

TO Chicago. Who takes this faceoff for the Jackets? Probalby Novotny... Nash, Foote, Klesla also
out there... big draw.. Novotny wins it! HUGE!

Oh great... Peca with penatley with 31 seconds remaining.. you've got to be kidding be.. after all they let go this period... penalty in the defensive zone as well.. *still holding breathe*

Chimera with some great chances tonight but can't burry any...

Great defensive zone faceoff win by Novonty there.. 5 on 5 play back... 3 mins left.. *holds breath*

Friggan Leclaire with the save... again! Guy has been amazing this game..

Now they call Z for diving... riiiight... 4 on 4 hockey.. plays into the hands of the hawks with all that open ice and offense they have..

Z draws penalty.. how big is that with 5 minutes left?

Goaltending clinic out there... Habby with a huge save on Chimera... how bout that feed from Z? Beauty..

Big shift there by Boll, Murray, Manny... actually spent some time in offensive zone this period..

HOLY LEGS! SAVE OF THE GAME BY LECLAIRE!!! WOW!

Jackets need to attack.. playing way too defensively...

Man...heart rate pounding now... Leclaire coming up huge here in the 3rd to preserve 1 goal lead... momentum all hawks though.. they are comin hard... Jackets need to take advantage turnover as they are pressing and pot one on the rush..

That Murray is fantastic on the forecheck...

There was a shot by Z... great save by Habby... that was labeled...

Yikes...no Jacket shots this period thus far... livin on the edge I'd say..

Jackets can't get it out of their own zone this period... momentum all hawks..

Love Modin and Peca tonight on the kill... great work.

Nash with broken sitck.. Jackets get lucky and get a clear...

Jackets take a penalty.. .Chicago really taking it to the Jackets this period... PK needs to step it up again...

I hate these tight games....can't we just blow a team out? Gonna have to break out the oxygen again me thinks..

I think its safe to say the stripes have put the whistles away this period... could have been two penalties there.. one on us and them.. but nada

Ha.. Tollefsen and Ruutu been goin at it all night long... would like to see that fight but Ruutu is more of an agitator than a willing combatant..

Jackets need to pick it up.. hemmed in early in this 3rd..

If there is one area Leclaire needs to work on its stick handling... dude scares the crap out of me when he tried to handle the biscuit..

Hawks coming out with energy... boys looked a little slow to the puck that last cycle...

Here we go... 20 min game now..

**START OF THIRD**

Jackets just need to keep doing what they are doing. Expect the hawks to come out harder in the 3rd. Jackets will need to match it. They get that next goal and its gonna be real hard Chicago to come back.

Jackets notch the only goal thus far. Outshooting them 23-16. PK really big for the Jackets there.

**END OF SECOND**

I think its safe to say Chicago gets under Nash's skin... questionable play there on 61 trying to nullify that icing... finished off Seabrook a little there..

Actually check that.. its a 5 on 4.... Leclaire another big save..

3 on 3 play.. don't see this very often... 'hawks will have a 4 on 3 here shortly which can be very dangerous.. lots of open ice..

Just realized Novonty has the cage off tonight...anyhow..back to the game..

Jackets getting caught in a little run and gun there... Leclaire another big stop on Havlat... Hedja got caught pinching there..

Wisniewski down.. .looks like Nasher took him down.. .remember those two fought earlier in the year... Nash gets 4 minutes...

Hawks with another penalty... this time hookin on Nash... the Jackets have got to score one here... this is their 5th PP...

Jackets looked much better on this PP..even though they didn't score... Modin with some great loose puck retrieval...

Hainsey with a nice shot from the point...

Nice crowd tonight in the United Center too..

Brassard making things happen again.. just drew a penalty...

Z just rang one off the post.. damn.. could have used that one..

Modin with a great play on the PK there... fantastic.. plays like those lead to wins.. Jackets kill penalty... 'haks PP looks worse than ours tonight.. that's hard to do..

Refs discussing now if Hedja flipped puck in stands... really this is a big decision.. it would give the 'hawks a 50 second 5 on 3... Jackets catch a break... no extra penalty..

