Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Four Lines Deep - 1/5/10

Blue Jackets at Canucks; GM Place
10 p.m. (EST); Radio (seriously?)

The Jackets scoring drought has reached a club record 10 games.

I took a few days of vacation from the Jackets, hoping that they would figure things out for a New Year's push. Umm....yeah. So here we are for the first road trip of 2010 and it starts in a most unhospitable venue. Perhaps it's a mixed blessing that this game isn't televised. And perhaps that's me trying to justify not being able to watch my team on television.  I digress.

The toothless Jackets are facing a red-hot Luongo to start a three-game Western Canadian road trip. The Canucks currently sit in third place in the brutal Northwest Division with 51 points. The teams have gone in vastly different directions since the Jackets last visited Vancouver in October, and as proof, the Canucks have a very respectable goals differential of +29. By comparison, the Jackets are -31.

I am still behind the Jackets and always will be. However, breaking down strategy at this point seems a little too ambitious. The Jackets just have to find a way to win on the road. There is little hope of this season being salvaged, but if the faint glimmer of promise is going to be fulfilled, then they will have to start gaining a lot of points on the road. It should be a pretty simple game for the guys in the Jackets locker room right now -- and as such, I've broken down some telling points simply into "Good News" and "Bad News."

Good News: Luongo has not played well against the Jackets recently. In fact, he is 1-3-2 in his last six and has a 3.47 GAA.

Bad News: The PK unit for Vancouver has been brilliant and killed off 36 of the last 40 attempts. If the powerplay has been the sip of cactus water for the drought-afflicted Jackets, they will go thirsty unless they can generate some even strength goals.

Good News: The Jackets' PK and defensive pairings have been playing much better. Turnovers have decreased, checking has increased and Mason is rounding back into the form he showed last year. Mason seems to elevate his game when he's across the ice from Luongo and he made 40 saves in his last trip to Vancouver. I'm not really sure what to make of Commodore taking himself out of the lineup -- one would hope that it sets a standard in the locker room that a salary and a "big" name mean nothing if you can't provide 100 percent on the ice. This odd development also gives Roy a better chance to show what he can bring to the blueline.

Bad News: The Canucks are smoking right now and they are tough to beat at home (16-6). They just finished a 4-game road trip at 3-0-1 and their scoring leaders routinely rough up the Jackets. Henrik Sedin in particular is playing well right now and earned six points on the road trip. He already has 55 points. Wow.

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