AP Photo

On a night when the Jackets were ten minutes late to their own party, Matt Calvert stole the show. The game started as oh-so-many this year, down in an 0-2 hole just eight minutes into the game after a couple of unfortunate, ugly goals. But RJ Umberger’s 20th goal got them on the board and Jakub Voracek’s twelfth tied it up at two late in the first.

It would be a brand new game when the puck dropped for the second period. And that’s when Calvert took over. His first, a power play goal, came when Kris Russell circled the net with the puck and tossed it to him in the right circle. Calvert moved in and popped a shot over the shoulder of Ilya Bryzgalov. Six minutes later, Calvert batted the puck out of the air and past Bryzgalov to give the Jackets a 4-2 lead.

Onto the third period, he would waste no time getting that third goal. He batted his own rebound into the net to give the Jackets their fifth goal. It was a natural hat trick for the kid with perhaps the most natural, gritty talent. They barely flinched when Phoenix got another goal late. By then, Steve Mason had turned away 25 shots en route to his 22nd win of the season, already two more than he had last season.

Calvert notched his 7th, 8th, and 9th goals and now has 13 points in just 20 games in the NHL. Umberger’s goal and two assists bring him to 46 on the year, and Derek MacKenzie had another big game on a line with Umberger and Calvert, adding two assists to his total. With Huselius and Brassard out, the juxtaposed second line is a veteran in Umberger, a journeyman bubble-guy in MacKenzie, and a rookie who obviously loves what he’s doing in Calvert. It’s not an accident that they combined for four goals and five assists last night. They’ve got something going right: their ability to battle for pucks that is sometimes lacking up top.

Where we stand: 31-23-6 (68pts), 12th place, -2 8th place Chicago
What’s next: Sunday at Nashville, 3pm

Notes: At the noon today, the Jackets picked up former Sabres captain Craig Rivet, who will wear #52. Rivet, a defenseman, has 236 points in 909 career games … Calvert was named one of the NHL’s Three Stars for his effort last night. He was only the second rookie in franchise history to net a hat trick, the other being Nikita Filatov in 2009 … “Matt Calvert” was briefly trending worldwide on Twitter during the game.

[Note: Apologies for the lack of Game 59 post. Got home late, have been ill, let it be known the game was phenomenal.]

It is no secret that the Columbus Blue Jackets are not fond of the month of December. After closing up November’s schedule, the Union blue were 14-8 and earning 63.6% of the points available to them (28 of 44).

Over the next six weeks – they would go 6-12-3, earning only 15 of a possible 42 points – or 35.7%.

Since the ‘Money on the Board’ movement and the monumental weekend over Detroit, the Jackets have gone 10-3-3. 23 of a possibly 32 points, or 71.8%. If you deduct the six week slide from the overall numbers, they’ve earned 55 of a possible 76, which is a .671 win percentage.

So, go out on a limb here, and suppose the slide had not happened and they had maintained the .671 over the course of the entire season.

0.671 x 59 games played thus far = 39.5 wins, or 79.2 points.

Where does that put them? Well, look at the standings.

It speaks for itself.

Buckle up, Jackets fans. The trade deadline is looming, Howson’s admitted to being a buyer, and the Blue Jackets are flourishing. This ain’t even close to over.

-

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty

Let’s talk about that win over Chicago.

First of all, let’s reiterate, it was a win over Chicago. Those always feel good, even if the teams are in a virtual tie this season and it wasn’t last year’s Stanley Cup monster. Patrick Sharp scored two goals, giving him seven for the year against the Union Blue. And the Blackhawks still lost. This is so very satisfying.

Even Anton Stralman scored a goal! Wait, what? That promised “offensive defenseman” who threatened arbitration because he thought he was worth so much money and has gone on to score exactly zero goals this season and has instead been a defensive liability? Oh yes, him! He finally scored a goal! The game-winning goal, to be specific. So props to him, at least for that.

For the 2,312,857th time: how good is Matt Calvert? Oh-so-very good. Can he be cloned? The kid has hustle and determination, and he doesn’t really care if you want to take a piggyback ride on him through two zones, he’s going to go ahead and score on your goalie anyway.

And props to Kris Russell, who saved Steve Mason‘s rear end big time tonight by whisking away what could have been a game-crushing goal for Chicago.

Instead of studs and duds, let’s just go ahead and give everybody a group butt-pat and enjoy the taste of those lovely two points. Sit the playoff discussion aside for an evening, stop the scoreboard watching, let’s just enjoy the way this team is playing right now. It feels good.