Game opening up now.. Jackets take a penalty... Brassard with a beautiful feed to Nash... Habby with another good save.. that's the kind of playmaking we've been lookin for for big 61 though.. big kill here again..

Is it just me or does it seem like the Nash line isn't seeing a whole lot of time... probably more to do with the fact they are rolling 4 lines tonight..

OH HELL YEAH!! Jarod Boll with the hustle and then gets the reward off a sweet feed from Tollefsen (of all people)... huge goal...Boll earned that one...

Chimera flashing those hands of stone... guy drives me insane sometimes..

Man... nice play by Kane with that drop pass to Sharp... Leclaire answers... sweet play though..

Foote and Hedja looking especially good as a pair this game... really have shut down the the 'hawks big guns up to now (hopefully I didn't just put the jinx on em)

Hitting picking up here in the 2nd... that's more like it boys..

Nice save on Havlat there by Leclaire to open up this period.

**START OF SECOND**

Quick Crunch update: Score tied 1-1 after 1. Lindstrom with the tally for the Crunch. Westcott and Rome with assists.

Just was checking some scores... a whopping 26 of 30 teams in action tonight.. yep, must be the last regular season night before the All Star break.... and of course let me take another opporutunity to say how wrong, wrong, wrong the NHL was to leave Leclaire off the squad -- unexplicable..

Really not the kind of first I thought it would be...pretty conservative on both sides....which is good for the Jackets. Unfortunately the Jackets couldn't convert on any of their 3 powerplays in that period which could come back to haunt them. Good road period though for the good guys.

Jackets lead in shots 10-9.

**END OF FIRST**

Nice save by Leclaire... he's made some solid stops this period... nothing fancy but stopping the shots he should..

Man...Brassard flying there...nice shot..we've got another guy who can carry this puck...and we need it!

Ouch...that hit hurt Boll... face plant by Seabrook.... good shift there by the Nash line.. .Brassard making quick smart plays out there... kids got talent.. no doubt about it..

Jackets PK lookin good...much better than their PP thus far that's fo' sho'..

Hawks turn on the PP.. Hejda with a lazy hook there... you know the officials were lookin for anythin even close to a penalty on the Jackets..

Hawks kill 3 straight PPs...get the feeling the momentum is going to change here..

At this point not sure why you come back with Z, Peca and Chimera... I'd would have put Z, Nash and Modin out there......PP is just ugly......god..Vybes with another miss..

Man...another Jackets PP...that was a terrible call on Kane though.. 'hawks should have a beef with that one..

PP not lookin sharp early tonight...in fact they almost gave up a shorty... Jackets missed a couple of early opps to get up early in this one.. could come back to haunt them..

Oh man.. Vybes with a wide open net... but stuttered with the puck and then put a real light shot on goal... got to finish that one.. story of Vybes season thus far..

Boll draws a penalty with some hard work....another golden opportunity for the Jackets..need better chances than what they got on the previous PP..

Hawks on keying on Z....that's a couple times now they pokechecked him.. he's our best chance to gain the zone on the PP with possession and the 'hawks know that..

Nice chance for Brassard there...nice save by Habby..

Has David Vyborny taken a shift yet? Burried way down the lineup...

Jackets go on 1st PP....their PP is hot...getting one here could go a long way in this one..

Interesting that Nash started on the right wing..usually don't see that. Modin on the left.

Decent energy by both squads thus far...

Modin is so good along the boards...such an underated aspect of hockey.

**START OF FIRST**

2 mins til game time.

It will be interesting to see what kind of energy the Jackets come out with early in the final game against the 'hawks.

Pre-game thoughts: Jackets look to make it 3 of 5 on the road

Columbus wraps up its final game of this 5 game road trip tonight in Chicago. Its the final game for both teams before the All Star break kicks in. For most players on the Jackets, that means 4 days off until their next game at home against Phoenix.


For the Jackets, who are 2-2 so far on this road stretch, its a chance to put together the most successful and important road trip in their history (no pressure right?). However they are taking on a streaking Chicago team who is 4-1 in their past 5. They are beatable at home though only having a 13-12-1 record there.

