directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: This underdog has some bite!

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

This underdog has some bite!

Ready to talk series? Here we go.

As we all know by now the Jackets drew the defending cup champs and original 6 squad the Detroit Red Wings.

...and nobody thinks the Jackets can win this game. Just look here... here... here... and here for examples. In fact with the way the Jackets played down the stretch I don't think its much of a stretch to say they are the biggest underdog in this entire tournament.

...and that could be a good thing... that can be a real good thing... as long as the players in that room believe they can win anything can happen.

So what do the Jackets have going for and against them in this matchup?

* Travel. By losing a spot in the standings the one very big positive is that the Jackets travel will be greatly reduced.... but remember, that Wings team is also traveling less.

* Stanley Cup hangover? While still great, the Wings haven't looked nearly as good as they did this time last season. They've given up 60 more goals. The ended the season on a 3 game skid. In fact this time last year the Wings went 7-2-1 in their past 10 versus 3-6-1 this season.

* Rick Nash and Steve Mason. Both have had success this season against this squad. Nash with a couple of hatties while Mase has been spectacular to the point where Hendrik Zetterberg called him the toughest goalie he's faced all season.

* Success breeds confidence. The Jackets have found success against this Wings squad going 3-3 this season. They've won once at the Joe and twice at home. They know they can win in that beaten down stadium. In the games they won they outscored the Wings 14 to 6.

* There is no question the one area where they are better than the Wings and that is between the pipes. It's a strength they must exploit. The Jackets allowed 14 less goals than the Wings.

* Use the "underdog" tag as motivation. Nobody thinks you can win? Heck nobody thought you'd get into the playoff either and now look atchya!! Play hard but loose.. play your north/south style! Take advantage of playing without expectations and for puck's sake don't let anyone tell you what can and can't do.

* Even strength the Jackets are one of the best in the business. They are 8th in the league with 155 5on5 goals. Unfortunately the Wings are the best with some 176 even strength goals. Regardless the Jackets must keep this game even up for as long as they can.

* The unknown. Nobody knows how this Jackets team will respond b/c they have never been there. They can use this to their advantage and perhaps catch a Wings team sleeping who thinks they'll glide on cruise control past the first round.

* Been there done that. This is a team that knows what it takes to win the playoffs and can and will turn it up in the second season. They all compete and they all execute. They didn't win the Stanley Cup by accident.

* When the Wings are on they are a hard team to stop. In the 3 games the Jackets lost to them they managed just 3 goals and got shutout twice.

* The Wings win games with their PP. They score once every 4 tries. If the Jackets have any hope to make this a series they have to limit those opportunities.

* Turncoats. Just wait and watch for the regular Jacket season ticket holders to swap out their Jackets jersey for Wings jerseys...... and you know who you are out there.

* Even though they've given up goals this Wings team can score..and score in bunches. They put home 295 goals versus the Jackets 226 which is tops in the league and beats the next Western Conference team by a whopping 38 goals. They are an offensive dynamo.

* Zetterberg/Datsyuk/Lidstrom/Hossa. The Jackets won't keep them off the scoreboard but they must contain them and as Hitch has stated -- they need to keep these guys away from the center of the ice.

* Are the Jackets spent? The Jackets have not played well down the stretch. Did they spend all their energy on the playoff push and leave nothing in the tank for the playoff run? They can't just be happy to get in the dance....can they? Do they have a higher gear left?

* Jackets have to solve Holmstrom and not allow him to set up shop in front of Mase... the best way to do that, stay out of the box!!

* The PP has been a train wreck all year but it's the PK the last two games that has me worried... if the Jackets don't stay disciplined and don't kill off penalties this could be a short series. I'm lookin at you Jason Chimera and Jiri Novotny.

1. Stay out of the box. The Jackets cannot give this vaunted Wings PP too many opportunities b/c if they do -- they'll get burned early and often. If the Jackets can play the majority of this series at even strength Cinderella may have a new name.

2. Best players have to be the best.
Steve Mason. You hate to put some much on such a young guy but he'll have to stand on his head for the Jackets to have a chance. He must be their best player. A hot goatlender can swing a series very quickly.

Rick Nash. He will have to be the big game player we all know he can be and carry this team offensively. He must continue to be a Wing killer.

The Jackets cannot afford to have either of these guys go down with an injury.

3. Exploit the Wings' biggest weakness and that is their goaltending. The Wings have the advantage over the Jackets in every are but goaltending. The problem is that this isn't Osgood's first rodeo -- he like the Wings could very easily elevate his game. The Jackets need to get to Osgood early and often.. rattle his cage and don't let him gain confidence. They must win the battle of the goaltenders if they hope to have any shot in this series - it must be done.

I hate to put so much on one game but I really think the first game could decide the series. With a win the Jackest ensure a split heading back into Nationwide and gain some critical confidence. With a loss the momentum swings the Wings direction and they may never look back.

Make no mistake about it though this is as about as David versus Golliath as a series could get.

On one end of the ice you have a Jackets squad making it's first post season appearance littered with playoff inexperience in key positions mixed in with playoff tested vets. Nobody really knows how that recipe will taste.

On the other end you have the defending cup champions, a team rich in winning traditions and a team with vast playoff experience that knows what it takes to compete in the NHL's second season.

On paper I think the Wings take this series in 6....but that my friends, is why they play the games!!

Also just a reminder that if your interested in listening to my ramble I hooked up with DP from for a podcast reviewing this past season and a look forward to this playoff series. You can listen by following this link.

See you in Detroit Jackets fans!



JAL said...

Great analysis, as usual, LTL.

I think this will boil down to tempo -- if we can get the puck deep, and keep the puck for reasonable period of time, we can establish that neutral zone "picket fence" and stand up their forwards at the blue line. They hate that disruption, and being forced to dump the puck. When they do dump it, we need to be on it quickly and out in two passes.

Here's a link to my latest on Inside Hockey, where I take the unpopular view that the Jackets will win this series.

It looks like we will have a nice presence up there tonight, and well over 50 on Saturday (just from the JacketBackers ticket deal), so the Joe will be rocking. We will be watching from here tonight, but wll be on the road early on Saturday.

Go Jackets!

A Shot From The Point

Max said...

Another thing I think we must do: Hitch needs to tell Boll to get in Osgood's kitchen. Boll did this against Roloston and really made him angry. Any disruption will help, I think.