In case you missed it: Rookie John Moore played in Chicago as Marc Methot was out with an injury … Derek Dorsett was IRed to make room for him, but Moore was reassigned after the game … Derek Brassard is currently on the IR with a hand injury … Ethan Moreau (remember him?) was reactivated and played last night … the Jackets set a franchise record with their sixth straight road victory and have points in their last eight road games (courtesy of the Dispatch).

Where we stand: 29-23-6 (64 points), -4 8th place Anaheim
What’s next: Tuesday vs Nashville, 7pm, huge four-pointer

Photo: Paul Vernon/AP Photo

In a game started already short their third line right winger Derek Dorsett, injury trouble was the last thing the Columbus Blue Jackets needed. On his first shift of the night, Derick Brassard was hit in the hand and would be lost at least for the immediate future. Not long after, RJ Umberger went down with an apparent knee injury. It looked grim for the Jackets, especially after a Justin Williams goal put the Kings ahead 1-0 on the scoreboard.

As they so often have this year, the Jackets regrouped and recovered. Jakub Voracek notched his eleventh goal of the season, assists going to Rick Nash and – wait for it – Derek MacKenzie. D-Mac jumped up from the fourth to the first line after two of the top six went down, and looked fantastic beside Jake and the Cap’n.

 In the second period, Loktionov put the Kings back ahead, but Nash made it look easy when he roofed a shot past Jonathan Quick, again assisted by temporary first liner MacKenzie. Tie game, end of two.

 Drew Doughty’s (boy, wouldn’t we love to have this guy) eighth goal of the season put the Kings ahead for the third time in the game, and for much of the third period it looked as if it would stay that way. Umberger returned to the game and the first line, but their shots weren’t getting through traffic, even on 1:53 of 5-on-3 power play.

 With just over a minute to go, Mathieu Garon was headed to the bench at precisely the moment Kris Russell flipped a backhander past Quick to tie the game once again. Russell, the object of many a Puck Rakers commenters’ ire for his lack of Mike Green-ness, scored his first goal since December 6th.

 On to overtime. Each time got two shots, but nothing materialized in the extra frame, and the shootout would decide this game. The Jackets were unable to get anything past Quick except for Matt Calvert himself, which to the dismay of many did not actually count. Jarret Stoll scored on Garon to seal the victory for LA.

The Jackets were far from dominant, but they were resilient tonight. In a game spent without two of their top six, at least for the majority of the time, they were able to keep the game from spiraling out of control. One point in the stands beats a goose egg, but two would’ve been twice as nice.

Tonight’s Stud: Derek MacKenzie. He saw 17:12, and was 0-2-2 with +2 and 7 hits. Very effective in his opportunity to jump up with the big boys.
Tonight’s Dud: Mathieu Garon. Specifically on the third goal, Garon was soft on the puck and sloppy. Out of character for him lately.

Where we stand: 28-23-6, 62 points, 12th place (-5, 8th place Los Angeles)
What’s next: Friday at Chicago, 8:30pm Eastern

Other notes:
The Jackets assigned D John Moore to Springfield on Tuesday. Klesla is a week or more away from playing, but the rookie needed the playing time Anton Stralman’s heightened play would not allow him.
— Derek Dorsett is hurt, but nobody’s quite sure how bad. He skated today, so it must be manageable. Though Dorsett would probably skate sans head if he could.

Photo: AP Photo/LM Otero

It was not Fedor Tyutin’s day, but luckily for the Columbus Blue Jackets, it was Steve Mason’s. Tyutin took three penalties in the game, the first of which turned into a Brad Richards goal from the corner. Luckily for the Jackets, Matt Calvert popped a Kari Lehtonen rebound right past him and into a wide-open net. Calvert looked good in his spot duty on the second line during Kristian Huselius’ temporary demotion, but since returning to the fourth line has elevated the play of the trio with Derek MacKenzie and Jared Boll.

The game would move into the second period in a 1-1 tie until Rick Nash did his Tricky Ricky thing and deked Lehtonen into sprawling across the crease so he could roof it. 2-1 Jackets, and that’s where the score would stay. Lehtonen was very good in the game, turning away 37 of 39 shots, but Steve Mason stood tall and turned away 29 of 30 at the other end. Mason has been very good lately, winning four of his last five starts, 7-3-1 in his last 11, allowing three goals or less in all but two of those.

And how about Anton Stralman? Since John Moore was up to fill the spot vacated by Rusty Klesla and his ailing knee, Stralman has elevated his play to a whole new level. He’s been solid, both on offense and defense, and helped set up Calvert’s goal early in the game. Hopefully as Moore returns to Springfield and Klesla becomes healthy, Stralman’s game remains solid.