Keys to lighting em up

- Put everything on the line tonight. Big break coming up. A chance for both teams to get big wins against a divisional opponent. Jackets have to give it everything they've got. No passengers. No rubbernecks. No nights off. Everyone has to do their job.

- Play your game. The matchups between the 'hawks and Jackets tend to be of the run and gun style. The Jackets team is really not built for that type of game. The Jackets will need to stay disciplined, keep to their tight checking style of play and capitalize on their opportunities.

- Keep PP hot. The Jackets PP has been absolutely SMOOOOKIN lately. Its all the way up to 21st overeall. The Jackets will need to keep that momentum going and sting them when they've got the man advantage.

- The 'hawks have some offensive firepower. Its definitely less with Toews out but still the Jackets have to watch out for super-rookie Patrick Kane who leads the team with 45 points... Patrick Sharp whose having a breakout year and leads the team in goals with 22.. then of course there is off-injured Havlat who can be a game changer every time he's on the ice... Jackets need to do their best to shut these guys down.

- Rick and Nick show. Keep on keepin on.

- Russell. Now that he's got his first one...err two...out of the way, need him to keep that offensive momentum going as we need all the scoring from the backend we can get.

- Special teams. The 'hawks don't have that great of special teams. They are ranked 22nd in PP and 19th in PK. Key for the Jackets is not to let them be special tonight.

- Leclaire in nets. Needs to outplay Khabbibulin. He could also use some goal support.

- Speaking of goal support. Score first! It just makes me feel better!!

- Goals off the rush. Would like to see the Jackets do a little better off goals on the rush. I love the grind out goals but we've had some prime chances on mini-breakaways and odd man rushes that have gone for not. We need to capitalize on some of those chances.

**********************

Should be a battle. Jackets are up 2-1 in this series thus far this year. Both teams are gonna throw all they've got at this one. A win tonight would really be a big momentum pusher for the Jackets but they need to earn it on the ice.

GO JACKETS!!

-LTL

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Week 16 Power Rankings - Jackets slip a bit after 2 road losses

TSN.ca - Up 1 to 14
While Nikolai Zherdev's blocked shot was good for the highlight reels, he's still minus-9 in the last ten games. The only Jacket worse has been Jiri Novotny, who is minus-10.

Yahoo.com - down one to 19
Rick Nash. No quibble with Nash's selection. With the prodding of coach Ken Hitchcock, Nash has become more of a complete player and he's led the Blue Jackets. But somehow goalie Pascal Leclaire has to be invited. He's the league leader with seven shutouts, a great save percentage and low goals-against average. C'mon.

THN.com - down 3 to 19
If you didn’t see Rick Nash’s amazing goal last week, do yourself a favor and check it out on YouTube. Gold Jerry! Gold!

ESPN.com - stays put at 19
That insane goal against the Phoenix last week is all the proof you need for Mr. Rick Nash.

CNNSI.com - down 2 to 17
Columbus Blue Jackets (23-20-6)Their 3rd-ranked PK has been solid all season, but that's about it. After starting on fire, goalie Pascal Leclaire has come back to reality. Of his NHL-leading seven shutouts, only one has come since Nov. 24. He's also allowed three or more goals in three of his last five starts. Another problem: lack of scoring outside of Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev, who have combined for 45 of the team's 121 goals. Last Week: 2-2-0 Early Prediction: 11th in West

CBC.ca - down 1 to 16
Hanging in, but schedule has been tough.

FoxSports.com - up 1 to 19
(.533) By winning two of their three Week 15 games, the Blue Jackets were able to move up two places in the rankings. Nikolai Zherdev played a huge role in the two wins last week, first scoring two goals in a 6-4 win over the Blues, then adding one assist and the game-decider in a 2-1 shootout win over the Predators.

CBSSports.com - up 1 to 21
Getting Fredrik Modin back in the lineup helps but the Jackets still have to figure out how to pick up a few more wins on the road.

Average score: 18.00 (last week 17.63)

Once again TSN gives us the highest score at 14 while yes, you guessed it, CBSSports comes in at the lowest with a score of 21. That Goldstein just doesn't believe in this team, even 50 games into this season.

