Saturday, October 31, 2009

#1 Miami Completes Weekend Sweep

  • Miami completed the sweep of Northern Michigan this weekend in the U.P. Northern is historically very tough on the RedHawks so these are two good wins.
  • Cody Reichard improves to 5-0-1 and Miami moves to 6-1-1 overall and 3-1 in the CCHA.
  • Miami continues a four game road trip next weekend with two games in Ann Arbor against CCHA rival #5 Michigan at Yost Ice Arena.

Saturday Update

  • Ohio State defeats Notre Dame in a shootout 3-2. Zac Dalpe with the winner in the breakaway competition.
  • Next up for Ohio State - this weekend vs. Northern Michigan at the Schottenstein Center. Faceoff at 7:05pm both nights. It would be nice to have more than 500 in a building that seats 18,000+ (November 6 & 7)
  • #1 Miami trails Northern Michigan 1-0 in the second period from Marquette, Mich.

Quick Hitter

Here's a Quick Hitter for Halloween.
  • Last night, #1 Miami held on to defeat Northern Michigan at the Berry Events Center way up in Marquette, Mich. by a score of 4-3. After a scoreless first period, Miami broke the game open with four consecutive goals to lead 4-0 after 2. Miami's explosive offense has already logged three periods this season in which they have netted four goals.
  • After the second period, the RedHawks had a 30-16 shots-on-goal advantage. Junior Justin Vaive (Toronto, Ont.) scored two goals just 41 seconds apart to get the RedHawks going. However, Northern Michigan would mount a comeback in the third. And apparently, the number of the night was 41 because after pulling starting goaltender, #41 Brian Stewart, the Wildcats scored 41 seconds into the third and eventually added two more to make it a game. Northern pulled their backup netminder, but were unable to add the tying goal.
  • With the win, Miami moves to 5-1-1 and NMU fell to 1-3-1. Game two of the weekend series is set for this evening. Faceoff is 7:35pm again from Marquette, Mich.
  • Also Friday, Ohio State dropped a 3-1 decision in South Bend, Ind. to #8 Notre Dame. The Buckeyes got on the scoreboard first when Junior John Albert (Concord, Ohio) jammed home a powerplay goal at 13:04 of the first period. The Irish would respond just 1:49 later when Calle Ridderwall matched Albert's effort with a powerplay goal of his own. Dan Kissel would add the game-winning goal on the powerplay for the Irish in the third period and Bill Maday added an empty-netter making the final 3-1 in favor of Notre Dame.
  • Ohio State falls to 2-5 (1-2 CCHA) while the Irish improve to 4-3 (1-0 CCHA). Tonight's series finale gets an early start. The puck drops at 5:05pm from the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind. The Buckeyes will be looking to continue their solid play on Saturday nights. Sophomore Cal Heeter (St. Louis Mo.) will once again get the start in net for Ohio State. He is 2-1 with a 1.68 GAA so far this season.
  • The University of Denver and Marc Cheverie suffered a blow last night when the record-setting goaltender was severely injured during the Pioneers 4-3 victory over Minnesota State. Cheverie, who entered with three consecutive shutouts and a scoreless streak of 203 minutes, 19 seconds, saw his streak come to an end 32 seconds into the second period. He broke Mannino's record of 208:42, set in 2005. Cheverie, was injured by Maverick Justin Jokinen's skate that inadvertently caught him in a vulnerable position. According to DU head coach, George Gwozdecky, "(Cheverie) went to the hospital and they have it stitched up. Nothing broken, but it's a fairly deep cut, so it cut some of the muscle. He's probably going to be out a few weeks. Could be two weeks. Could be more." Best wishes to Cheverie for a quick recovery. (Denver Post)
  • Tonight in the League, the Detroit Red Wings conclude their western roadtrip with a visit to Calgary and the Pengrowth Saddledome. Coming off a 6-5 shootout loss in Edmonton, the Wings come to Calgary an ordinary 4-4-3 and minus both Johan Franzen and now Valterri Filppula who broke his right wrist against the Oilers and will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks. Meanwhile, the Flames conclude their five-game homestand looking to improve to 4-1. Calgary had won the first three games by scoring five or more goals in each game, but ran into the hot Colorado Avalanche who dealt the Flames just their third loss of the season, 3-2. The Flames scored two quick first period goals, but despite outshooting the Avs 32-14 for the game, the Flames could not solve Craig Anderson again and Colorado had plenty of time to rally for the win.
  • In other Flames news, Eklund of says that former Blue Jacket Ray Whitney could be headed to Calgary. Whitney would add a great level of skill and veteran leadership to what is already one of the league's highest scoring teams. If true, this would be a quality acquisition for the Flames. (Whitney to Flames?)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Four Lines Deep 10/30/09

Pittsburgh (10-2) vs Columbus (6-5)
Nationwide Arena, 7:00 pm.
TV: FSN-O (no HD, again) / FS-P (HD)
Last 5 games: PIT 4-1 / CBJ 1-4
Last Meeting: CBJ won 4-3 in a shootout back in March of last season.

First Line: Forwards Need To Play Defense. There is plenty of blame to go around when discussing the recent struggles for the Blue Jackets. Allowing 26 goals in the previous five games can't be blamed on one defect. But the defensive accountability of the forwards takes the brunt of the blame in my opinion. Yes the PK has been softer than cheese-whiz, and yes our best penalty killer (Jan Hejda) is on IR, but the defensive play of the forwards from the top line through the fourth line has been atrocious. Any hope of winning tonight's game will start and stop with the willingness of the forwards to play smarter and play harder in their own end.

Second Line: Penalty Kill Has To Regain Its Form.: Reason number two for the recent woes has been the PK. After ranking numero uno in the league through the first few weeks of the season, the Jackets are tied for 5th worse in PPGA (11). The aggressiveness we saw from the Jackets' penalty kill early on disappeared after Hejda was injured. Since then, opponents have had lots of room at the points to either fire bombs at the net or to feed the puck to the open shooter down low.

