All-Blogs.net directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: 10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I just wanted to take a moment to wish everybody a fun a safe Halloween!!

(hopefully the Jackets can scare the hell outta the 'hawks tomorrow night!!)

-LTL

Jackets trick fans, treat themselves to two points!


I'll be the first to admit I didn't think the Jackets stood a chance against the Avalanche in Colorado last night.

I was wrong....thankfully!

The Jackets did indeed stop the bleeding after a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche last night. It was a much needed win for a disenchanted fanbase but even more importantly, for a locker room that has seen defeat snapped from the jaws of victory over the past couple of games.

Even though the Jackets got 4 it was the defense and goaltending that stole the show in this one. Norrena looked like circa de '06 while the defense looked like the group who started off last year so well.

The Jackets capitalized on some poor goaltending and limited the high octane Avalanche offense to mostly outside shots.

It paid off with two points.


STOPLIGHT GAME REVIEW



GREEN
* Norrena was absolutely fantastic in this game. He saw the puck really well. I really hope he can continue that kind of play as the Jackets will need it to dig out of this hole.

* By far the best defensive effort to date. All 6 d-men played strong games. Every single one of them made strong 1:1 plays, played the body and were strong positionally and with their partners.

* The team finished a collective +20. Christian Backman led the charge with a +3.

* I want everyone reading this post to STOP what they are doing, RUN to a window and check and make sure that indeed hell has not frozen over.....Jan Hejda scored a goal!

* Derick Brassard a goal and an assist. What else can you say about this kid? He's playing fantastic hockey. That pass he made to Chimera to open him up for his shot was world class playmaking.

* Same with Chimera... he's playing the best hockey of his career. His goal was sweet but so was his patience and pass to a pinching Hejda for the 4th goal.

* Derek Dorsett. Absolutely owned Darcy Tucker in his fight.. grabbed an assist and generally played a fantastic agitating type game. Pound for pound this kid may be the toughest player in the NHL right now.

* The Jackets fought through some very questionable reffing..what else is new right?

* Boys were banging last night with 29 hits versus 21 for the Avs. Klesla and Tyutin each had 5. The defense as a whole had 22 of the 29 hits.

* Thanks for starting Raycroft!

* Did anyone even notice Foote out there? The Jackets did a good job of just playing the game and get the final laugh...at least for one night.

* Secondary scoring was a big. Murray, Brass, Chimera & Hejda.....

* Nice job by Hitch and the coaching staff getting the team ready for this game. The short shifts made a noticeable impact in terms of the team's energy level in the altitude as we had some good legs throughout most of the lineup.

* Norrena was better than Raycroft and there is your 2 points.

YELLOW
* What is wrong with Nash? He looks completely lethargic out there. Is he hurt, sick, dis-interested, in love, love sick, hungover.....? Or just a big ole slump?

* Huselius was strong on D but like Nash, not much at all out of him offensively. I think the two combined for one good chance.

* Jackets need to pull Boll out of the lineup until this guy is 100% healthy which it vastly clear he isn't. Boll is not an effective player if he can't play his rough and tumble game. Major marks for jumping in a defending Dorsett on McLeod even though he's cleary not 100%. I'm worried that offseason hand injury could derail his entire season.

* PK gave up two PP goals including a very late one in the 3rd. Must be nice to get PPs.

* Man it would have been nice to see Umberger get that empty netter there at the end...

* Pretty quiet game for Voracek but he didn't make any bad plays either.

RED
* Your telling me the Avalanche played a perfect penalty free game? Riiiight. I saw blatant interference on Boll by Laperriere when the puck was 5 feet from Boll. I have no clue what happened with that call on Dorsett -- this phantom stick holding either happened away from the play or it was once again a ridiculous call. It if was away from the play, at the very minimum a high stick at the end of it was deserved to even it all out. If a Jacket made the same hit that McLeod did on Dorsett at the end there its a penalty for interference every time - no question in my mind.

* Team sat way back on their heels in the 3rd.

* The Nash at center thing... what did that last two shifts? Clearly more of a motivational tactic by Hitch to get 61 going as opposed to anything else. Nash skated better early but really faded.

* That said, still need to get Nash and Huselius going.

* Jackets only went 39% overall in the face off circle.

* Somehow, someway we need another center. Novonty ain't gonna get it done.

3 BRIGHT LIGHTS ON THE NIGHT
1. Freddy Norrena played a spectacular game.
2. The defense had its best game as a unit by far.
3. Derick Brassard now leads all rookies in scoring with 9 points. He's playing lights out.

The Jackets move to 4-6 on the season. While its nice to end a 3 game skid and grab 2 points on the road the focus must quickly turn to the Blackhawks at home on Saturday. They can't keep squandering these home games and need to get on a roll in the win column.

-LTL

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pre-game thoughts: Jackets try to stop the bleeding


The Jackets are win less over their past 3 games. They've managed to scored just 4 goals in that span. The powerplay has been powerless going some 0 for the past 19 chances with the man advantage.

They are off to a way to familiar poor start and quite frankly even the die hards of the die hards are starting to feel apathetic and time and time again this team comes up empty handed.

...and it doesn't get any easier tonight.

The Jackets will face a streaking Avalance squad in Colorado tonight. A place where they have won just once in their 7 year on ice History. The Jackets have won just once on the road in 4 tries this season.

The 5-4 Avalanche had a 5 game winning streak snapped by Calgary on Tuesday night -- in fact they were shut out. Certainly they will view the Jackets as a nice opportunity to bounce back. They are lead by Paul Statsny who has 11 points in 9 games.

KEYS TO LIGHTING THEM UP
* Got to get the PP converting again. Its been as cold as the Columbus weather lately.

* Got to get #61 playing up to his capabilities. Its been mentioned that his move to center is more of a wake up call to get him back in the game more than anything else. Hopefully we see the alarm ringing.

* Kids keep on churning. Brassard has been our best player these past few games. Voracek is right there with him. They'll need to keep it going.

* No mental errors. With the offense sputtering the way it has, the Jackets can't afford any mental mistakes that give games away that we've seen recently. Make the safe play if nothing is there.

* The Avalanche can flat out bring the 'O'. They are 6th in the Western Conference in goals scored with 30. They have 3 lines that can score. Hejduk leads the team with 6 tallies. Once again, everybody needs to buy in to slow them down.

* Norrena must be better than Budaj and the Jackets must be able to take advantage of some weaknesses in the Avalanche net. Budaj has a .889 Save% and 2.99 GAA -- both are below average numbers (of course Norrena is worse in both categories .885 & 3.56).

* Colorado possesses the 11th best PP in the league vs. the Jackets' 22nd. The Jackets check in with the 10th best PK versus 27th for Colorado. Whoever wins the battle of special teams wins this game.

* Veterans have to play. No more nights off. No more coasting. The young guys are paying the price...the vets have no excuses.

GAME SPOTLIGHT
Lots of story lines to choose from. Nash in the center which I wouldn't anticipate lasting long, if at all. First game against the quitter in Foote. 3 game losing streak. Fans jumping ship faster than the Titanic. Brass and Voracek right in the rookie points chase.

I thought the game against Anaheim was a must win so I'm not sure what to call this one. The Jackets have to prove they want it -- they have to fight through the bad calls, the injuries and the doubters. Nobody is going to do it for them, they have to get it done on the ice themselves.

Can the turnaround start tonight? Its up to the boys in Union Blue.

Quite frankly I'd like to see nothing more than for the Jackets stick their big ole Foote up the Pepsi Center's ass for this one.

GO JACKETS!

-LTL

Week 3 Power Rankings: Slide continues

CBSSports.com
Rank: 26 (-3)
Tough weekend for the Jackets, who are struggling to score goals these days and could be without goalie Pascal Leclaire.

FoxSports.com
Rank: 26 (-2)
The Blue Jackets come into Week 4 losers of three of their last four games, including two of the three contests they played last week. The club's power play was nowhere to be found in Week 3, going 0-for-8 in its two losses to the Rangers and Wild.