Overall the Jackets slide a bit and that's due to their 2 game losing streak. However I'm sure Goldstein will be glad to hear the Jackets won...on the road...again last night. A win in Chicago..on the road...will most certainly cause Jacket climb up the rankings.

-LTL

A "reel" look at the Columbus Blue Jackets


Lets have a little fun today.

So if you had to choose a movie to associate each CBJ player's season up to this point what would you choose? Here's what I came up with, feel free to list yours out in the comments if you'd like:


Nash - "The Incredibles" - goal of the year - 'nuff said

Zherderv - "Transformers" - from how he played last season to this season, I'd say this blockbuster is the perfect fit

Vyborny - "Dr Doolittle" - pretty much what he's done all year and that's very little

Malhotra - "Goodfellas" - seems like a likable guy..was gonna put "Heat" though b/c I think he's under some pressure to pick up his game

Hejda - "The Rock" - guys has been a rock on the blueline all year for us

Foote- "Gladiator" - big rebound season for Foote..he hasn't missed a game and has gotten back to his punishing style of play

Leclaire - "Dr Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" - this guys has stolen a lot of goals from opposing teams this year including 7 shutouts...of course he also looks like "The Grinch".

Boll - "Rocky" - leads the league in fights, 2nd in PIMs....this guy can do more than just punch though

Shelley - "Cast Away" - role on this team appears to shrink by the hour

Brassard - "Signs" - plenty of signs this kid will be the real deal and will solidify the center position for years to come

Modin - "Misery" - guy has been trapped with injuries all year but expect him to breakout of it
soon

Russell - "Happy Feet" - small in stature but skates like the wind...slowly coming into his own out there

Klelsa - "What Women Want" - all I ever hear about is how the chicks dig this guy...title seems
fitting..oh yeah, he's played well this year especially the past month

Hainsey - "xXx" - he's been that 'x' factor on the blueline for us this season and is on pace for a
career high 40+ points

Murray - "A Few Good Men" - every team needs guys like Murray who aren't afraid to pay the price and get the job done the hard way

Novotny - "Any Which Way You Can" - this guy will do anything, play in any situation..whatever it takes.

Methot - "Sudden Impact" - when he got called up last year I think everyone was surprised at how well this kid played out of the gate

Norrena - "In the Line of Fire" - has done a decent job backing up Leclaire this year

Fedorov - "Dinosaur" - his best days have passed him by but he starting to play like he's not quite done yet in this league

Peca - "Fracture" - has had his share of injuries, including some this season, but has contributed most nights

Glencross - "The Good Shepherd" - just goes about his business and does whatever he can do to contribute to the team

Fritsche - "Crash" - either hits or takes the biggest hits of anyone on this team it seems

Chimera - "Speed" - yeah he's got great speed...but desperately needs new hands and a better one on one move

Tollefsen - "Hitman" - hits anything he can

Lindstrom - "Holes" - to many holes in his game right now to stay in the big show

Beech - "Gone With the Wind" - waivered, claimed by Canucks, now waivered again

Brule - "Changing Lanes" - spending some time with Syracuse to regain his game and confidence


Hitchcock - "Hitch" - that's a gimmie right? All I know is that Howson needs to extend this guy like yesterday..best thing to happen to the CBJ is right behind the bench

Noel - "The Game Plan" - just has been a great addition to the Jackets coaching staff

Agnew - "Somethings Gotta Give" - this powerplay was a wreck for most of the year, but appears to finally be back on track

Murphy - "Unbreakable" - dude must be solid b/c he's still employed by the Jackets after all the turnover

Marlachuk - "Miracle" - seriously, first Luongo and now Leclaire... I am starting to believe this guy is a miracle workers..


Howson - "The Emperor's New Groove" - got to say he's been a refreshing change of pace for this franchise.


Gare - "Analyze This" - just stay away from the telestrator Gare!

Mathews - "Spanglish" - because most of the time I have no idea what he's saying

Rimer - "Talk To Me" - Rimer never met a microphone or person he didn't like

Davidge - "Anaylyze That" - does the same thing as Gare except on radio side


The fans - "Cliffhanger" - its been quite a wild ride so far this season!