Third Line: Can Mason Keep His Cool. Steve Mason showed time and time again last season that not only was he a technically sound net minder, but he rarely got rattled when things got dicey. So far this season, he has struggled and is clearly not as comfortable in the crease as he once was. Can he keep his heart rate steady in a match up against the defending Stanley Cup Champions and Sid the Kid? It will be a tall order as the Penguins have the 6th most goals in the league and are averaging over 3 per game.

Fourth Line: The Crowd. Last year when the Pens came to town Pittsburgh fans made a ton of noise and the arena was a see-saw of cheering and booing as the teams engaged in a track meet of scoring opportunities and finished checks. Granted it was late in the season with playoff implications on the line, but I expect tonight's game to have fans of both teams ready to be "dug in" as Hitch would say. The Jackets are fragile right now given their recent performances and if their home arena is overrun by Pens fans it could make the home team even more jittery. If you are a Jackets fan and have the means, I highly recommend getting down the NWA for the game and helping the boys get a win. If you are a Pens fan, screw you. Stay home and watch it on FS-P in High Def.

Healthy Scratches: Prior to the last game Hitch said Jared Boll would stay in the lineup as long as he was healthy. In his first game back on the ice Boll had only 3:40 TOI. Granted Boll doesn't kill penalties and the Jackets spent much of that game on the PK. According the Columbus Dispatch Boll will be back in the press box tonight. Also, Nikita Filatov had arguably his best period of hockey this past game and was rewarded with the most ice team he has seen all season (8:43). Keep an eye on the young lad as he will certainly be looking to capitalize on the momentum. Jackets C Derick Brassard is back on the 2nd line after a brief demotion. Like Filatov, he will be wanting to prove to his coach he deserves the promotion. Finally, the Jackets will be wearing the white sweaters and the Penguins will be wearing their sissy blues. Yea.

Afternoon Scrum 10/30/09

Hockey headlines for the CBJ and around the league. Sweeter than Halloween candy, and they won't rot your teeth.

  • The city of Detroit hasn't had much going for it in the past decade and a half. One thing that has been a source of civic pride during that time however has been the Red Wings. Well, that might be changing. In addition to a rough start and losing Franzen to a knee injury early, now C Valtteri Filppula has suffered a broken wrist and will be out a minimum of six weeks. The Free Press has the story here.
  • Puck Daddy has an interesting story about the NHL and their efforts to maximize their relationships with fans via social networking. You're reading this, so I'm assuming you'll want to read this too, no?
  • Jackets play the Pens tonight. For some reason the MC Hammer album title "Please Hammer, Don't hurt 'em" pops into my mind. Here is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's look at the match up.
  • Speaking of the Penguins, losing Malkin for 2-3 weeks probably won't mean much in the long run, but it certainly helps the Jackets' chances tonite!
  • Latest on the Phoenix Coyotes saga. Two groups are preparing to place bids to buy the team. The most recent group is headed by a couple of Canadian business men who currently own the Toronto Argonauts CFL team. Think they plan on keeping the Coyotes in Phoenix long? I am also intrigued by the idea that one potential buyer is floating: keeping the team in Phoenix, but playing some home games in Canada. Perplexing to say the least. THN has the lowdown here.
  • Rory Boylen over at The Hockey News has a great multi-part look at the life of referees. This particular installment concerns the give-and-take between refs and players during the game. Good stuff. I once told a ref that he was having a bad night and that his most recent call "took the *%&#ing cake". He tossed me, and rightfully so.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Game 11 Summary

Long road trip. Different time zone. Other team has the advantage of the 2nd line change, yadda yadda yadda. These were some of the excuses offered to explain the Jacket's recent 1-4 road trip to the West Coast. Okay, so without those issues to plague them a home game should see a return to the form the team showed early in season, right? Not so much.

After playing like an average to respectable NHL team in the first period last night, the Jackets played the final two periods like my D-League team. Which is to say not well.

All of the comments from the players after those road losses were that they knew they were going to have to play harder. They said they understood what they were doing wrong, what had to be changed and that they would make the necessary adjustments. Naturally, I was looking for them to implement these realizations and to play hard. They did not. I almost feel like Doug MacLean just sold me some healing tonic made from raccoon extract.

Neutral zone turnovers, soft defense, unwillingness to skate hard to get back to the defensive zone, and no-look passes to the high slot in the hopes that a teammate would be there. All the same things they have been doing for the past week and a half. As my buddy would say, it was diarrhea on ice.

What concerns me the most is that they didn't respond. I'm not talking about a response to one particular incident in a game. I'm taking about a lack of response to having your asses handed to you 3 out of the 4 previous games. Responding to the fact that your PK has gone from best-in-the-league to 19th (after last night). Responding to having given up 23 goal in the five games heading into last night.

The first game home after a brutal road trip is exactly where you would hope a team would rally and do what it takes to win. This team did not. With the defending Stanley Cup Champions coming to town on Friday, the boys in Blue had better rediscover their ability and willingness to compete at the NHL level, and do so quickly.
During the post-game interviews they all said they know they lost because the didn't play hard enough and that they will regroup and put in the effort next time.

We'll be watching and waiting.

-Top Shelf

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Unbelievable Backyard Hockey Rink

Growing up in Columbus in the 70's & 80's, there was no such thing as a backyard ice rink. There wasn't much in the way of hockey at all until the Chill came to town in 1991, but I never knew of anyone (other than Jym Ganahl) who built their own backyard rink.

I came across this video awhile back from a HGTV program that profiled a Minnesota hockey dad and the masterpiece he builds in his back yard. How awesome would this thing be in your neighborhood?! You wouldn't have much problem keeping track of the kids, that's for sure.

Check it out:

Four Lines Deep - 10/28/09

Phoenix has suffered from blown coverages on its PK recently.

Both squads are reeling right now. Phoenix has dropped its last two games on the roadtrip, and surrendered 10 goals in the process. Sound familiar? The Jackets are coming off a tough road trip and are in desperate need of re-establishing their commitment to playing aggressive hockey in all three zones.

