Thursday, October 22, 2009

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.

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