Wednesday, December 2, 2009

CBJ Week In Review 11/23 - 11/29

*Note – In lieu of individual game summaries that can be found at Puck Rakers,,, etc., Jackets Required has decided to re-cap Blue Jackets games and address the trends a week at a time. The Week In Review will normally run on Monday mornings and cover games from the previous Monday – Sunday. The CBJ’s 3 points in Monday & Tuesday’s games will be covered next Monday and might take a little sting out of this late post.

The Columbus Blue Jackets entered the week of November 23rd two games into their season-long, five game road trip. Earning three out of four possible points in those first two games and being at the top of the Central Division had Jacketland pumped going into five games in seven nights.

And then……reality.

Monday the CBJ went into storied Madison Square Garden and quickly put two goals on the board in the first courtesy of fourth liners MacKenzie and Boll. The natives were voicing their displeasure and Rangers coach John Tortorella called timeout to settle his troops. Apparently, he told them that they were going to play football the rest of the way with the Blue Jackets as the Rangers broke the huddle and hung a touchdown (PAT was good) on the CBJ.

Bad bounces, bad defensive pinches, bad changes led to breakaways and odd man rushes, all of which found the back of the net. Steve Mason endured the first four goals before Garon stepped in to absorb the punishment. Fortunately neither goalie was burned by the frequency and intensity of the goal light behind them. Juice scored a late second period goal and Jake Voracek added a goal the third to make the score look closer than it was. The CBJ boarded Stinger One, flew across the border and hoped to forget about the nightmare 24 hours later against Montreal.

Playing in an original six city for the second night in a row, the Jackets hoped to resume their dominance of the Eastern Conference over the last two seasons. Instead, the Jackets gave up two leads and goaltender Carey Price made 33 saves to shut the door on Columbus. Vermette had two goals and defenseman Anton Strahlman added another but it wasn’t enough as the home team prevailed 5-3. The trip is now 1-2-1 with the finale in Ottawa in two nights.

In Ottawa, the Jackets took another first period lead when Juice beat Brian Elliot. Sound familiar? Less than a minute later the Jackets lost that lead when Jason Spezza scored on Mase. Sound familiar? Nick Foligno added the game winner on the power play in the third period. Mason and the rest of the Jackets were much better than they had been in the first two games of the week, but still couldn’t get it done. Just like that, a once promising road trip ended with three straight regulation defeats and a 2002-esque 1-3-1 record. Not good. Not good at all.

The most painful game of the week was actually one where the CBJ actually pulled a point. Goals by Nash, Methot and Boll gave the CBJ a 3-1 lead at home after 54 minutes of beautiful Hitchcockian Hockey. And just as the Nationwide Arena was starting to rock, the Jackets lost two board battles behind the net and the Flames put two shots past a confused Mase to knot the score up. You could feel the frustration in Jacketland. An overtime or shootout win would be the only thing that could salvage the evening.

Things looked good early as both Juice and Nash scored in their shootout attempts (Nash’s was sans the ‘Captain Morgan’ leg kick this time), but Mase couldn’t get it done in the shootout as Mike Camalleri and Olli Jokinen both went five hole for relatively easy goals. After Fedor Tyutin mishandled his attempt, Jerome Iginla stepped over the boards with a chance to win. He beat Mason but rang the crossbar. Surprise entry Strahlman made Hitch’s hunch look dumb when he went sliding feet first into Flames goaltender Curtis McElhinney with the puck behind him. Jaime Lundmark beat Mase and joyful facewashes ensued in the Calgary celebration.

They took two road points from the CBJ in their third game in four nights and second game in less than 24 hours…..with their backup goaltender. Ouch. CBJ 0-2-1 for the week.

Late that evening, my half asleep four-year old son came looking for me. I was watching an old ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ episode when Little Pepper crawled into the recliner with me he began to ask some questions that make sense to a four year old at 2 a.m. He then asked, ‘Did the Jackets win?’ I told him they lost in a shootout and the little guy woke up a little and in a bewildered voice asked, ‘Why do they keep Losing, Daddy?’ I had a good laugh and some hunches, but no answers for him.

The Hunches:

  • Let’s face it folks, Steve Mason is struggling with his confidence and his confidence with some of those in front of him. Bad decisions in front of him have led to some spectacularly easy goals for the opposition and it’s eating a competitor like Mase. In turn, he’s not locked in on what he needs to do and is letting in the occasional softie.
  • Injuries to Death (Commodore) and Taxes (Hejda) have left the CBJ without a lockdown duo that Hitch loves to send out on the ice in the waning minutes to close a game out. Death and Taxes have been in the lineup, but they haven’t been nearly as effective as they were last year. The good news is that with the Olympic influenced schedule, they will get the opportunity to play themselves back into condition very quickly.
  • 5 on 5 play and the Penalty Kill, both strong suits of the CBJ last year, have taken a hit. Injuries to Death & Taxes have played into these two areas as well, but the Jackets have also been guilty of trying to be too aggressive on the offensive and paid for it in transition the other way. It’s obvious the Jackets believe they can score in bunches and everyone has wanted to get involved on the offensive end. Problem is, they’ve been made to pay for a lot of those gambles that haven’t panned out….especially recently.
  • Too many guys have been invisible over the past few games. Guys like Chimera, Tyutin, Brassard, and Tyutin have disappeared. This is to be expected with a young team and is part of the process as Hitch likes to say.
No Rest for the Weary....Games This Week:
  • Monday vs. St. Louis
  • Tuesday @ Chicago
  • Thursday vs. Toronto
  • Saturday vs. Colorado

1 comment:

  1. Nice! Little Pepper nailed it. From the mouths of babes...I'm sure that Little Top Shelf will have equal wisdom to share with us.