First Line: Play defense first. Much has already been made of this by Hitch and the team at Puck Rakers, but it's a valid concern. The Jackets have been soft and inconsistent in the defensive zone during the last four games. The PK, formerly best in the league, was shredded out West. As a team, the Jackets gave up 22 goals during the road trip, and only 12 before. The good news is that we saw how well the Jackets can play defense in the first six games - even without Hejda in the lineup. They have the potential - now they just need to play to it.

Second Line: Nothing fancy needed.  Over the history of this series, the Jackets have scored some pretty goals on Phoenix, including a beautiful tic-tac-toe goal as recently as the last meeting on Oct. 10. However, when the Jackets get in the offensive zone, they need to get the puck on net and create traffic around the crease. Phoenix has only given up 22 goals in 10 games. That's the best in the Western Conference, folks. Jason LaBarbera is likely starting in net for Phoenix tonight, as Bryzgalov has been roughed up a bit on the road trip. He is still a very capable goaltender and has a .942 save percentage. He performed well in relief of Bryzgalov in New York. Safe to say, goals don't come easy against this team and there's only one way to play those types of teams. Put your big boys in front, screen the goalies' sight lanes and hope for some garbage around the net.

Third Line: Welcome back, Jared Boll.  The Jackets need to unleash the Cannonballs on Ice tonight for the home crowd, and Boll's return to the lineup couldn't be better timed. Hitch reaffirmed Boll's role on the team and claimed he wouldn't be scratched any more as long as he's healthy. That's a pretty strong endorsement, and also says that Hitch wants to keep some more grit in the lineup. A couple well-placed checks and perhaps a few gloves dropped to the ice would go a long way in building some energy on the bench. Look for a big game from him tonight.

Fourth Line: Enjoy the home cooking. The Jackets have yet to lose at home, and Nationwide has earned a reputation among visiting teams as a tough barn to earn points. Phoenix hasn't been tearing up the offensive end of the ice, and if the Jackets can get the first goal, both the bench energy and the home crowd will build some momentum. Certainly, Mason (3-0; 1.00 GAA) has played much better at home, and a few well-timed glove saves could have an equally positive effect. It feels like the Jackets have been on the road for a month, and I expect they'll return to Jackets hockey tonight in Nationwide.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Afternoon Scrum 10/27/09

  • The latest development in the Coyotes bankruptcy saga has been revealed. Majority owner Jerry Moyes has sold the team to the League, pending approval of the bankruptcy judge. Hot damn, the Coyotes can stay in Glendale and continue to be a vibrant and productive franchise.
  • Punishment for that horrifically dangerous hit that Rob Scuderi leveled on Jason Chimera? An undisclosed fine. Not just for how this incident was handled, but how he performs his job in general, NHL discipline czar Colin Campbell needs to be openly and unabashedly mocked. How the league can pretend to care about the safety of their players when these types of incidents are allowed (essentially endorsed due to lack of punishment) is a joke. What kind of injury will have to be sustained for this issue to be taken seriously by the League?
  • Adam Proteau of The Hockey News takes up the discipline issue, as well. Interesting that he does not so much as mention Colin Campbell in his piece, but instead finds fault in the attitude of the GM's toward the issue.
  • CBJ F Andrew "Weighty" Murray will be out four weeks with a bum shoulder. Good thing we have a glut of forwards.... too bad they dont all play in the corners like Murray does. Puckrakers has the scoop.
  • THIS JUST IN: Hockey Looks Better in HD. The Toronto Star has a rather interesting piece on the role HD is playing in growing the TV audience, specifically in the U.S. Someone get FSN-Ohio on the phone!
  • And finally, finally, the Leafs get a win. I would post a link to a story about it, but who cares?

-Top Shelf

Monday, October 26, 2009

Georges Laraque Mic'd Up During A Fight

Here is a video clip from a couple seasons ago of a fight between noted tough guy Georges Laraque and Raitis Ivanans. The replay gives great audio of them deciding to 'go' in the face off circle. Enjoy!

Jackets Lose To Kings, A Haiku

Instead of doing a long, drawn out breakdown of the Blue Jacket's 6-2 loss to the L.A. Kings on Sunday, I decided that a haiku is all that is necessary to sum that bad boy up. Seriously.

Feel free to create your own in the comments section and remember if it ain't 5-7-5, it ain't haiku!

As for last night:

Scuderi is cheap
Jacket legs were too weary
Need Hejda back soon

Til next time,

Afternoon Scrum 10/26/09

Hockey headlines from home and abroad. Read at your own risk.

  • L.A. Kings D Rob Scuderi on his hit that sent CBJ F Jason Chimera toes over beak and left him bleeding from the mouth and above his right eye: "It was a good hit," Scuderi said. "Apparently, it was questionable, if not over the line with how the guys were up in arms. I understand their guys are just standing up for their teammate and that's fine. But at the same time, I thought it was a good hit." Mmmkay.

And Chimer's take: “It’s a dirty hit. There’s no room in the game for that kind of (expletive). A guy takes your knees out, what are you supposed to do? It wasn’t a hip check at all. It was a direct hit on the knee. That’s the way it goes, I guess. And he doesn’t want to fight after a hit like that, either. I landed on my face, on the ice. My neck was squished against the ice. I’m lucky I don’t have a concussion or something. It’s a dirty hit and there’s no room in the game for it. Too many guys now are getting carried off the ice on a stretcher. It’s just dirty stuff. It shows no level of respect. I don’t care if Scuderi’s a good player. He needs to stick up for himself. You fight after you do something like that to somebody.”