John H. McConnell - "As Good As It Gets" - I'm forever thankful he brought this city this franchise - thank you J-Mac!


-LTL

Jackets dig deep hole, then dig deep for big win!

I'll admit it.

I thought this game was over the second Brendan Morrow scored the first goal of the game in the 2nd period. Then when Dallas' Steve Ott scored again a little while late I was certain the Jackets would lose their 3rd in a row.

Boy was I wrong. I love being wrong in a case like this!

Once again the Columbus Blue Jackets proved that this year's version is not "the same old Jackets". Even a die hard like myself who wants to believe finds myself being very guarded regarding just what this team is capable of.

Two back to back road losses. Coming back to a town to play a team that we just played our guts out to but lost anyways? Only scoring 2 goals in the past 2 games? The road history of this franchise? The lack of ability to come back in games, especially on the road? Oh yeah, I thought this one was in the books once that scoreboard ticker hit 1-0, let alone 2-0.

Of course somebody forgot to tell the Jackets that who kept pounding away at it. Russel got on the board with his first NHL goal. Then Murray with his 3rd. Then Russell again....and finally, Nash with the empty netter. Oh yeah, rejuvenated, reinvented, re energized re-(insert what ever word here) Nikolai Zherdev was the catalyst for the comeback notching 3 assists - 2 of which were of the world class variety.

..and we can't forget Pascal Leclaire of whom without some "game saving" stops in the 2nd period this game would have been out of reach.

Lit it up

As much as I want to start with Kris Russell it was Nik Zherdev who once again took control of the Jackets' offense and went to work. Honestly, he is our best player right now - at least not including goaltender Pascal Leclaire. The Stars keyed on him all night long -- held him in check for the most part -- but then as he's been doing all year he created space for himself and the team and then set up two beautiful key goals. That cross ice pass he made to Russell between the forward's legs was nothing short of remarkable. Z is now tied with Rick Nash for the scoring lead and will no doubt take it away with the way he's been lighting it up.

Kris Russell. Dude finally got a goal...make that two! These weren't gimmes either... Both goals were him jumping up in the play looking for that back door pass.. not only did he get them (both courtesy of #13) but he converted them. HUGE confidence booster for this kid. A week ago I was ready to send this kid down as he seemed to hit a wall.....exactly why I'm not coach or GM of this team :) Lets see if the floodgates really open for him now.

Andrew Murray. Seriously this guy has played what, 6 games now and has 3 goals? He only played 8+ minutes last night and scored an absolutely huge goal. They aren't pretty but who in the hell cares right? We need more dirty goals from 3rd and 4th lines and Murray is giving us that. He also blocked 2 shots. No way you can take this guy out of the lineup - not a chance.

Coming from behind. It hadn't happened this year. The Jackets coming from behind by 2 goals in the 2nd period to win a game. Can't underestimate how big of a win this was, especially how it was accomplished. The boys dug deep last night to pull this one out. Very proud of this team.

Powerplay. Two more powerplay goals. Granted the 2nd one was with an empty net after the officials called a ridiculous penalty on the Stars -- the same one that happened to us against the Flames where the puck was deflected over the glass and ruled "delay of game". Believe me Stars fans, we know exactly how you feel. Anyhow -- two 3rd period PP goals against the #1 PK in the league -- well done..

Secondary scoring. Two goals from a defensemen and one from a 4th liner - yep, I'd say secondary scoring stepped up last night.

Pascal Leclaire. Stopped 31 of 33 shots. His play in the 2nd period salvaged this win for the CBJ.

Dim the light

I thought Brassard had a nice game last night. No points to show for it but looked better than anyone else we've seen in that #1 hole. Hitch will move him up and down the lineup no doubt but its nice to see he can run with it if necessary.

Boll. Great fight and finished up a +2. I'd love to see this kid get more ice time and play a little higher in the lineup.

Nash had that empty netter. Played decent. Didn't notice him at some points in the game but I thought he really battled in the 3rd. In fact I thought his best shift was when he was out there with less than a minute to go protecting that lead.....playing really physical and determined. Was great to see.