THN.com
Rank: 27 (-1)
Voracek, Brassard offering some hope for the future

TSN.ca
Rank: 29 (-5)
The Jackets haven't been this bad, but losing Leclaire puts their goaltending in a precarious position, since Fredrik Norrena has struggled (.792 save percentage) so far this year.

CBC.ca
Rank: 26 (-4)
Loss of Leclaire could be very costly.

ColumbusDispatch.com
Rank: 25
What's changed? After a summer makeover, the No. 1 line has Manny Malhotra at center and the defense can't get the puck out of its own zone.

Sportsnet.ca
Rank: 26 (-3)
Goalie Pascal Leclaire suffers a sprained ankle and his pain is felt by the entire team.

Yahoo.com
Rank: 28 (-4)
The heightened expectations for a Columbus team that has never made the playoffs include goalie Pascal Leclaire finding a way to stay healthy – something that has been a challenge for the improved netminder. He injured his ankle Saturday and is now on injured reserve. Don’t be surprised if the move to develop Steve Mason is accelerated.

ESPN.com
Rank: TBD

Meta-score: 26.6 (Last week 23.3)

After 3 straight losses there is no suprise that the Jackets continue to slide in the rankings. This week its the Dispatch boys who have them the hightest at 25 (suprise right?) and TSN who has them the lowest at 29.

The Jackets will have 2 more shots this week to move up but it won't be easy as they face both Chicago and a streaking Colorado.

-LTL

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shelley wins one; Filatov on the board early

This video has been making the rounds in hockey circles today. Its our old friend Jody Shelley and guess what, he actually wins one...convincingly:



BTW - Filatov is already on the board again in Syracuse while Mason has stopped 20 of 21 shots thus far!

-LTL

This and that

Did you know that if that Jackets miss the playoffs this season they will tie the Washington Capitals for the longest stretch an NHL franchise has ever gone without making the postseason at 8 years?

Ryan Malone has exactly 1 point, a goal, through 8 games. Looks like RJ isn't the only struggling early with his new squad.

It took first overall pick Steven Stamkos 8 games to register his first point. I saw last night on TSN that it took 1997 1st overall pick Joe Thornton 22 games to register his first point.

The Syracuse Crunch play tonight away at Grand Rapids. Its anticipated that both Kris Russell and Nikita Filatov will be in the lineup. According to Lindsay Kramer's Crunch blog they both practiced with the team yesterday. I tell ya what, they have some exciting young talent in that lineup when you mix in Mayorov, Mason, Sestito, Holden and Clitsome.

Matt Bartkowski, a freshman defenseman on the Ohio State men’s hockey team has been named the CCHA Rookie of the Week, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association announced Monday. I believe that is two weeks in a row an Ohio State freshman has captured that honor - Zac Dalpe was the previous recipient.

Speaking of Sestito, he will not need surgery on his injured thumb which is good news.

Nash still at center today according to Puck-rakers. Chimera has been moved off the Brass line to join he and Huseilus. Remember Hitch likes his pairs so that obviously means he's okay with the rooks playing together and is keeping Nash with Huselius. Complete lines as follows:

Chimera-Nash-Huselius
Umberger-Brassard-Voracek
]Novotny-Peca-Boll
Murray-Malhotra-Dorsett

No word on the defensive pairs but I wouldn't anticipate those being broken up. Re-watching Monday's game last night I thought Tyutin played his best regular season game to date which is encouraging.

Rookie watch. Derick Brassard and Voracek are tied for 2nd in rookie scoring with 7 points. They are 1 point off Kris Verteeg of the 'hawks pace. Brass is averaging 14 minutes even in ice time while Voracek is at 12:19.

Sergei Fedorov has 8 point in 9 games with 3 of those coming on defense. Maybe it is a Columbus thing?

The Jackets have scored 4 total goals in the last 3 games.

Its down the stretch they come in the Russell poll. So far 38% of you think its a "raw deal" while 33% of you think "he just needs some time" in terms of his demotion. Thanks for participating!

Hockey's Future has a 2008 Blue Jackets System Audit. Check it out here.

Forbes ranks the Jackets as the 28th least valuable NHL team coming in at 157 million dollars. Only the New York Islanders and Phoenix Coyotes are worse.

-LTL

What does Nash at center really tell us?

I said yesterday it was time to panic. Well in a certain way I think Hitch's trial of Nash at center shows he agrees. Although you'd never hear it described that way.

How else can you describe the move? Panic, desperation...same thing to me.

Even more importantly I think it sends a message to upper management that he is very unhappy with his center situation.

..and who can blame him?

The only guy up the middle doing anything is a rookie in Derek Brassard. He's played wonderful actually and certainly looks like the real deal. Through 9 games he has as many points (7) as Malhotra, Peca, Umberger and Novotny have combined. Not nearly good enough.

Lets be honest here, I give the Nash experiment at center a period...maybe two. Its not going to work. Just to cover everyone neither will Modin, Voracek, Filatov. Only a few select players can make that transition and have an immediate impact -- Zetterberg is a guy who comes to mind.

After 8 games with RJ up the middle that move has proved to be a bust...he's back at wing at least for now.

Peca, Manny, Novotny and Murray are in no/way/shape/form top six centers. They are not the answers.

However after thinking about this move through the night I now understand its importance as a signal to management that if we are serious about contending, if you really want to "win now" then something has to be done.

The bottom line is that Howson has got to make a move here.

Now I'm not talking about giving up the world to land some elite center. While an elite center would be nice, trading away the young players like Brass/Voracek/Filatov/Mayorov/Mason would be counterproductive to the long term success of the franchise as it appears that we are finally hitting on these guys.

No, what we need is a capable competent player. Now this player isn't going to be perfect. I mentioned in the comments that a Robert Lang type...a veteran guy who knows the game, can put up points and has a short term contract and could be had for a reasonable price could work.

Now if they are willing to part with some young assets then maybe you look for something different which I have an idea I'll share in a bit.

So who do the Jackets target?

If I'm Howson I start with other teams that are struggling out of the gate that may need a shakeup. Ottawa, Islanders, Tampa, Phoenix, LA, Dallas, Atlanta...

Then there are the teams up against the cap like your Wings, Bruins, Ducks, Flyers, Captials. These teams aren't struggling but may want to clear out some salary or make some early adjustments to their squads.

Now its early so teams may be reluctant to deal but I at least get conversations started with them.

Two ideas I'll throw out there.

Michael Nylander. Now stay with me for a sec. I know he's older at age 36 and doesn't have the best contract out there (3 years left at 4.875) but he fills the hole and he's productive (has 8 points in 9 games). He's veteran who is great on the PP and really good with the puck and finding the open man. The risk is that he becomes the new "Fedorov" and he has been injury prone lately. The Caps would likely move him relatively cheap to get out from under his contract.

Profile:
ASSETS:
Has terrific playmaking ability and excellent vision. When hot, he's an assist machine. Is improving his defensive game with experience.
FLAWS: Does not possess a knack for scoring goals, and too often will pass up a shot in the slot area. Plays a passive game and can get pushed around physically.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Second line center.

David Krejci. Now here is a guy at the other end of the spectrum. He's a 22 year old center for the Bruins who is just now finding his way in the NHL. He had 27 points in 56 games last year and has 6 in 10 so far this season. I have watched this kid a lot and I absolutely love him. The B's have Savard, Bergeron, Axlesson, Yell and even Kessel playing some center so may want to unload one as they need puck-movers on the backend. The risk is that he gets to Columbus and flames out or that he commands the world this offseason as he's an RFA. That would also give Hitch two young 22 and under centers as his top 6 guys....and we know how Hitch likes his vets.

Proflie:
ASSETS: Has excellent vision and passing skills, and profiles as a classic playmaking center. His head is always in the game, and he possesses great hockey sense.
FLAWS: Must get physically stronger in order to maximize his offensive potential at the highest level. Needs to work on his play without the puck.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Second line center.