Here's the YouTube link. I don't think there is any question that the hit is illegal and dangerous. However, since Chimera came back seemingly no worse for the ware (save for some stitches) I have no doubt the league office will do little by way of punishing Scuderi. Maybe 1 game, 2 at the most.
Puck Daddy over at Yahoo Sports has a breakdown of some of the recent dangerous hits to plague the NHL, including the Scuderi/Chimera hit. Here's the link.
  • Manny Malhotra, he of former CBJ glory and current San Jose Shark, had two goals in the Sharks win over the Flyers last night. Here is the game breakdown from the San Jose Mercury News. Nice work Mango.
  • The 2010 NHL Trade Deadline is only 128 days away. Get some juicy trade rumors via THN. Frolov to Montreal for the Kostitsyn brothers? The Magic Eightball says "Doubtful."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Four Lines Deep - 10/25/09

The Jackets are hungry for more than just another road win before leaving LA.

The Jackets face a young Kings team tonight that has won three straight. The Kings started strong, faltered for a few games at the end of a long road trip, and have regained their momentum. They are tough at home (3-1) and will certainly be looking to pay back the Jackets for a 4-1 loss on October 17.

First Line: Take the crown off the King. The King's first line (Smyth, Kopitar, Williams) generates much of the offense for the squad. The Kings have an impressive 38 goals for this season, but Kopitar and Smyth have scored more than a third of the goals and account for 34 points combined. If the Jackets can effectively limit this line, then the chances for a road win are much stronger.

Second Line: Remember how to kill penalties. As Porty said  in Puck Rakers, the PK has given up five goals in the past few games, and that just won't work. Hitch's team has to play aggressively and with bad intentions -- and the Jackets can't do that if the PK doesn't insulate them from taking penalties with "weighty" play in the defensive zone.  Re-focus on the basics: Clean the crease; let Mase see the shots; win the corner battles and clear the friggin' zone with confidence. The PK may have become a little pre-occupied with getting scoring opportunities.

Third Line:  Dominate the faceoff circle. The Kings don't have one center - including Kopitar - that wins more than 50 percent of faceoffs. When combined with an abysmal 71 percent PK, that means the Jackets will have great opportunities to control the puck and set up scoring opportunities on the powerplay.  Controlling the faceoffs will also be crucial to keeping the puck out of the hands of Kopitar and the formidable first line. Obviously, controlling faceoffs also supports penalty killing (see Second Line).  Palhsson went 22/30 last night -- he gets an extra shake and a t-shirt from In-n-Out Burger if he repeats that performance.

Fourth Line: Let the Kings score first. Why not? According to the semi-professional and not too dedicated research department at Jackets Required, the Jackets are 4-2 when giving up the first goal. The Jackets have given up the first goal in every game on this road trip, so why break the trend? In addition, they have been giving away leads like they're autographed Jim Day head shots -- in other words, like they can't wait to get rid of them. Perhaps it's part of this team's identity? They don't really play to their potential until they're up against a wall. Giving up the first goal seems to bring some extra energy out of this team. Of course, waiting for them to regain - and hold - the lead is going to make my hair look like Hitchcock's before the end of the season.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Puck Hunger

Going into the season I heard a lot of talk about how ‘exciting’ the 2009-2010 Blue Jackets would be. I naively was thinking ‘exciting’ like in a snow mobile kinda way where the only scary is good scary. Instead, Jacketland has been treated to a high-speed car chase through incredibly narrow side streets under heavy fire. Buckle up.

For the fifth straight game the Jackets were scored on first when Joffrey (I wonder if his buddies call him Joff?) Lupol hit a slap shot that found the net through traffic after the Jackets were unable to clear the puck for what seemed like four minutes. I was looking for a calming influence on the defense to skate, pass or shoot the puck to safety. It didn’t happen very often on the night and most certainly didn’t happen on this sequence.

In the second period, the Jackets knotted the score after Antoine Vermette chipped a bouncing puck past Jean Sebastian Giguere. Vermette won the offensive zone faceoff back to Marc Methot whose send in attempted was partially deflected by the Ducks forward sending the dancing puck into the slot where Vermette sprawled out to bat the puck. Great effort by Vermette and a big lift for the team.

About four minutes later, the Ducks took the lead back on a Power Play rush where the Brett Favre of hockey, Scott Niedermeyer, put a shot on goaltender Steve Mason who made the initial save, but deflected it off defenseman Mike Commodore’s skate and into the CBJ net while sweeping it away. Kind of a junk goal.

The Jackets waited a little over a minute before getting a junk goal of their own when the Captain fired a puck to crease that deflected off Favre’s skate and into the net. 2-2 score. Junk goals at 1 apiece.

The Jackets took Uncle Mo’ when the Huselius – Vermette – Voracek line kept the Ducks hemmed in and got chance after chance. Finally, Vermette sent a beautiful pass from his knees up the slot to Vermette who buried it past Giguere. On their very next shift with less than 30 seconds to go, Vermette gained the line with speed as Voracek drove the net. From just inside the blue line, Vermette fired a wrister that hit the post flush and found its’ way to Voracek’s stick for a slam dunk goal and a two-goal lead as Giguere did his tribute to Michael Jackson with a spin in the crease.

Two-goal lead going into the third with all the momentum….take it to the bank, right?! Buckle up.

The Ducks cut the deficit to one goal when Joff pounded in a rebound created by Corey Perry who, as a side note, I hate with the venom of a thousand cobras. I’ll pontificate about my hatred some other day.

It only took the Ducks two more minutes to tie it up as Teemu Selanne (who else?) backhanded a bouncing puck over Mase’s shoulder that came to him via Fedor Tyutin’s skates. The 47 people sitting in the lower bowl of Honda Center went bananas and we in Jacketland let out a collective ‘are you kidding me, Focker?!’

Unlike in Edmonton, the CBJ were able to rally with another flukey goal. With the puck mere inches from being out of the zone, Fedor Tyutin blasted a puck past an RJ Umberger screen with 3:22 left on the clock. Giguere apparently re-injured a hip-flexor injury and left the game. He was replaced by Jonas Hiller, who may or may have been listening to Swiss Metal on his ipod when he got the tap from Coach Randy Carlyle.

