Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Four Lines Deep - 11/24/09

Columbus Blue Jackets at Montreal Canadiens; Bell Centre
7:30 p.m. (EST); Fox Sports Ohio/TSN (HD)

Former CBJ blueliner Jaroslav Spacek, pictured above, is logging more than 20 minutes per game and is (+6).

That game in New York was so painful to watch that I find myself unable to write down coherent thoughts. So I shall projectile hurl them across the keyboard, as the Jackets have just done in Madison Square Garden.

The Habs currently sit in fourth in the Northeast. Monteal had a two-game winning streak going before losing to Detroit in an overtime shootout on Saturday night. Montreal is starting to find some consistency to its game, and is playing .500 hockey thus far. However, it's important to note that five consecutive losses happened in October. Since that time, the Habs haven't lost more than two in a row.

From a stats perspective, this Montreal team is fairly unspectacular. The PK is in the middle of the pack, and the powerplay is in the lower third of the league. They don't have an abundance of firepower and also rank in the bottom third for goals scored.

There has been some drama in Montreal, with the five game suspension of Georges Laraque for his hit on Niklas Kronwall on Saturday.  Kronwall will be out of the lineup at least a month.

Montreal only has four players with five or more goals. Cammalleri leads the team with 11. Again, the Jackets are facing a team with only one bona fide scoring threat, but that doesn't seem to matter too much. Only the slumping Carolina Hurricanes have given up more goals than the Jackets (79). Clearly, they can't take anyone lightly as a scoring threat.

The Jackets folded the house pretty early in the game last night, so it will be interesting to see how they respond. Neither Mason nor Garon looked especially sharp in net in New York, although the majority of the players simply didn't give any energy to the game. Boll was certainly the exception. Garon will be playing in front of friends and family, so he should bring some extra energy to the game.

However, that point will be null and void if the first line doesn't show up. Nash and Juice didn't contribute a whole lot the game last night, nor did they in Nashville. They are both playing very well overall, and I'm sure they'll bounce back tonight. Vermette has been brutalized in the last two games -- it seemed as if he was completely unprepared for the competitive pace of the game. He needs to get focused and bring a more physical game to bear. He needs to be every bit as good of a defensemen as a forward when he's on the ice, and he needs to check the body to fill that role.

Simply put, the Jackets have to find out how to get motivated. It doesn't appear as though the team has an answer when the "leaders" don't show up for a game. Only one-quarter through the season, this team has given up some hideous blowout losses. As a fan, it's perplexing because there wasn't a huge shift in personnel during the off-season, and these kind of losses just didn't happen last year. Regardless, the team responded well after the Detroit massacre, so hopefully the same will happen again this evening. It can't be too hard to play in front of an energetic crowd in Montreal. If you love hockey, it's one of the world's premier stages -- regardless of the standings.

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