So there are two names for you. Again not perfect answers but they are top 6 centers who could help this lineup and shouldn't take the sun (and the moon) to acquire.

If Dallas continues to struggle another guy I would love to have as a stop gap is Mike Modano. He has one more year left after this one at 3.45 mil and there is the Hitch connection and I think he could really help this Jackets lineup. Would the Stars part with their life long player (including his Minny years) is a very good question?

There are some other names as well. Spezza is getting tossed around a lot in the rumor mill. Would the Jackets revisit the Brad Richards scenario as he's not exactly setting the world on fire in Dallas?

So what would the Jackets have to give up to get someone? I think anything short of Nash, Leclaire, Voracek, Brassard, Filatov, and Mason has to be on the table. I can't see any of the new faces going anywhere in Commodore, Tyutin, Huselius, Backman or Torres yet.

For a young guy like Kreci I think it starts with Russell going the other way -- in fact that is really the only asset the Jackets have defensively that would be of any attraction to the Bruins. They won't want prospects or picks back -- they are in "win now" mode as well.

For a guy like Nylander the Jackets would have to send some salary back. The paper has mentioned a few times now that the Jackets are deep at wing. The obvious name for me would be Freddy Modin. He would give the caps another big body who is playoff tested and after Ovechkin they could use some help at LW. His contract has one year left after this at 3.35. Both teams take some risk with the injuries. He could be had for a draft pick/prospect I think but ownership would really have to step up financially in addition to what they already have which, judging by Monday's attendance -- ain't happening anytime soon.

So there is a couple of scenarios. I love Russell and like Modin but something has to go the other way.

Now I don't see Howson doing anything for a few more games, if at all, but I would be burning up the phone lines right now to see what's available in the middle. This team can't afford to dig a bigger hole that what it has and this franchise can't afford another top 10 draft pick year.

As far as what to do now in the immediate short term?

1. Its wake up call time. I play the best players in the moment. Brass and Voracek may not be the best players, yet, but they are currently playing like it. They get prime ice time.

2. I sure don't break up the only thing that is working for me in the Chimera-Brassard-Voracek line. In fact I elevate them to #1 until the Nash line takes it back over or this line goes sour.

3. I take the next best option I have at center and elevate Peca to the #2 hole between Nash & Huselius. Its not ideal but its all we've got.

4. Time to take the kid gloves off with Nash. If he's playing well, play him. If not, then play who is. He certainly stays at wing.

5. I shake up the defensive pairings. Tyutin goes with Commodore. Hedja goes with Klesla.

6. I start LaCosta for a game and give the kid a chance. Its a risk but so is starting Norrena.

My lineup tomorrow night:

Chimera Brassard Voracek
Nash Peca Huselius
Umberger Malhotra Boll
Murray Novotny Dorsett

Klesla Hejda
Commodore Tyutin
Backman Methot
Tollefsen

LaCosta
Norrena

Bottom line is that while I don't agree with moving Nash to center Hitch knows you can't just sit still and hope something happens. I think the same applies to Howson.

Fire away - time to make a move or to early?

-LTL

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nash at center...?

Here is some former player reaction (courtesy of HFBoards):



Humor aside...I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this one.

-LTL

Time to panic

I'm not even going to get into a deep anylysis with a game review from last night because at this point I don't think anyone really gives a damn.

The bottom line is that the kids continue to play well while most of the vets, save Jason Chimera, continue to either 1. get injured 2. no show or 3. commit horrible game changing plays that the rookies aren't even making.

If 3-6 isn't bad enough where would this team be without Voracek, Brassard, Dorsett, Murray (young old guy), Russell and Methot?

Its time the fingers start getting pointed at the real problems on this team and it all starts and ends with the veterans who just aren't getting their jobs done.

Its time to panic down at Nationwide? You be the judge:

In 2000 this team started 1-7-1 and finished with 71 points.
In 2001 this team started 1-4-4 and finished with 57 points.
In 2002 this team started 3-5-1 and finished with 69 points.
In 2003 this team started 3-6 and finished with 62 points.
In 2004 season was cancelled due to lockout.
In 2005 this team started 2-8 and finished with 74 points.
In 2006 this team started 3-5-1 and finished with 73 points.
In 2007 this team started 5-3-1 and finished with 80 points.
In 2008 this team started 3-6 and finished with ?

Of course its been well published that there are no playoffs years in that mix.

There is one decent start in there and that ended up with just an 80 point record which was good for 4th in the Central and 13th in the conference.

The Jackets are DEAD LAST right now in the conference and are the 3rd worst team in the entire NHL with a game at hand on the bottom two.

Is it time to panic?

Even if they won last night if you draw a crowd of only 10k on any night in a major league sport then you better panic.

At this point can anyone down at Nationwide look themselves in the mirror and blame fans for not showing up? This is year 8 on the ice and this team is still going nowhere. They've changed coaches, players, management, scouts.... they've made trades, signed UFAs, shook up lineups... its all turned over but it all still looks the same.

Honestly I'm out of ideas and I'm sure Hitch and Howson are probably banging their heads on the wall right now in disgust but that doesn't make it any better for fans in a tough economy to continue to come and support this team.

I'm done with excuses as well.

I don't care that the World Series or the NFL was on.
I don't care that players are injured.
I don't care that its only 9 games into the season.
I don't care that there are new faces and that chemistry is an issue.

Its all BS and we've heard it time and time again. Every team deals with those same issues and fights their way through them. This team can't get out of its own way or catch any breaks.

To this regime's credit you don't hear the spin which is refreshing. They won't give up and they know this is a critical year and this certainly isn't the start they were anticipating.

I really want to blow some smoke and say this season can still be a successful one...and maybe it can, maybe we'll all look back at this post in a few months and say what an idiot for flipping out so soon. If only we could get that lucky.

I was as optimistic about this team's chances this year as anyone but even I am having some big time doubts right now and for the first time, I'm very worried about this franchise's future in this city.

Is it time to panic? You bet it is.

Fire away - time to panic?

-LTL

Monday, October 27, 2008

Good for a laugh

A poster over on HF posted this in regards to a prediction for tonight's game and I thought I'd share it here:

Blue Jackets Score 9 times but the Ducks win 9-0. Everytime the Blue Jackets score Toronto reviews it and can't decide if its a good goal so the other 3 on ice officials decide to award the Ducks a goal.

Peca gets suspended for farting near a ref.

Nash scores on a break away against Freddy.

Freddy post a shutout.

Go JACKETS!

-LTL

Pre-game thoughts: Norrena in nets as Jackets try to rebound



The latest word from Puck-rakers is that Pascal Leclaire is out with yet another injury for a minimum of three games. That means its Freddy Norrena between the pipes tonight with Dan LaCosta as the backup.

In terms of the game the Jackets, losers or the past two, take on the streaking Anaheim Ducks, who are winners of their past three.

KEYS TO LIGHTING EM UP
* They need to re-group and re-focus in a hurry against an Anaheim team making a move up the standings.

* Anaheim isn't a high powered offensive squad but they do have 26 goals in 9 games (versus 22 in 8 for the Jackets) so they can score -- Norrena must have a good game. That means no mental lapses playing the puck, etc.

* As Bill Davidge said in his Jackets blog -- Jackets need to make their own breaks.

* I think getting a goal early could really spark this Jackets team tonight. If they fall behind it could balloon out of control.

* The Ducks PP is only 27th in the NHL (how is that possible with Pronger and Niedermeyer) so the Jackets can't afford to let it get back on track. Their 9th ranked PK has played well of late but a lot of that has to do with Leclaire's improved play.

* Secondary scoring. Kids continue to do your thang! If the 3rd/4th line could contribute a goal or two that would be a greatly appreciated bonus.

* Need a big game from the monster Nash.

* Lots of offensive players struggling early for the Ducks including Getzlaf, Prerry, Selanne. Those three have combined for 5 goals in 9 games. Can't let tonight be their big breakout games.