Tollefsen. I've been hard on Tollefsen the past couple of game but thought he played okay last night. No bad turnovers, was physical and made the smart play.

Novotny. Finally this guy got a point. He plays hard every night but doesn't get rewarded a lot times. He led the team with 8 hits!

PK was perfect again last night killing all 6 penalties against. Faceoffs were also on the right side winning 52%.

Busted bulbs

Hated the way the Stars got their goals. Both were the "in front of the net" dirty variety. The Jackets are usually good at clearing the nets but they weren't on the two Dallas goals. They did adjust and do a much better job of clearing out the front of the net later in the game.

David Vyborny. This guy is completely lost out there. Completely ineffective. Looks slow and has zero confidence. Almost reminds me of the fall Z took last year. I don't see Vybes getting the chance to rejuvenate himself here though -- but he'll get a chance elsewhere in the league.

Jason Chimera. Seriously dude, get a new move.

Officiating. Thought it was suspect both ways last night.

Dallas attendance. Please tell me how Dallas is ranked 12th in attendance. The Nat has more people than that on most nights and they are ranked 26th in the league. Me thinks someone is inflating some numbers ala Doug MacLean.

3 bright lights on the night
1. Come from behind win. Down two goals midway through an important road game and win? Yeah, I'd say that deserves a bright light.
2. Nik Zherdev - 3 assists and was once against the best offensive player on the ice. I hope this version of Z never goes away!
3. Kris Russll - two goals including his first ever NHL goal. Long time coming for "little shake". Couldn't be happier for the kid! ....and talk about important goals!

The Jackets move to 2-2 on this 5 game road trip. They play their final game on this trip before the All Star break on Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks. With a win, it would be the most successful road trip in franchise history. With a loss, it wouldn't be a disaster but would leave this team thinking "what if".

The 'hawks will be coming off a road trip of their own and thinkin "must win" here. The Jackets will have their work cut out for them. Hitch game em the day off today after their effort last night. As great as this win was for the standings, the players and this franchise they'll need to quickly sweep it under the carpet and get ready for another tough tilt against a division rival.

Two more big points up for grabs - Jackets need to take them.

-LTL

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Minor deal...what does it mean?

The Jackets today swapped out a couple of minor leaguers.


They sent Darcy Campbell (an out of college free aganet signee) and Pascal Dupuis (a 2003 4th round draft choice) were dealt to Colorado for Mark Rycroft (who's been up and down between the AHL/NHL since 2000).

So why make this deal? I've got a couple of theories:

1. The obvious. Just adds more quality NHL depth. Rycroft has 226 NHL games on his resume scording a season high 21 points for the St. Louis Blues in 2003-2004. Campbell and Dupuis have a combined 1 game of NHL experience and really don't figure into any future plans with the squad.

2. The Jackets move two contacts for one. They were at their NHL/AHL limit, now they aren't. Could they be looking to add another player?

My bet is #2.

It should also be noted that Rycroft will be a UFA after this season so it figures to be a short stint for him with the organization.

-LTL

Pre-game thoughts: Jackets look to fend off season sweep by Dallas

The Jackets are back in Dallas tonight tonight to face the Stars. This after suffering their 3rd loss in 3 games thus far this season by a score of 3-1 on Friday night. A game in which the Jackets dominated in every area but the scoreboard.

So tonight the Jackets get a chance to not just stop a Stars sweep but also end a 2 game losing streak and get to .500 on the 5 game road trip.

Keys to lighting em up

We'll keep this pretty simple tonight. Score more than them. Certainly 1 goal could win it but hardly likely. Offense needs to do some damage tonight.

Can Brassard make something happen on top line? He looked good in the 3rd period against the Avalanche but as Hitch said, that was when the Avs already had the game in hand. Remember this kid is just a rookie but the Jackets could certainly use a spark down the middle between Nash and Modin.

Dallas special teams. They are good. The Jackets did a really good job of shutting them down on Friday, will have to do so again.

