Saturday, October 24, 2009

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.

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