* No passengers tonight. Everybody needs to be in this one for the full 60.

* I want some ugly dirty goals. I don't really care from who or how at this point.

* Boll is back....but is the Boll we knew from last year back? I hope so because this team could really use him.

*The Jackets are 2-1 at home and the Ducks are 3-2 on the road. Translation: just because the Jackets play at home doesn't mean a thing against this squad.

GAME SPOTLIGHT
Norrena has played spotty hockey at best so how will he respond? Better yet, how short is the leash until a guy like LaCosta might take his place?

The other obvious story is how will this team as a whole respond after the mess in Minny? Hopefully there is "conclusive" evidence that they play a strong tonight.

PRE-GAME QUOTE
Bill Davidge from BlueJackets.com:

No big deal?…I beg to differ because the points lost now cannot be replaced…. 2-4 points were lost……can you say April and a possible playoff spot up for grabs?.....also the confidence of a team that deserved better is what irks those of us that have been part of trying to build a winning tradition in a struggling infantile franchise. This is called RESPECT…you earn respect…you do not demand it, but you show up and have to earn those calls. We are in year 8 of this program and still fail to EARN the much needed respect in the league to allow a call to possibly slide our way.

The time is nearing closer for the success of this franchise…but as I sit on the plane on my way back to Columbus, it reminds me of the past days as a young assistant and head coach at Miami University, trying to battle each and every night for respectability. It did not come over night…nor will it be here in Columbus Ohio. Hard work, discipline, and making your own breaks in this game are what it is going to take to get a few of those calls on our side.

He's right. Every game is a big deal and so is every point. Nobody can afford to give or have taken from them points.

The Jackets aren't getting any breaks, that much is clear, so its time to create their own luck.

This game will show us a lot about the character of this squad. Will they fortify their tents or just fold em up?

I'm sure there are plenty of tickets available so if you can make it, see ya at the game!

GO JACKETS!

-LTL

Russell down a good thing


It was good to get an explanation on why Russell was sent down this morning - from the 'patch:

"He was good with (the demotion)," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He wants to play. He knows he needs to play.

"He has the skills to move the puck out of trouble. We just want to see him do it on a consistent basis."


"He was very good in the exhibition season," Hitchcock said. "And very good in the first game of the season (in Dallas).

I've watched every game and clearly I'm missing something in terms of his play dropping off since the first game of the season. I thought he was skating well, looking for back door plays and finding some solid chemistry with Backman. If anyone was struggling it was the top 4 guys.

That said Methot has played well and there aren't any signs that coaching or management are prepared to sit any of the remaining five guys to make room for him so Russell to me, is more of a victim of a numbers game than anything else.

With Boll back in the lineup tonight somebody on the current roster had to move. The fact that Russell is the only non-waiver eligible defensemen on the list and not playing certainly made him a candidate. Although I'm still not sure why a guy like Filatov is still with the big team as he could have been sent down as well.

I'm starting to worry about some of the development decisions of our young guys in terms of getting their chains yanked all over the place. I thought the org did a great job with Brassard and Voracek but the kind of indecision with Russell and Filatov has me concerned a bit...

I suspect Filatov's future will be decided within the week (I'm personally hoping its the Junior route or at the very least Syracuse until he gets a regular shift up here) and Russell is an defensive injury away from a (total) re-call.

Regardless I'm glad Russell is getting sent down because its certainly not doing him any good warming the press box. Since he's down there I hope he gets plenty of playing time and if there are any doubts keep him down for a while and let him develop and gain whatever confidence he's lost, which I don't think is much because he wasn't playing bad, back. Hopefuly Filatov is right behind him when a guy like Modin comes off the IR.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the demotion and I've also added a related poll question.

More on tonight's game against Anaheim in a bit.

-LTL

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Oh its Nasty

Saw this posted over on HF -- its one of Nasty's fights from last night:



This dude is somethin.

-LTL

Game reaction

Lost in all this goal inconclusive-so-lets-reverse-it mumbo jumbo was a decent road game by most of the Jackets.

I'll spare everyone the spotlight today and just throw a few thoughts out there and see what you all think:

* Leclaire held the Jackets in there during the first period and played very well - especially on the extended 5 on 3. Not much he could do on either Wild goal but unfortunately he left the game injured (again). If this guy could ever stay healthy.... sigh.

* Have the Jackets gotten a 5 on 3 PP yet this season?

* Chimera-Brassard-Voracek created the most chances by far...again... was nice to see Hitch increase Voracek's ice time to just under 15 minutes. That's more like it. These two kids are playing wonderful hockey and look to be the real deal. I hope Hitch keeps playing them b/c I still believe they are the difference for us being contenders or pretenders.

* I tell ya Brass got real lucky out there catching that skate blade on his chin and not on his throat. There were some anxious moments there and I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say thankfully he's okay. Was great to see him come back out and make a nice rush with the puck to set up Nash's goal.

* The good news is that he's creating some fantastic chances for himself....the bad news is that he's 0-7 on those 7 breakways. C'mon law of averages...!

* The Jackets had there moments last night controlling long stretches of the play....unfortunately so did the Wild. Overall a decent road game minus the climax.

* Loved Brass's reaction after that game ended when he broke his stick in frustration. These new faces aren't used to losing and that's a good thing.

* I thought Manny looked better than Umberger between Nash and Huselius but that's not saying whole lot. I really like his ability to win some offensive zone faceoffs even though he had a below average night in the circle by his standards winning 10 and losing 12.

* I thought the top 4 defensmen played better than they have recently. Klesla got a goal but just as important were that I thought both he and Tyutin managed the puck better.

As I mentioned in the comments of a previous post, Hitch has his work cut out for him to pull this team back together after such a back breaking loss. You hate to say it, but at 3-5 you've got to find a way to get some points tomorrow night off a struggling Anaheim squad.

Ohio State and Syracuse fared better this weekend. Ohio State lost versus #2 Denver on Friday but rebounded on Saturday night with an exciting come from behind 4-3 win which was capped off by Sophomore Peter Boyd. Zac Dalpe, Chris Reed and Corey Elkins all scored for the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes now sit at 2-3-1.

The Crunch won both of their games over the weekend to move to 5-1 (what's that like?). They won 4-3 over Binghamton Friday with goals from Wilson, Sigalet, MacDonald and Pineault. Plekhanov had a couple of helpers and Mayorov picked up one as well.

Speaking Mayorov, he added 2g and another assist the following night as the Crunch rocked a very poor Rochester team 6-1. Wilson also had 3 points with a goal and two helpers, Plekanov added another 2 assists, Vigalante had a goal and a helper and Starkov added a goal. John "nasty" Mirasty also added a few fights to the mix which I read that he won both against a guy a foot taller.

Mayorov has 3g 4a in 6 games thus far and from all reports, has looked very good early. He's tied with Plekhanov and Wilson for the team lead in scoring.

Dan LaCosta won both games and its expected Steve Mason will get his first game action next weekend.

Puck-rakers also reported this afternoon that Jared Boll is expected to be back in the lineup tomorrow night. No word yet on if he's "fight eligible".

Oh and about that reversal -- here is the Wild's own beat writer's view on the goal:

"The Wild owes the NHL's video war room a bouquet of roses and bottle of Pinot noir."


-LTL

It gets better...

Here is NHL.com's official statement from the game review article:

The NHL had all 30 teams in action Saturday, so the video review room in Toronto was overworked. According to a blog post on the league's official Web site, off-ice officials deemed the evidence inconclusive. So the decision was sent back to Minnesota, and the referee who made the initial call was overruled by his three colleagues.

"Overworked" and now the refs get the final judgement on reviewed goals? Are you kidding me? Do they just make this crap up as they go?

Lets see, you have how many months to plan for these games and you can't staff accordingly?

Mickey Mouse meet the NHL.

-LTL

Jackets get hosed

I'll have more on this game in the morning but I just saw the replay of the waived off game tying goal by Nash.