Hiller wasn’t on the ice when Nash outbattled Ducks defenseman Steve Wiesnewski for a loose puck and fired it into the open net, sealing the victory and a much needed two points. Nash’s effort going for the puck was described beautifully by CBJ Color Analyst Bill Davidge as simply ‘Puck Hunger.’ I plan on using that bad boy early and often. Thank you, Bill.

Some thoughts

  • Vermette was all over the ice tonight, a real difference maker. He and Voracek have unbelievable chemistry and with their respective skill sets could provide a very good second line scoring punch. They were both +4 tonight. Good exciting.
  • Not having Hejda and a 100% Commodore is making life really tough for the CBJ right now. The inability to clear the puck out of the zone is leading to some white knuckle shifts. Hopefully Commie rounds into shape quickly and the defenseman can get closer to playing minutes that they’re suited to play. Sending out an elite shutdown pairing isn’t a luxury Coach Ken Hitchcock has right now, so shake out the hands at commercials. Bad exciting.
  • I thought that Filatov and Brassard had some very strong shifts on the fourth line. They didn’t have a ton of time, but got after it when they were out there. If earning Hitch’s trust is part of the process, them I’m fine with them having to walk the walk. It’s hard to see skilled guys like that play such limited minutes, but if it helps them get to where they should be in the lineups when they get to the meat of the schedule, I’m fine with that. A question for Jacket fans: When was the last time the CBJ had two first round picks playing on the fourth line?
  • Good exciting.The puck was lively tonight. I don’t know if it was due to bad ice, guys fighting the puck or what, but nothing seemed to be easy. Bad exciting.
  • Building a lead with a four-goal second period. Good exciting.Giving up two goals in the first ten minutes of the third period. Bad exciting.
  • Nash’s puck hunger. Good exciting.
  • Bob Griese’s comments about Juan Pablo Montoya during the Ohio State - Minnesota game. Bad exciting.
  • Going through my kid’s candy that he got from Deer Creek State Park’s Halloween Festival. Good exciting.
  • Some of the people passing out said candy. Bad exciting.

The Jackets complete the four game road trip on Sunday against the L.A. Kings who will be looking to even the season series while the Jackets try to get two more road points. A win would definitely take some of the sting from losing the three goal lead in Edmonton and have the team feeling good about the road trip.

Buckle up!

NHL Standings - ESPN

Four Lines Deep - 10/24/09

Columbus center Sammy Pahlsson has fond memories of weight lifting in Anaheim.

The Jackets play the third game on a four game road trip this evening in Anaheim.  Neither team is playing particularly well right now. Anaheim is off to a 3-4-1 start this season and is only 1-3 at home. They have lost three of their last four. The Jackets have surrendered 12 goals in the last two games and lost both.

First Line:  Make a strong start. The Jackets have surrendered goals in the first two minutes in each of the last two games. That's really not a great way to start a road game. They need to come out with much sharper focus and take the body early and often. Setting the tone early in the game will go a long way in erasing the memories of the horrific meltdown in Edmonton. I'd look for Pahlsson to have a very strong game. He'll have big emotions playing in the Honda Center for the first time as a visitor, and I can't think of a better player to send a message to the Ducks.

Second Line: Play Jackets hockey.  I can't remember - nor do I feel like researching - the last time the Jackets built a three goal lead on the road and squandered it. This is a defense-first club. Giving up six goals in two consecutive games is simply not acceptable. The Jackets need to keep the likes of Perry, Getzlaf and Selanne on the outside, consistently check and make responsible passes out of the defensive zone. The defense needs to make sure that Mason can see the shots, and he in turn needs to sharpen up his coverage on the angles and watch the wrist shots with a greater sense of urgency. Enough said.

Third Line: The stars need to shine.  The multi-million dollar veteran forwards, such as Nash, Vermette and Umberger, need to get on the scoreboard. Juice showed up in Edmonton, and I hope he continues to look for more scoring opportunities. Nash had a very unusual game, in which he was held without a SOG and was (-3). I fully believe he will make up for that tonight. The bottom line is that when this team faces adversity, it needs players such as Vermette and Umberger to respond and re-establish the momentum. Vermette has been playing well defensively and has been chipping in with some assists, but he simply needs to be a more consistent scoring threat. Umberger will have the opportunity to make an immediate impact on the first line, and he needs to continue his solid performance in the faceoff circle.

Fourth Line: Follow the Hair.  Give Jake Voracek the puck. He wants the puck. He needs the puck. He has taken his game to the next level during the last few games, and certainly has been the most consistent offensive threat during 5 on 5 hockey. As we anticipated, he built some confidence after his first goal and built upon that in Edmonton. His line (Juice, Vermette, Voracek) showed great promise -- he's going hard to the net and his linemates need to make the most of that tonight. To that end, Juice needs to be ready to shoot, as Voracek has shown he also has excellent vision and is a very capable passer.

