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!

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