I have two words:

Complete horseshit!

That is a flat out one of the worst calls I've ever seen. How is there any conclusive evidence in that video to overturn the call on the ice which was ruled a goal? There isn't. Even the Wild couldn't believe it was overturned.

Judge for yourself:



The Jackets have enough problems winning games so they most certainly don't need Toronto (or whomever) taking points from them...and make no mistake about it, this was a robbery.

What could have been a huge momentum boost for the Jackets is now big deflating kick in that area loss.

Man I've stomached a lot of losses as a fan but I haven't been this pissed after one in a long time. I couldn't imagine being a Jackets player in that locker room after this one.

-LTL

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dorsett's first goal

Here is a great fan shot of Dorsett's first goal:


This photo was courtesy of Elise -- thanks for sharing!!

-LTL

Zherdev haunts Jackets

Its not that the Jackets played horrible, but the Rangers were certainly the better team last night.

You knew one of the traded players would make a difference but the question was who? Well Z certainly had his night and answered that question with a goal and 2 helpers. Figures right? Meanwhile both Tyutin and Backman were okay. I would say Tyutin has been a pretty big dissapointment thus far early in the season - the turnovers he commits have been killer.

STOPLIGHT GAME REVIEW

GREEN
* Got to tip your hat to Z, he was the difference the last night.

* The games of "New York" segment was a pretty creative and well received.

* I really like the opening video this season. I didn't get to see it on opening night. Very well done.

YELLOW
* Pascal Leclaire played well. Would have been nice to stop that first shot from the point but he made a lot of quality saves last night and certainly wasn't the reason for the loss.

* The kids continue to deliver. Voracek had some early turnovers but also created a goal out of thin air. What was funny was that goal was scored with a line of Filatov-Brassard-Voracek which Hitch trotted out just that one time. He's got to find a way to play Voracek more as he only got 11 minutes of ice time.

* I thought Rusty Klesla made one of the best plays I've ever seen him make as a Jacket when he took a head first hit into the boards but recovered to hustle back and break up a real good scoring chance. The rest of his game was typical Rusty.

* I thought Peca had a pretty good night. He was awesome in the faceoff cirlce winning 71% of his draws and made a lot of strong defensive plays. He had some bad luck at the end there with that 4 minute high sticking penalty but by that point this game was well in hand by the Rangers.

* Backman for me has been much better than I thought he'd be. Methot played decent again last night as well.

RED
* Nash 0-6 on breakaways. At some point the law of averages has to catch up with him.....right?

* Where are the replays at? During the review of Dubinsky's goal why not show the crowd the replay?

* Although a competitive game, the Jackets were just outplayed by the Rangers and didn't deserve the win. I can't think of one aspect of the game where the Jackets outplayed them. They were outhit, outshot, out goaltended, allowed a PP goal... the did come out on top in the face off cirlce winning 55% of the draws.

* Huselius was real quite last night as was that entire line. As Puck-rakers hinted in their blog, look for a shakeup on that line -- which probably means Manny Malhotra on the top line (ugh).

* Get Filatov to Syracuse. He's gains nothing by playing 2 minutes a night. The Jackets and Howson are smarter than this. Pure speculation on my part but one must think there is something going on behind the scenes as for the reason he's up (flight risk?).

* I'm not a fan but I don't really get the booing of Z. He didn't choose to leave, the Jackets traded him.

* Jackets top two defensive pairs are not clicking. Time for a shakeup.

* That's a real big grey area in terms of re-directing and kicking. I could see that Dubinsky goal being waived off many a night throughout the NHL. No such luck for the Jackets.

* Nash Umberger Huselius each a -2. Giving up way to many chances when they are out there.

3 BRIGHT LIGHTS ON THE NIGHT
1. Voracek gets another.
2. Leclaire did what he could.
3. New York New York segment.


That was a tough 2 points to let slip away, especially when the Jackets have to go into Minnesota tonight to face an undefeated Wild team. It doesn't get any easier and the Jackets will certainly have to play a whole lot better than what they've done on previous back to backs to have any kind of shot.

-LTL

Friday, October 24, 2008

A look back..

ESPN has an interesting article looking back at some of the past draft classes. Here is what they had to say about some current and former Jackets:

2003
4. Columbus, Nikolai Zherdev, RW, CSKA Moscow (Russia): When he came into the league, his obvious skills could be breathtaking. He was up and down in his first three seasons, scoring 26 goals in 2007-08 but chafing under Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock. He went to the Rangers in July with Dan Fritsche for defensemen Christian Backman and Fedor Tyutin, and if the Rangers get more out of him, the deal could turn out to be embarrassing. He'll get his first chance back at Columbus on Friday night.

2002
1. Columbus, Rick Nash, LW, London (OHL): The Blue Jackets got this one right, although it wasn't as if they had to rack their brains to make this choice. The big winger is off to another fast start this season, too.

2001
3. Tampa Bay: Alexander Svitov, C, Avangard Omsk (Russia): Traded to Columbus in early 2004, he played the 2005-06 season in Russia, returned to the Blue Jackets for the following season, then pulled off the feat of signing with both Columbus and Avangard Omsk for last season. He's playing in Russia and is under NHL suspension.

2000
4. Columbus, Rostislav Klesla, D, Brampton (OHL): The genuine article as a physical defenseman, the Blue Jackets got this one right, too.

5. New York Islanders, Raffi Torres, LW, Brampton (OHL): Torres played only 17 games for the Isles before being traded to Edmonton, where he showed flashes, including when he had 27 goals in 2005-06. He's been injury-prone of late, missing the latter half of last season with the Oilers with a knee injury. After going to Columbus in a July trade, he is out with a separated shoulder.

Burnside also takes a look at lines that are clicking (of course no mention of Nash or Huselus) and takes a head scratching shot at Hitch:

After opening with two wins in Europe with Scott Gomez centering Chris Drury and Markus Naslund, the New York Rangers have tinkered with their "top" lines but haven't suffered in the standings. That's because Brandon Dubinsky, Nikolai Zherdev (who came over from Columbus, where he was too inconsistent for coach Ken Hitchcock) and the surprising Aaron Voros have provided consistent production for the Rangers (6-2-1). At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Voros has been the biggest surprise since his offseason arrival from Minnesota (five goals, four assists in nine games), providing a nice compliment to the skilled Zherdev (five points).

You know I don't think Hitch nor Howson get nearly enough credit for turning this guy around last season. Two seasons ago the Jackets wouldn't have returned anything close to a Tyutin for him.

..that and its still waaay to early to judge that trade although I freely admit Tyutin has struggled early in his Jackets career.

Just a quick update from the glass explosion last night. According to the Globe & Mail, Apparently two people were cut on their faces and taken to a nearby hospital for further treatment.

Here are a couple of quotes from Lucic and Van Ryn:

Lucic:
"I looked over to see the two (fans). They had their face down," Lucic said after the Bruins' 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. "I was just hoping they were all right. They pay good money to have seats like that, and that's the last thing you want to see happen to a fan."

Van Ryn:
"I'm still itchy. It seems like it's caught everywhere on me," Van Ryn said. "I don't know, it just exploded. I feel bad for the lady that got cut."

-LTL

Weekend hockey preview

Of course we know we've got plenty of Jackets hockey to keep us busy this weekend with the game tonight versus the Rangers and then after its hopping a plane for a game against Minnesota the following night (I hope these guys get frequent flyer miles).

By the way -- that Minnesota team is undefeated thus far (I don't know how they do it!).

There's plenty of other hockey action as well.

The Ohio State Men's hockey team is off to Denver to face the #2 ranked Pioneers. They'll play tonight and tomorrow with 9ish faceoffs.

Check out this blog entry by Buckeye's sophomore Corey Toy for a detailed description of the Buckeye's trip out west.

Also Zac Dalpe was named CCHA rookie of the week.

The boys could use at least one big win in Denver this weekend to really get that confidence going.