Quick Hits

Well, I missed my first deadline yesterday and was unable to post a preview of the Miami/MSU series from Oxford. So, I'll try to make it up with a mini-recap of last night's game.
  • From Oxford, the #1 Miami RedHawks improved to 4-0-1 (1-0 CCHA) with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Michigan State Spartans (3-2, 0-1). Captain Tommy Wingels netted both goals for Miami including the game-winner at 18:02 of the third period.
  • Sophomore goaltender Cody Reichard made 24 saves, including one on a penalty shot, to improve to 3-0-1 (technically, he picked up the "and one" when he came into last Saturday's 5-5 tie vs. UNH trailing 5-3.) Reichard's goals against average is a minuscule 1.66 and his save percentage is a robust 92.4. Certainly Cody has not been affected by the BU loss in the national title game, he has been extremely solid.
  • The officiating last night was fairly inconsistent and seemed tilted toward MSU. I know Miami is a very big team, but they seem to draw a disproportionate number of penalties for infractions that, at least to the untrained eye, appear to be committed by both teams. Miami was just 1-8 on the powerplay while MSU cashed in on one of seven chances so it was definitely a penalty-filled affair.
  • There are many things that I am beginning to like about this team. First and foremost is their strength and will to win. They are finding ways to get it done early, late, no matter. The RedHawks are driven with many different contributors every night.
  • Sophomore and reigning CCHA Defensive Player of the Week, Matt Tomassoni, was a healthy scratch last night. Freshman Steve Spinnell took Tomassoni's spot in the lineup.
  • MSU senior goaltender Bobby Jarosz was solid for the Spartans making 26 saves, but to be honest, Miami hit at least 3 posts so he was definitely helped by the iron.
  • Unfortunately, I wasn't in Oxford last night so I watched the game on ONN. OSU radio play-by-play man, Neil Sika, who has been the sideline reporter for ONN's Miami hockey coverage was in the booth next to "Diamond" Dave Allen last night. Neil was a big upgrade and I'd love to see him there every week providing analysis, but I assume he has to manage around OSU broadcasts. However, the Buckeyes did play last night so I guess we got Neil because he is no longer in the booth for them or Ohio State didn't take a broadcast team to Sault Ste. Marie which is common for them on long road trips. Regardless, I hope we get more of him.
  • Another great source for Miami hockey news is the MU Hockey Blog. Alex posted a preview of the series at
  • Full time coverage can be found at
  • Overall against MSU, Miami is just 24-66-5 all time, but current Miami seniors are 6-2. And since 2000, the series is nearly even with MSU holding a 14-12 advantage including a victory in the 2006 CCHA Championship Game in Detroit when Jeff Lerg outdueled Jeff Zatkoff in a 2-1 classic.
  • Much has been made about MSU's epic collapse last season to an unheard of 11th place finish in the CCHA. This season is about redemption for them. There were multiple disciplinary and injury issues last year, but that was by far the worst season I've ever seen out of a Michigan State team. Remember, they won the national title at the end of the 2007 season. Then finish 11th of 12 league teams just two years removed. Fortunately for head coach Rick Comley (Lake Superior '72), his resume speaks for itself. He's led two different schools to national titles (Northern Michigan in 1991 and MSU in 2007) and has a career record that is mind-boggling. Overall in his coaching career, he is 752-586-100 in 37 seasons.
  • The two teams will meet again on Bicentennial Homecoming at Miami. Puck drops at 8:05pm from beautiful Goggin Ice Center and the game will again be televised on ONN throughout the great state of Ohio.
In other action, Ohio State entered the 3rd period in Sault Ste. Marie holding a 2-1 lead over Lake Superior State. However, the Buckeyes were unable to hold the lead, which has been a common occurrence so far this year, and fell 3-2 to the Lakers as junior forward Rick Schofield scored the game-winning goal with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.
  • Ohio State is now 1-4 on the season (0-1 CCHA) while the Lakers continued their strong start moving to 4-1 (1-0).
  • The Buckeyes and Lakers meet again tonight from the Soo at 7:05pm.
Across the nation, there were several good matchups as conference play began in earnest.
  • From Minneapolis, Minn., the #4 Denver Pioneers returned to the win column by defeating the #11 Minnesota Golden Gophers 3-0 in WCHA play. As was the case last Friday in Columbus, junior netminder Marc Cheverie made 30 saves en route to his second consecutive shutout. Cheverie has now made 66 consecutive saves over his last two outings and I would expect to see him in the net tonight from Mariucci Arena as well.
  • From Anchorage, Alaska, the #2 North Dakota Fighting Sioux engineered a dominating performance by defeating the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves 5-0. Freshman goaltender Aaron Dell made his Sioux debut memorable by making just 16 saves to pick up his first win and shutout and five different skaters potted goals for North Dakota.
  • Finally, to round-out CCHA coverage, Ferris State and Western Michigan picked up non-conference wins against Robert Morris and UAH, respectively, while Northern Michigan lost a late lead and settled for a 3-3 tie against last season's Frozen Four surprise, Bemidji State. Notre Dame was unable to build on Tuesday's win against BU and fell at home to BC 3-2. Finally, the Bowling Green Falcons remained winless on the season getting blown out at home by Providence of Hockey East 8-2.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Game 8 recap

A word of warning: reading this game summary may cause nausea. There were highlights and lowlights, the sum of which resulted in a blown 3 goal lead and a 6-4 loss.

It was a roller coaster in Edmonton last night. After establishing a 4-1 lead the Jackets gave up 5 consecutive goals to lose 6-4 to the Oilers. Huselius (2), Torres and Chimera had goals for Columbus. Voracek (0-2-2, +2) was the best forward on the ice for the Jackets.

For Edmonton it was the Dustin Penner Show. Jason Chimera scored a goal at 11:52 into the 2nd period to make it 4-1 Jackets. Only 17 seconds later Penner scored to make it 4-2. Penner (2-3-5, +3) also scored the game tying goal at 6:04 in the third. It was a Power Play goal for the Oilers, one of three on the night. The league's best PK went 4-7.

Gagne, Penner (2), Hemsky, Visnovsky & Nilsson (empty net) had the tallies for Edmonton. Tonight was the first night the Penner-Hemsky-Gagne line played together. They combined for 4g-9a-13p, +7. Edmonton Coach Pat Quinn on the grouping:

"That was a pretty good line tonight," Quinn said. "All three of them were
excellent. They played against that Rick Nash unit
most of the night and seemed to relish in the challenge. I think it helped them
stay sharp. I'm really proud of the way we stuck together as a team and came
back. It was a pretty good result at the end of the night but I don't know if I
want to do that roller coaster every night."

Lack of physicality, turnovers in the neutral zone, and big juicy rebounds doomed the CBJ. While Edmonton may not be as physical as say, Calgary, they are a Western Canada-style team, especially now under Pat Quinn, and their accompanying physical style of play was not matched by the Jackets. Nash had zero points, zero shots on goal, and was a -3. His failure to spot and cover Gagne coming into the slot during the first minute of the game led to the Oilers early first goal. It was not a good game for the Captain, but he was certainly not alone on that front. Forwards could be seen taking their time to come back to the defensive zone affording odd mad opportunities for the Oilers.

