Thursday, November 5, 2009

Four Lines Deep - 11/5/09

Blue Jackets @ Atlanta Thrashers
7 p.m. EST;  Fox Sports Ohio (HD)

Former CBJ blueliner Ron Hainsey went to Hotlanta and lost his helmet.

VERY brief Four Lines Deep today. In fact, so brief that there aren't four lines. If the Jackets can build momentum from a loss, they did last night against the San Jose Sharks. San Jose is arguably the best team in the league right now, and the Jackets gave them all they could handle until it was settled in the shootout. The Thrashers started the season strong, and have really been a bit of a surprise thus far. They've only played 11 games, but have already earned 13 points. The Thrashers have been decimated by injuries, but have still managed two road wins in the past week at Ottawa and Montreal.

First Line: Turn on the power.  Playing aggressive forechecking hockey will guarantee 3-5 opportunities for the PP units. Even without Brassard or Juice in the lineup last night, the Jackets moved the puck very effectively on the points and created gorgeous scoring opportunities. The powerplay in the second period - in which Nash threaded the tying goal - was probably the best powerplay I've seen from the team in three years. Highlight reel stuff. They have achieved an excellent balance between puck movement and shot generation. Hopefully, that momentum can continue into this evening.

Second Line: Play with control.  Even with a rash of injuries, Atlanta has a very effective powerplay. They are currently converting at 27.5%, which makes them one of the top five in the league. The PK unit for the Jackets is obviously stronger with the return of Hejda, but the Jackets don't want to rely upon that. Hejda is still rounding back into shape, Commodore is likely out again, and Garon hasn't played for awhile. The Jackets will be lagging after such a tough game last night and need to strike a balance with controlled aggression in all three zones.

Third Line: Continue to feast on the East.  Whether it be reduced travel time, a different style of hockey, or just old fashioned confidence, the Jackets play very well against Eastern Conference teams. As was cited by Puck Rakers this week, the Jackets currently hold the best record in the Western Conference versus Eastern Conference teams.  Mason, Vermette and Umberger really elevate their games against Eastern Conference teams. With Garon in the lineup, Vermette and Umberger will need to continue that trend. However, Garon has spent significant time - as recently as last year - playing in the East, so one would hope that he is reasonably familiar with some of the opposing forwards already.  The Jackets' style of hockey is apparently very effective at dictating the pace of the game versus Eastern teams. However, that is dependent upon keeping opposing forwards to the outside and jamming the neutral zone -- both of which will be dependent upon a high-energy style. It's been awhile since the Jackets played a back-to-back, and I'm very curious to see if they can maintain the commitment to their style of hockey that we've seen during the last three games.

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