Take advantage of Stars injuries. They did not do it Friday but if Zubov, Boucher, Jokinen and co. are still out -- the Jackets have got to take advantage of exploit this Stars lineup.

The Jackets really really REALLY need to score first tonight. They are way to fragile if they don't get that first one on the board.

Leclaire needs a few "big saves" tonight. This team puts a lot of pressure on its goaltenders to be damn near perfect every night. Its not exactly fare but that's the type of team the Jackets are at this point. No different tonight, Leclaire will have to be Jackets best player.

Ribeiro, Morrow. Top two scorers who have been very dangerous on the powerplay. Morrow got a goal last game, the first goal and they went on to win. Can't allow these two to be the difference out here again.

*****************

I expect the Jackets to come out hard tonight. They usually do after bad losses. They need to find a way to turn that energy into goals. The Stars are a seasoned disciplined team, they will be ready.

-LTL

Monday, January 21, 2008

Easy come easy go

Whelp.... so much for that great 4 game win streak and super highlight reel goal by Nasher..

Just as we were all settling in really thinkin about the playoff picture the Jackets quickly find themselves losers of their past two road games and once again their inability to win on the road rears its ugly head.

Not sure about the rest of you all but after the Jackets went down by two goals I knew the game was over. Outside of the very rare occasion this team as its currently made up just cannot battle back from any kind of a deficit, especially on the road. It just seems to be in the makeup of this team that can't be fixed over night -- its an ongoing battle Hitchcock and Howson will have to address that will utlimately result in some pretty sizable player turnover.

Just not enough guys on this team give what it takes to win on the road in this league.

So on to the game:

Lit it up

The Avalanche. They are sure tought to beat at home and they showed us why last night? Down their 3 best offensive talents in Sakic, Smyth and Statsny the Avalanche made quick work of the Jackets exposing turnovers and their mobile defense showed us all why its vital to have defensemen who can move and skate puck and hit tape to tape passes.

Dim the light

Modin scored his first goal. He looked good next to Nash, at least in the second period.

Brassard is really starting to show us why we should all be excited that we may have finally drafted a legit top 6 center on this squad. He picked up his first career point and certainly looked much better than Peca next Nash and Modin.

Kris Russell, who has struggled of late, logged a lot of ice time (over 20+ minutes) and played perhaps one of his best games. Hitch really went to him in the 3rd to try to spark some offense.

PK was perfect again last night killing 4 of 4 penalties against.

Leclaire was okay. Made some big saves early but alas the Avalanche just wanted this game more.

Tollefsen fight was good. Better than him turning the puck over that's for sure.

Busted bulbs

2 goals in the past two games on the road? Not gonna cut it. Scoring has once again dried up like the desert.

Jason Chimera. Abosolutely brutal. Made two horrible turnover on the Avalanche goals. The first one was an intercepted pass that led to the Avalanche rush in which Finger eventually was a defelected shot through. The other a similar turnover that resulted in an odd man rush and dagger of a 3rd goal. The Jackets can NOT commit these kind of plays and expect to win on the road - especially when they aren't generating goals.

Fritsche, Vyborny, Malhotra, Glencross, Peca... ghosts last night because I didn't even see them.

Only won 43% of faceoffs. Typicallly faceoffs are a strength for this squad.

3 bright lights on the night

1. Derrick Brassard - notched his 1st career point and looked real good next to Nash and Modin in the 3rd
2. Fredrick Modin - got that first goal
3. Nash - not a great game, had a nice dish to Modin for the goal, some other scoring chances and was better than anything else related to the Jackets performance

Generally just a very uninspired performance by the whole team. This was a big opportunity to get two points in the standings against a team they are in direct competition for in terms of that 8th playoff position. Instead of a hard fought game we got one good 20 minute period. To little to late.

I know it was their 3rd game in 4 nights but if they want the playoffs that stuff can't matter -- they must find a way to win tough games like this on the road.

Jackets go back to Dallas on Tuesday. Its their final game of the year against the Stars who have taken all 3 games thus far against them.

I would fully expect this team to rebound with a much more inspired effort but Dallas is an experienced team who will be fully prepared.

-LTL