Garon looked steady for the first half of the game, including a stretch of a PK where he fought off multiple shots after losing his stick. But as the game wore on the rebounds came out farther and farther and played a role in the Oilers comeback.

While it all ended poorly for the Jackets, the way in which they built their 4-1 lead was impressive. As mentioned above, Voracek was a beast tonight. He was using a combination of speed and strength that only Nash has shown capable of doing until now. His ability to muscle his way to the deep parts of the offensive zone led to two goals, both notched by Huselius. Both Torres' and Chimera's goals came off of hard work keeping the puck in the zone and going hard to the net. They really were well earned goals.

Nash summed it up after the game:

"We really shot ourselves in the foot," Nash said. "We had that game, up 4-1 on
the road. We should definitely have won that. Our power play wasn't very
We have to get over this one quick. We'll move on. It's a long

By all means, let's move on.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ohio State at Lake Superior State - Oct 23-24

Doug Weight. Brian Rolston. Jim Dowd. John Grahame. Bates Battaglia. Ron Mason. Rick Comley. These are just a few of the recognizable names that have graced the campus of Lake Superior State University in Sault Saint Marie, Michigan.

In the late 80s and early 90s the "Soo" was the place to be in college hockey.

In 1988, the Lakers won their first of three national titles in six years by defeating St. Lawrence University in Lake Placid, N.Y. "Miracle" might even have been an appropriate term for the Lakers success because with an enrollment of around 3,000 undergraduates, Lake Superior State is one of the smallest Division I schools to win a national title in any sport.

The 1988 title was overseen by head coach Frank Anzalone, while current Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson piloted the Lakers to three consecutive finals appearances from 1992-1994 winning it all in '92 and '94. Incidentally, the 1993 team lost a 5-4 heartbreaker to Maine or it would have been three straight Soo championships. And, just for the record, that '93 Maine team might have been the best college hockey team of all time. Some guy named Paul Kariya scored 100 points in just 39 games that year with 25 goals and a mind boggling 75 assists to guys like Jim Montgomery and Peter and Chris Ferraro. And, if they couldn't outscore you, they were backstopped by former Team USA Olympic netminders Garth Snow (currently the GM for the New York Islanders) and Mike Dunham.

Maine went 42-1-2 that year. No big deal.

But, after Jackson left Lake State, the program began a sharp decline from which it has been unable to recover. Gone are the prized recruits, the packed Taffy Abel Arena and the masterful coaching legends. Even a second stint by Frank Anzalone behind the bench was not enough to get the program back to its lofty standards earlier this decade. To truly illustrate how dominant Lake Superior was, consider that since 2000, and through last weekend, the Lakers have won 105 games. In the four seasons between 1990 and 1994, the year of their last national title, they won 129 games. To say the current decade has been "lost" might be an understatement.

Lakers coach Jim Roque (LSSU '87) is entering his 5th season behind the bench in the Soo. He has compiled a respectable 60-74-25 record and has stabilized the program. Entering this weekend's series against Ohio State, the Lakers have won 3 of their first 4 games including a split in the Superior Showcase which features Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech, Minnesota-Duluth and Lake Superior State. The Lakers fell to Duluth, but bounced back to defeat Michigan Tech, both of the WCHA. Last weekend, Lake State swept Canisius of Atlantic Hockey by scores of 5-4 and 3-0.

The Lakers (3-1, 0-0) look to be built from the net out. They return seven of their top eight defensemen from last season and a solid, experienced goaltender. However, putting the puck in the net could be a challenge. The Lakers lost three of their top five goal scorers from a year ago, and only senior Zac MacVoy (Livonia, Mich.) and sophomore Fred Cassiani (Toronto, Ont.) scored at least 10 goals last season. Currently, Lake is led by reigning CCHA Rookie of the Week Domenic Monardo (Oakville, Ont.) and his four assists and five points. Senior Brad Cooper (Coppell, Tex.) has a team-best two goals and is one of four Lakers with four points this season. In net, the Lakers feature dependable junior Brian Mahoney-Wilson (West Roxbury, Mass.) who has started all four games and has a 2.26 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. Last season, the Lakers finished just 11-20-8 overall and failed to secure home ice in the first round of the CCHA playoffs by finishing 10th the regular season. However, the Lakers were in most of their games and this year must find a way to win the close ones. They were a disappointing 1-12 in games decided by one goal - no way to go through life in the ultra-competitive CCHA.

Head coach Jim Roque feels the Lakers can improve this year by becoming a more aggressive hockey team, something he feels has been lacking over the past few seasons.

“I think if anything, we’re a little disappointed in how maybe we’ve gotten a little bit passive the last two years with our game, and I think right now we’re looking to going back to more of how we played a couple years back — a little more aggressive, a little more of in-your-face hockey,” Roque said. “I thought maybe we got a little too conservative the last two seasons.

“I wouldn’t blame that on the players. That’s obviously a coaching decision; you want to be more conservative or you’re trying to win games with a little different style and that’s something that I’ve reevaluated this season and trying to get our guys to go again.”[USCHO]

Ohio State (1-3, 0-0) started the new season slowly but last weekend's home split vs. then #3 Denver should help the squad build confidence in their game.

On Friday, it was the Pioneers seizing early control of the game in front of another sparse crowd at Value City Arena winning 2-0. Denver goaltender Marc Cheverie made 36 saves en route to his fifth career shutout. Read the recap of Friday's game here.

The Buckeyes turned the tables on Saturday night picking up their first victory of 2009-10 shutting out the Pioneers 4-0 at Nationwide Arena. Sophomore goaltender Cal Heeter made 39 saves for his first career shutout and the Buckeyes received goals from Taylor Stefishen, Zac Dalpe, Shane Sims and an empty netter from C.J. Severyn. If Dalpe can get it going, it should ease the pressure on John Albert who has yet to really get untracked this season. Interestingly, two of Heeter's three career wins have come against the Pioneers and it was the Buckeyes' first shutout since January 3 vs. Clarkson in the final of the Ohio Hockey Classic. In two starts this year, Heeter has a 1.01 goals-against average and .970 save percentage.