The Syracuse Crunch are also in action this week as they will take on the Binghamton Senators tonight and the Rochester Americans on Saturday.

The Crunch are 3-1 and look to start a new streak after their AHL record tying 17 wins straight was snapped last week by the Hershey Bears.

Finally the Jackets ECHL affiliate, the Johnstown Chiefs, will take on the Dayton Bombers tonight and the Reading Royals tomorrow.

Looking through their roster the only two guys I recognize are Peter Pohl who has 3 helpers in 3 games and Trevor Hendrix who is scoreless in 2 games.

-LTL

Pre-game thoughts: Familiar faces return to Nationwide tonight!

The 6-2 New York Rangers invade Nationwide tonight looking to end a 2 game losing streak. Of course the story of the game will be the return of two former Jackets in Nikolai Zherdev and Dan Fritsche.

The 3-3 Jackets will look to build off of their 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday and climb above .500 for the first time this season. It will be the first time Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman will face their former team....and can you believe the Jackets have won 3 straight against this squad? Lets make it 4.

Both teams are rested so this should be a real battle tonight. The Rangers have yet to lose on the road going 2-0-1 in three games. The Jackets are 2-0 at home.

KEYS TO LIGHTING EM UP * Control your emotions. No doubt there will be some players on both sides of the ice who will be fired up for this one. The though will be to play Jackets hockey which is a strong team defensive game with an offense that capitalizes on their chances.

* Big toe drag. We've all seen how Z can play when he's motivated which he certainly should be tonight. The Jackets also know this guy's tendencies -- he looks great in open ice with his flash and dash but when the game gets physical and dirty he tends to stay on the sidelines. Put the body on him and force the turnovers.

* Shuffling the cards. Renney has shuffled the lines looking to get players like Drury and Naslund going which the Jackets can't allow. They look to have 3 lines that are more than capable of scoring so all the Jackets players tonight have to play a focused defensive game.

* Jackets top two lines remain in tact. They've found some nice chemistry and productivity -- need that to continue. I'd also like to see Voracek on the ice more.

* Nash can't be gassed. The monster was definitely drained on Tuesday but I expect a much more re-charged game from #61 tonight. I also would be lying if I said I wouldn't like Nash to welcome Z back with a good ole fashioned body check to set the tone of this one early...and hey, its his T-shirt night!

* Need more of Tuesday's fantastic play from Leclaire for this one.

* Take advantage of the backup getting the start in Valiquette. He's got two wins in his two starts so he's playing well -- welcome this guy to Columbus by filing his net boys!

* The Jackets are going to have to work for it as the Rangers are very stingy defensively. They've only given up 18 goals in 9 game which is an excellent 2 gaa avg.

* It could come down to special teams. The battle to watch is the Jackets 6th overall PP (really, its not a misprint!) against the Rangers 6th overall PK.

* Boy it would be nice to get RJ Umberger going in the goal department.

GAME SPOTLIGHT
All eyes will be on the Zherdev and Fritchse making their first returns to Nationwide Arena. I fully expect hard working games from both of these players.

Tonight also marks the return of Michael Peca after his 5 game suspension. Peca should certainly solidify things down the middle with Manny and will definitely be a spark for faceoffs and the PK.

CROWD CHANTS
Still saluting after the National Anthem and goals scored baby!

PRE-GAME QUOTE
The Dispatch has a great quote from Dan Fritsche:

"I hope the fans know how much I still care about that organization," Fritsche said. "They drafted me, gave me a chance to play in the NHL and supported me all the way. The fans were just awesome.

"It's a very special place to me, Columbus, and it always will be."

Thoughtful words by the former Jacket...now just don't score on us tonight!

If you are on the fence about tonight then say to hell with it and get on down and lets pack this arena. This is Friday night hockey against a team we don't see a lot and its a prime chance for the Jackets to get on a roll. When that placed is filled believe me they know it.

See ya at the Garage bar pre/post (definitely post)!

GO JACKETS!!

-LTL

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Check out this glass shattering hit!

Now this is a big league hit by the Bruin's Lucic:



The glass (and Van Ryn) certainly lose this one!

-LTL

Stat(s) of the day

Just some quick stats for you today:

- The Jackets are 9th overall in the West but have as many points as 7th ranked Colorado and 8th ranked Nashville.

- The Central is 4-4 versus the East thus far.

- Can you believe Anaheim, Calgary and Dallas are all 11th or worst in the conference (I know its real early)?

- Through six games this year the Jackets have scored 20 goals versus 16 last year. That's an average of 3.3 goals per game.

- On the flip side through six games last season the Jackets had given up only 9 goals versus 23 this year. That's giving up 3.8 goals per game. That 9 goals from last year included 3 shutouts -- really amazing if you think about it.

- 10 different players have scored goals for the Jackets. 4 have scored their first ever NHL goals in Voracek, Methot, Dorsett & Filatov.

- The Jackets' Brassard and Voracek are tied for 2nd in rookie scoring with 5 points each. Kris Verteeg of the Chicago Blackhawks leads all rookies with 7 points.

- Rick Nash is tied for 7th in goal scoring with 5. Tomas Vanek and Keith Tkachuk lead with 7 each.

- Kristian Huselius is tied for 23rd in overall scoring with 7 points (the highest Jacket).

- Derek Dorsett leads the NHL in PIMs with 39. Picard is 13th with 22.

- The Jackets are 17th in face off percentage 49.4%.

-LTL

This is what its all about...

I rant and rumble on about hockey and the Jackets day in a day out and go through the greens, yellows and reds but then you read something like what Aaron Portzline posted today in the Puck-rakers blog and you think, this is really what its all about -- a snippet:

After yesterday's practice in Nationwide Arena, four players -- Rick Nash, Jason Chimera, Jared Boll and Freddy Modin -- walked down the hallway from the dressing room and into a room where dreams came true.

Flashes of Hope, a non-profit organization, hires photographers to take high-quality portraits of children fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. The idea is to help kids deal with their changing appearances by celebrating it. For families with terminally ill children, it's a keepsake.

The parents, too. Judging by the scene outside the makeshift photo gallery, there were lots of happy moms and dads.

The kids love Jared Boll, the tough guy. They're blown away by Modin's towering size. They relate very well to Chimera, an overgrown kid with a similarly bald head.

"And then Rick walks in the room," Modin said, "and the kids go crazy."


Now that is making a difference.


...and Greg absolutely nailed it with his follow up comment:

This is an excellent example of what it means to be a positive role model in childrens' lives (take note Pacman, Vick and the Bengals). You rarely hear about the great things hockey players do for their communities, whether it be in Columbus or elsewhere. It is always the athletes in the negative light. Bettman and the NHL, you want the sport to grow? Take note of our boys in Columbus. They are shining examples of positive role models.

These guys have, from day one, gotten involved in the community, with the children, and have had an overall major impact upon the city. The really sad part is a lot of people do not recognize it. Naturally, if you are reading AP's blog, you know the things our Jackets do for the kids and around the city. I am speaking in general terms here.

Being born and raised in the great city of Columbus, I know that sometime immediately after birth the scarlet and grey was transfused into my blood, like most everyone else here. And I love my Buckeyes, don't get me wrong. However, the Buckeyes are a transitional team, and they always will be. Where will Beanie be after our bowl game? How about Laurinitis? The same place all these guys go after their senior year. Our Jackets will still be here (a few new faces from season to season), but this is our team! Win or lose, this is our team.

I just wanted to say thank you to these guys for everything that they do. Flashes of Hope, Hats for Heroes, building of the parks for our communities, and bringing the sport of hockey to a grander stage. Keep up the great work... on and off the ice!

Well said Gregg!

We all want to win and see hockey and the Jackets grow and thrive in this town....but every once in a while its good to take a step back, look at the big picture and realize just how lucky we are to have a pro franchise in our own backyard.

Unfortunately to many times the great things a sports franchise like the Jackets brings to the community away from the spotlight gets lost in the shuffle even when they are some of the things that touch people the most.

