Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Four Lines Deep - 12/29/09

Blue Jackets at NY Islanders; Nassau Coliseum
7 p.m. (EST); Fox Sports Ohio

The Jackets will see if they can maintain the winning formula tonight in Long Island.

Bet you didn't expect a physics formula, did you? I really have no idea what this even means, nor how it translates into hockey, but I certainly got the impression that the Jackets started figuring out how to win some games after last night's thrilling OT victory over Detroit.

They out-hit the Wings. They drove to the net with purpose. They were solid on the PK and moved the puck very well on the PP. Mason was tremendous. It was classic Hithcock/CBJ hockey. There has already been plenty of discussion about the impact of the Chimera trade. What can't be denied is that the Jackets showed up last night and played 60 minutes of solid hockey. Can that be sustained? It's likely that Clark and Jurcina will work their way into the lineup tonight, so it will be interesting to see how that affects the chemistry.

At this point, I think it's a lot more difficult to determine who sits on the blueline to make way for Jurcina than it is for the forwards. Stralman played a great game last night and he moved the puck very well on the powerplay. Tyutin looked more dependable and his slapshot was really going. Roy is playing extremely well -- he's in my top four right now. Hejda was blocking shots and throwing his body around -- he's coming back into form. Russell is necessary to skate the puck out of trouble and gain the zone in transition -- so that leaves Commodore as the odd man out. Puck Rakers reported that Russell would be on the bench for Jurcina, but I don't see the advantage to that. Jurcina is basically the same type of player as Commodore - big body best used behind the red line. The Islanders have a terrible PK unit (bottom five in the league) and I think Russell -- if nothing else -- helps a lot on the PP unit. We'll see what happens tonight.

The Jackets actually have a good history against the Islanders (7-1-2), but they are surely a little tired after the high-energy OT game against Detroit. The Islanders have an identical record to the Jackets (15-18-7) and the exact same goal differential (-28). They are another team being led by young players --with first-round pick Tavares being the most notable. He leads the Isles with 16 goals and 28 points, although he's in a bit of a slump right now. The Isles really depend upon he and Moulson to score, and the two have only combined for 1 goal in the last eight games. Let's hope they don't break out of the slump with a few goals like so many scorers have done to the Jackets this year. Shutting down these two will go a long way in getting the Jackets two points tonight.

The Jackets have a definitive edge in special teams. I wouldn't be surprised to the Jackets' PP unit do some damage tonight, as they were moving the puck really well against Detroit and developing some great scoring opportunities. Roloson will be in goal -- he's been pretty dependable with DiPietro out to injury, and has a .910 SV pct. He has 17 wins. He is also 40 years old and isn't getting tremendous support from the blueline. For example,  Brendan Witt is (-20). Wow.

The bottom line is that the Islanders are mired in a scoring slump - much as the Jackets are - because their young players (Tavares, Okposo) are struggling with the compressed Olympic schedule. As a side note, I can't wait for the Olympics to be concluded. I think it's messed with a lot of player's heads. I'm sure it will be amazing to watch, but I'm just sayin'...Moving right along -- if Mase shows up like he did last night, the Jackets have a very good chance to win this game. Further, the defense has to replicate their play from last night. They jumped on loose pucks, kept their sticks active and did a good job of forcing the opposing forwards to the outside. The big question mark is obviously how Jurcina will fit into the lineup and how quickly he can develop some chemistry with his partner.

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