Currently, the Buckeyes are led offensively by junior defenseman Shane Sims who has a point in three of four games this year and checks in at 2-2-4. Last season, Sims led all Buckeye defensemen with 24 points. On Saturday, he scored his second shorthanded goal of his career.

The series between Ohio State and Lake Superior is one of dramatic streaks. Knowing how great the Lakers were in the 80s and 90s, it should come as no surprise that the Lakers absolutely dominated this series posting a 19-0-3 record against the Buckeyes from 1992-1997. However, Ohio State has turned things around over the past several years going 20-6-2 against Lake State including a 1-1 mark last season. Overall, Lake Superior leads the all-time series 69-53-9 including 41-25-4 in Sault Ste. Marie.

Fearless predictions -

Lake Superior is off to a "superior" start. However, they have only played one truly good team and dropped that game (another one goal loss) at Minnesota-Duluth. On the other hand, the Buckeyes suffered an opening weekend sweep to unheralded Quinnipiac before finally getting their first win last weekend in their fourth game of the season. I'm going to pick a Buckeye sweep thinking that the current series history combined with Ohio State's better personnel will carry them this weekend.

Buckeyes 4-2, 3-1

Afternoon Scrum 10/22/09

Just a few links for you today as the real story is the game preview (aka Four Lines Deep) posted by Stick on the Ice, found below. BTW there is no truth to the rumor that Stick on the Ice is the love child of Dances with Wolves and Stands with a Fist. Or is there?
  • First off is the Edmonton Journal with their preview of tonite's game. Check it out here. No Sheldon Souray (and his ridiculous blueline slapper) in tonite's lineup. So sad. And for good measure here is TSN's look at this evenings game.
  • Here is the Dispatch's perspective of the game.
  • I don't know about you, but I love John Buccigross. When ESPN had hockey, he was outstanding on NHL 2Nite, and his weekly hockey column on has been a favorite read of mine for years. Now I love him even more. Noting that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are past their primes may be a bit of a stretch, but I love him for saying it anyways. Go Bucci Go.

Four Lines Deep - 10/22/09

This edition of Four Lines Deep includes a special Calgary game wrap-up bonus feature:

  • Tuesday's 6-3 loss in the Saddledome was a lot like my recent experience with the lion exhibit at the zoo. It started with disappointment and frustration to see such a great predator sound asleep and doing nothing. Then, I felt a quick burst of excitement when the lion arose from its nap and started to walk around the enclosure with some sense of purpose. However, in the end, the lion just took a long piss and went back to sleep.

Photo: Former Jacket Gilbert Brule has been drawing praise for going hard to the net.

First Line: Keep the CBJ alumni off the board. Seriously. Glencross scored on the Jackets early in the first on Tuesday night, and it ignited both he and the crowd. Gilbert Brule - the very same player who was horribly allergic to goals while in Columbus - has found a new home and really started to fulfill some of his potential. He clearly benefitted from spending time in the AHL last year. He's scoring at a point-per-game pace (4g; 3a) and has already won over many of the very discerning fans in Edmonton. According to Edmonton hockey blog, Lowetide, Gilbert Brule is sick and didn't participate in practice on Wednesday. So perhaps that takes care of the first line?

Second Line: Keep the Young Guns Shooting. One of the few positives that came out of Tuesday's loss to Calgary were Voracek and Brassard scoring goals. This should pay big dividends for the Jackets. Voracek played with even greater intensity after scoring on the 5-on-3, which says a lot, and he needs to continue going hard to the net. Brassard immediately followed his goal with the assist to Voracek, so he should have an increasing level of confidence in his game. Confidence is such an enormous factor with young players, and he is building some at precisely the right time for this club -- he is obviously crucial to maximizing the goal scoring potential on the PP and first line.

Speaking of young players' confidence, Filatov is (almost) certain to be lacing his skates and it will be very interesting to see how he responds to multiple healthy scratches. He doesn't have to score to get his confidence going, but he has to be involved with the game. A couple of solid scoring opportunities would be adequate for tonight's game, but he'll still need to prove his commitment to Hitch for playing in all three zones.

Third Line: Harness the energy. Torres and Chimera are two veteran leaders on the team - and both spent significant time in the Edmonton organization - they need to skate with extra intensity. They both have the power to inspire the third and fourth lines, and the Jackets can establish a real advantage over Edmonton if they're rolling four rough lines. Garon, who is starting in net tonight, also used to be with the Edmonton organization. We can't expect another shutout, but he should be sharp. Hitch spent a lot of time in the Edmonton area, and you know this game has a little extra meaning for him. If the Jackets diverge from their brand of hockey at any point in the game, I suspect there will be a little extra salt in Hitch's bench talk.

Fourth Line: Special teams have to remain strong. The PP is gaining momentum and clicking at a solid 25%.  The Jackets were much more effective at gaining the zone and keeping a good flow to the PP on Tuesday. My only concern is that we still receive a lot of passes on the points and have to take an extra touch to settle the puck. The Jackets have to be in position to maximize the one-timer opportunities on the point. That being said, the puck movement and shot generation has been much better and Stralman's right-handed shot is really a difference maker. Let's hope Juice handles the puck much better this evening whenever he finds himself on the point.

Winning faceoffs in special teams situations is obviously critical. With the notable exception of Brassard (1/6), Murray, Umberger, Pahlsson and Vermette all won 50% or more of their draws in Calgary. Brassard needs to be better, and the other centers need to keep up that level of performance. Edmonton only has three forwards with 50 percent or better faceoff win percentage. Neither the powerplay (17.9%) , nor the penalty kill (79.3%) have been spectacular for Edmonton, so the Jackets look favorable in special teams situations. However, the Oil has been playing well at home, already earning a 4-1 record in Rexall Place.

On a completely unrelated note, Rimer's goatee has affectionately been nicknamed, "The Six Hole" by the staff of Jackets Required, and will be refenced as such from this point forward. Carry the Flag.