I think now what would this town be like without the Arena District? What about everything the Jackets have done for the Children's Hospital for instance? Then there is Hats for Heroes, the jobs they've created, the foundations, the events they've attracted, the book readings, the signings, the parks built, the taking the time to talk to some hockey nerd blogger (a.k.a. me) or remembering to call a local firefighter who retired after 30 years to wish him luck... the list goes on and on and on. Its a big big deal.

Bravo Jackets! Keep up the fantastic work as we all really do appreciate your efforts....and boy its got to be a special feeling to be able to light up some of those kid's faces.

-LTL

Week 2 Power Rankings: Jackets slide

Yahoo.com
Rank: 21
This is a team built around a defensive system, yet Columbus is giving up 4.2 goals per game. Getting Pascal Leclair back this week should help.

ColumbusDispatch.com
Rank: 23 (-9)
Sloppy play in their own zone has overshadowed a decent start on the other end of the ice.

TSN.ca
Rank: 24 (+1)
With Derick Brassard, Jakub Voracek and now Nikita Filatov playing, the Jackets have a brighter future that at any point in franchise history. It just may take some more time before that playoff dream is realized.

CBSSports.com
Rank: 23 (unchanged)
One area of improvement in Columbus this season is the power play that now ranks eighth after finishing 26th last season.

CBC.ca
Rank: 22 (unchanged)
Tough team to play against.

ESPN.com
Rank: 26 (new)
Disclaimer: We did not touch any referees during this edition of the Power Rankings.

FoxSports.com
Rank: 24 (-6)
The Blue Jackets need some home-cooking in the worst way. The club dropped three of its first four games on the road, including two in Week 2. Columbus won its home opener, skating past the Predators 5-3 on Friday.

CNNSI.com
Rank: 24 (+1)
You may have skipped over the Columbus-Nashville boxscore last week. But something very rare happened. The Jackets' 5-3 victory ended the Preds' string of 16 consecutive games of earning at least a point against Columbus (15-0-1). It was the longest such active streak in a regular-season series. Of course, the Preds got revenge the next night with a 6-3 win.

Sportsnet.ca
Rank: 23 (-4)
Wonder if the Flames will ever admit they made a mistake letting Krisian Huselius (six points in five games) get away?

Meta-score: 23.3 (last week 19.85)

Not surprisingly the Jackets slide with a 2-3 record at the time most of these were written. Yahoo.com ranks us the highest at 21 while we come in the lowest on ESPN at 26. Most have us in that 23/24 spot.

-LTL

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More fan photos!

These are courtesy of Chris!


I love it! Thanks Chris and as always, if anyone has any pics they'd like me to share just ship em over to me at light.the.lamp@hotmail.com!

-LTL

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jackets hang on; pull to .500 on season


The Jackets controled the first two periods and pulled out to a well deserved 3-1 lead. In the 3rd though it was all Canucks but Leclaire was there tonight to close the door to earn the 4-2 victory.

The Jackets now stand at 3-3 winning both games at home and one on the road.


STOPLIGHT GAME REVIEW


GREEN
* Lots of good play from a number of folks but lets start with Pascal Leclaire. He's struggled early this season but he looked in last year's form tonight, especially in that 3rd period when the Canucks threw everything they had at the Jackets (which was 12 shots) but couldn't get that equalizer past Leclaire. Nothing Pazzy could do about either goal scored.

* I know he didn't show up on the scoreboard but I thought Andrew Murray had an absolute fantastic game. This guy doesn't take a shift off and does a whole lot of dirty work out there. I don't think he lost a board battle all night.

* Derek Dorsett. Kid gets a much deserved first NHL goal, got in a fight and played over 12 minutes. No doubt Hitch likes this kid and his sandpaper game. He's got more skill than you'd think as well.

* I know he got pummeled but my hat goes off to Picard for stepping up to defend his teammate (Filatov) after he about got his head taken off by a very good fighter in Bieska.

* Hitch is definitely getting the last laugh on pairing Chimera up with Brassard and Voracek (which I thought was a big mistake). Chimera continues to play really well and had an absolute bullet to get the Jackets on the board early.

* Speaking of the rookies. How about those passes by Voracek on those first two goals. He started the breakout on the Chimera goal when he won the puck on the boards and headman'd it to Brass who then found a streaking Chimera. The real beauty was his cross ice pass to spring Nash into the offensive zone on the PP who then had an easy pass to Huselius for a tap in goal. We just haven't seen that kind of on ice vision in Jackets history - very exciting. Those two both had strong games.

* I really liked Huselius again. His composure with the puck is a tremendous asset. I think he is the single biggest reason for our early PP success.

* Speaking of the PP grabbed another goal.

* It was schedule magnet night! If your like me you've got these things lined up on a fridge somewhere from each season. Luckily I had a friend pick me up one!

YELLOW
* The defense did a better job of making outlet passes and doing the little things that win you games. Still plenty to work on but it was a step in the right direction overall as a group.

* I wasn't really impressed with the defensive coverage of the Nash line tonight. They as a unit got hemmed in many times and weren't hustling back as stong as they should. I think that was a big reason why Hitch broke them up in the 3rd.

* It seemed the officiating went the Jackets way tonight. There were some calls in our favor that I think were kind of weak. As they say, these things tend to even themselves out.

* Malhotra played a pretty good game in his first game action of the season. He only went 47% in the circle but played a strong 17 minutes out there.

* Pretty strong game for Methot. I would put him in the GREEN category but he did have poor coverage on that 2nd goal. That mistake aside, he played well and I loved that rush he had in the 3rd where he drew a penalty.

* Voracek only 10 minutes. I know Hitch is working him in but he's playing really well and I'd like to see him out there more.

* How about Doug MacLean on the Sportsnet intermissions? I'll give him some credit though he didn't dog the Jackets like I thought he would. He did take full credit for drafting Dorsett in the 9th round -- only Doug.

RED
* He had a goal and an assist but Rick Nash was off tonight, waaay off. He looked gassed all night long - even the Canucks announcers commented on it -- and he was directly responsible for that first Canucks goal. Listening to the post game Hitch said he lacked energy and its probably due to the Jackets over playing him. To have him stink like that and still get two points and the Jackets with 'W' is a good sign though.

* Jackets not good in the circle only winning 44%.

* The Jackets turned the puck over 8 times versus 2 for the Canucks.

* Howson needs to send Filatov down. If Hitch is only going to play him 4 minutes then lets bring up a guy like Sestito to fill those minutes and let him get some quality time on the farm. Just not enough room right now for 4 rookies I think.

* Attendance announced at 12,057. Not good.

* Flipped on 10TV news this morning and not a peep about the Jackets win. If you want more coverage you can let 10TV know about it by contacting the General Manager here or the Director of Operations here.

3 BRIGHT LIGHTS ON THE NIGHT
1. Jackets close out a game in the final minues to take the 2 points in regulation.
2. Pascal shuts the door in a critical stretch in the 3rd.
3. Dorsett gets his first NHL goal.

Honorable mention to the "goat" line. They all had their great moments individually and as a unit last night.

A lot of good things to build from but still plenty of room for improvement. At the end of the day though this was a key win leading into another home game this Friday versus the streaking Rangers.....and lets not forget about that Zherdev guy who will make his first appearance since the trade. Here is the window for the Jackets to get on a bit of a roll.

-LTL

Fan pics from opening night

Grabbed these off of HF:

Well done fellas!! Love to see fans having some fun with it all!!

If anyone has any pics they'd like me to share here please email to light.the.lamp@hotmail.com.

-LTL

Commodore clears the air

Puk-rakers got an explanation from Commodore on "the photo" which I will also share here:

No. 1 -- The photo was taken by a friend in February while Commodore was still a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.

No. 2 -- The money pictured is his winnings in from a Hurricanes' Super Bowl block pool.

No. 3 -- The photo was taken in a spare room of his Raleigh-area home.

