Monday, December 21, 2009

Four Lines Deep - 12/21/09

Blue Jackets at Coyotes; Arena
9 p.m. (EST); Fox Sports Ohio

The Jackets are in desperate need of a road win in Phoenix.

The Minnesota Wild recently lost much of their team's equipment in a van fire. While in Phoenix, Columbus should consider burning its equipment and watching something better arise from the ashes. Or maybe not. Ok, here we go then.

This season, two of the three games against Phoenix - including the game played in Columbus last week - have been very close and competitive. Phoenix has an identity to its club, and it has been forged through a commitment to defense-first hockey. With an equal number of games played, the Coyotes have surrended 43 fewer goals than the Jackets and have the luxury of two very solid netminders. Bear in mind, the back-up LaBarbera has earned both of his victories against Columbus this season. The Coyotes are starting a three-game homestand tonight after losing on the road to Anaheim, 4-2. Phoenix took nine penalties in the game. More on that later.

The Jackets' identity is very Zen-like....their identity is to have no identity. Presently, this is confusing to both the fans and the coaches, because nobody seems to know which Jackets team is going to show up on any given night.

The Jackets surrendered four goals within the first 10 minutes of the game in Colorado on Saturday night. There has been much discussion about the desperate nature of things within the blogosphere, including Puck Rakers, but I'm just getting exhausted by it. If this team wants to make the playoffs, they have to play to their potential. Right now. It's just that simple. As has been stated on JR before, the team just needs some on-ice leaders to emerge.

The good news is that according to Puck Rakers, the players are fed up and ready to start winning. Passionate and honest speeches were made behind closed doors, and Hitch has put both Garon and Mason on equal footing -- if you win, you play. That's a pretty powerful message to send to the team. Garon is getting the start, which isn't much of a surprise given Mason's horrid showing in Colorado and Garon's solid play against Phoenix this season.  Given recent history in this matchup, here are some keys to getting two points:

  • It looks like Bryzgalov is getting the start tonight, so the Jackets will have to throw plenty of pucks at the net. He has been solid all season and owns one of the best save percentages in the league. The Jackets have been doing a good job on the powerplay of getting pucks to the net with traffic in front for re-direct chances and rebounds. It would be great to see that happening in five-on-five as well, but that will mean the Jackets have to lead a sustained cycling attack around the net. Phoenix does a good job of clearing the defensive zone quickly, so that's no easy task for the Jackets tonight.
  • The Jackets have to get physical. Will somebody - anybody - punch somebody in the face? I'd love to see Commodore or Blunden drop the gloves. If the Jackets are going to lose, let's at least make sure the other team knows they were in a hockey game. The Jackets have plenty of size to make their presence felt. At the very least, it could entice the Coyotes to take some bad penalties. The Coyotes have been taking a lot of penalties in the last few games, which is not typical of their style. Let's hope that's the beginning of a trend that carries over into this evening. Their PK was carved up by Anaheim in the last game. Lots of penalties reflect some laziness and poor decision making - and that could open up more opportunities for the potent Jackets PP unit. Yes, I just used potent and Jackets in the same sentence.
  • I feel compelled to say that the Jackets have to start in not allowing four goals in the first 10 minutes. A couple of good scoring opportunities in the first five minutes will energize the whole team and hopefully set the tone for the whole game, and I wouldn't mind seeing somebody drop the gloves or plant somebody in the boards to start the game. I see Jake Voracek having a unique opportunity to make this statement - he'll be seeing time on the first line and could both lay a bit hit and generate a solid scoring opportunity right out of the gate. Phoenix has just come off a four-game road trip on Saturday night, so it's likely they could still have some heavy legs.

No comments:

Post a Comment