No. 4 -- The photo was posted on a friend's web page without Commodore's knowledge several weeks ago.

No. 5 -- Commodore learned about the photo from a contact in the Ottawa Senators public relations department four days ago and called his friend and asked him to remove the photo. By then, of course, it began to spread.

Jackets management is satisfied with the explanation and will not speak to Commodore about the photo. Commodore signed a five-year, $18.75 million deal over the summer.


Not sure I buy the whole "spare room" in his house line... looks like a hotel or door room to me. Either that or he really needs to redirect some of those benjamins towards an interior designer!

Regardless, go out and knock some heads tonight Mike and believe me everyone will quickly forget about this (well maybe not the skoal can....or the curtains.....or the..okay....moving on).....

Also a few more updates. Russell gets the scratch tonight while Methot in is. Malhotra is also in and looks to be centering Picard and Dorsett.

I'm scratching my head over the Russell scratch but I'm sure Hitch has his reasons. It was hinted at in the paper today that Russell was told he needs to move his feet more.

Personally I don't get it.

We know he's undersized and his game isn't to hit so its no surprise he's only been credited with 1 (which is tied with Backman)..his game is all about positional play, skating and an active stick which I think he's done well at. He's also only a -1 which is tied with Backman for best +/- for defensemen who skated in the first 5 games. He's taken zero penalties. First in shots taken for defensemen. Has more blocked shots than Backman with 4. Has 1 giveaway and 1 takeaway.

He's out there to generate points from the blueline which he hasn't done a lot of but I really think they are coming for this kid. I know Methot played great in Nashville so you have to keep him in the lineup so perhaps at the end of the day its just a numbers game and its just Russell's turn to take a seast? Or maybe Hitch just wants to match up bigger bodies against a grind it out Vancouver squad?

With Russell out I look for Voracek or Brass to man a point on the PP.

UPDATE: Puck-daddy has a new article up about this with some great quotes from Commodore. Check it out here.

Fire away - how do you feel about Russell getting the scratch tonight? What am I missing?

-LTL

Pre-game thoughts: Defense tries to get back on track


Tonight is the next chance for what once was a major strength of this team, the defense, to get back on track as they face the 3-3 Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks of course are led (literally as he's got a 'C' on his helmet) by one of the best goaltenders in the league in Roberto Luongo.

The 2-3 Jackets look to use this game as a jumpstart towards building momentum for the season. With 8 of the next 11 at home the time to make a move starts tonight.

KEYS TO LIGHTING EM UP
* Normally this starts and ends with Luongo but if the Jackets can't keep the pucks out of their own net then what's the point. The defense has got to play better that includes better outlet passes, better decisions, more physical in-your-face type hockey. The mental mistakes by Leclaire have to end.

* Now to Luongo. Like any great goaltender you have to out work him. He's given up 21 goals in 6 games so he can most certainly be beat.

* PP needs to keep on keepin on (never thought I'd say that). Believe it or not the Jackets have the 8th ranked PP thus far and on alot of occasions its looked pretty..well pretty. Huselius has done a great job transporting the puck and gaining the zone while the rookies Brassard and Voracek have really added to that 2nd unit. Umberger is a doing the dirty work in front of the net and I'd love to see him get rewarded.

* Vancouver's PP is a wreck right now (converting at 6.9% good for 29th in the NHL) which the Jackets improved-of-late PK unit needs to take advantage of.

* Never hurts to get that first goal. Always hurts to give up a multi-goal lead.

* Vancouver can score - they have 20 goals for which is good for 4th most in the conference. Jackets need to shut down the Sedins. They've got 12 points between them but haven't really had a "break out" type game. Guys like Burrows, Kesler & Berneir have been stepping up the offense as secondary scorers - got to watch them.

* Would love to see Nash convert on a break-away against Luongo but I'll take any type of goal #61 can provide.

* Canucks are a decent road team who is 2-3. They are ending a 6 game road trip tonight in Columbus so you better believe they'll want to end it on a high note and see this a very winnable game. Jackets have to show up in every facet.

* Jackets doing better staying out the box -- need that trend to continue.

GAME SPOTLIGHT
All eyes will be on the defensive play and goaltending tonight. Will the mental mistakes continue? Can this unit finally start to gel? What's up with Russell moving to a forward -- how long will that experiment last, about as long as Z at center?

CROWD CHANT
Continuing the National Anthem crowd salute as well as a salute after each goal.

In other game notes it appears Freddy Modin is out with the dreaded groin injury. What a shame to as he was finally starting to show some signs of life. Who steps up in his place? There is a chance Malhotra may be back in which should definitely help in the faceoff and PK departments.

Remember no FS Ohio tonight so its either Center Ice, the radio or heading on down to the game.

GO JACKETS!

-LTL

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nuggets

Russell at wing? According to Puck-rakers Hitch has him playing there in practice today with Picard and Malhotra. Who knows if this is permanent but IMO Russell has been one of the few non-problems on defense so this doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. If Hitch is looking to clear out some room how about scratching one of the top 4 defenders and sending them a wake up call.

Stay tuned.

After stopping 17 of 19 shots in relief of Freddy Norrena that Jackets have sent Dan LaCosta back down to the AHL. Of course that means that Pascal Leclaire is ready to go and should be the starter tomorrow night against Vancouver. He and the Jackets could certainly use a solid performance between the pipes.

..and please Pascal, use the blocker!

Thanks to a comment by Soultrain, we now know the blackout for tomorrow night's game will be lifted on Center Ice (and for all the games that won't be televised on FS Ohio). That is great news for those of us who can't make it down to the arena tomorrow.

The Jackets continue to struggle on the road (what else is new?) so the good news is that they'll play their next 8 of 11 at home. Its a chance to gather some momentum and re-group as a team which according to Puck-rakers started in earnest yesterday as the team met and reviewed tape.

So I don't know why I keep forgetting this story, but as just about everyone knows by now Michael Peca received a reduced "sentence" and will only be suspended 5 games. That will put him back on the ice Friday against the New York Rangers.

The Jackets could certainly use his defensive zone play.

Here is something interesting from NHL.com. This Saturday will see all 30 teams playing at once. According to the article as of around 9 p.m. EST 12 games will be going on at once. Pretty cool.

FTR the Jackets will be in Minnesota to battle the Wild on the 2nd night of a back to back on Saturday night starting at 8 p.m. EST.

Looks like Malarchuk is on ice for now as Puck-rakers has confirmed that the Jackets will add a interim goalie coach. My guess is that the new coach will be given some time and if he pans out then Malarchuk and his baggage are history. If the new coach is a dud then he may be given another chance.

The Jackets missed out on signing Devin DiDiomete as the Rangers apparently have pounced on him and signed him to a standard 3 year deal. Crunch blogger Lindsay Kramer has some interesting details around this one:

Talking to DiDiomete at the end of the prospects camp and before the Syracuse preseason opened, he was raring to come to the Crunch, no question about it. But a couple of days before he was expected to close out the AHL deal with Columbus, his agent said to sit tight.

In retrospect, it's obvious now that another team was interested in him, and was coming through with an NHL deal. That's much better for the player, three years of guaranteed money compared to one year in an AHL pact.

Problem is, teams aren't supposed to negotiate with players under contract to other organizations, even under tryout deals. The Rangers were at Traverse City, and saw DiDiomete. Did they jump the gun? Hope said nope, there was no improper contact.

But somehow, some team made its intentions known to DiDiomete's agent before the tryout deal was over. Anyways, Columbus was faced with the decision on whether to offer him an NHL deal as well, but it did not. Hope said Columbus let him out of the deal over the weekend, and the Rangers were there to pick him up.


Sounds to me like an obvious case of tampering but nobody is going to rock the big boat over a minor league signing. Its a shame too because I love the potential of players like DiDiomete who to me is a Dorsett clone. They make perfect 4th liners at the NHL level and can really be a nice complement to your high skill guys developing down on the farm.

-LTL