Today’s Stud: Steve Mason (29/30, .967)
Today’s Dud: Fedor Tyutin (6PIM). Luckily for him, the PK was 5 of 6.

Where we stand: 28-23-5, 61 points, -4 from 8th place Minnesota
What’s next: Wednesday vs. Kings, 7pm

According to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, prospect center Chris Francis has left his post with the Fort Wayne Komets of the CHL. Francis started the year with the Falcons, but was reassigned to Fort Wayne where he would have 17 points in 32 games played. The article mentions he had missed the previous two games with conjuctivitis (pink eye).

“It was his decision,” general manager David Franke said of Francis, who had four goals, 17 points, a minus-14 rating and 105 shots in 32 games.

Francis has returned to his home in Las Vegas and is awaiting reassignment by the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, who own his rights.

There’s not been any word from the Jackets on whether they’ll recall him to Springfield or reassign him elsewhere if at all.

By the way,  remember Jon Mirasty? The Syracuse Crunch, who had signed him after his ties to the Jackets were cut, loaned the tough guy to the Fort Wayne Komets.

For the first twenty minutes, this game had all of the makings of “one of those nights.” A lethargic, sloppy first period. Colorado as the opponent. The only thing consistent were the punches landing on Jared Boll‘s face off the fist of Cody McLeod. Philippe Dupuis broke out of the pack and netted an unassisted breakaway goal, the only scoring in the period, but after twenty minutes things were looking grim.

Photo: John Grieshop/Getty Images

But that was all the Avalanche would get. In the second period, the Jackets came back to life. Boll fought again – Koci this time, another predictable loss – and three and a half minutes later, an agitated Derek Dorsett dropped the gloves with Daniel Winnik. Another loss there that prompted a hysteric outrage from Fox Sports Ohio commentator Bill Davidge when Winnik landed a punch on Dorsett after he was down on the ice.

Not even thirty seconds later, the Jackets finally got on the board. First from Rick Nash, then seven minutes later Derick Brassard, and after two it was 2-1. They had more than doubled their shots on goal in the second, and Mathieu Garon turned aside all 13 Colorado shots.

The third period started off with a bang. Even before the first whistle, Samuel Pahlsson sent Peter Forsberg flying into the back of Dorsett’s legs, which would literally send him head over heels flying down onto his head. He would leave the game in obvious pain and not return, and head coach Scott Arniel was quoted as saying he had the symptoms of a concussion. Dorsett, who has been playing solidly on the third line with Pahlsson and their rotating left wing, took an elbow to the face against San Jose. Not a good week for the scrappy little guy.

The only other scoring would come late in the game when Derek MacKenzie sealed the deal with an empty net goal at 19:56. Colorado had only seven shots in the third period, though it felt like they all came in the final few minutes of the game as they pressured Garon. The energetic 16,000+ on hand at Nationwide were very vocal in the final frame, applauding the Union Blue when they were able to stifle any Colorado attempts to take over the game.

Studs: Easily the top line. The 61-16-93 line now has 11 points in the last 3 games.
Duds: The first period.

Notable:

  • Marc Methot and Chris Clark each had five hits. It was a good game for the oft-replaced Clark.
  • Nash had a goal and an assist, six shots, and as tweeted by CBJ PR guy Ryan Holtmann, “From Elias: With his 25th goal of the season last night Rick Nash is the only #NHL player to score 25+ goals in seven-straight seasons.”
  • Brassard has been looking better and better every game. His game-winning goal was his fourth point in the last three games.
  • The Jackets only took one minor penalty in the game – a delay of game, at that.
  • For an Avs view of the game, please check out Katie’s recap at Hockey Without Oxygen!

Where we are: 27-23-5, 59 points (12th place), -5, 8th place Calgary

What’s next: Sunday, 3pm, at Dallas.

Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Who is this team, and what have they done with the Columbus Blue Jackets?

In Pittsburgh, everybody showed up to play. The defense was solid – especially the play of frequent scapegoat Anton Stralman. Paired with Hejda, he was a +4 (note: actually +3, the NHL’s statistics gave him credit for the first goal, which he was not on the ice for). Rick Nash got the scoring going early with a beautiful one-timer fed by Derick Brassard. Samuel Pahlsson scored on a delayed penalty, Voracek on a partial break, and Vermette tucked one through on a Pittsburgh giveaway to lead the Jackets to a 4-1 victory.

Cue the excuses. Pittsburgh has no Crosby. No Malkin. No Kunitz. Despite injury trouble, Pittsburgh is (including the L to the Jackets), 7-3-0 in their last ten. That is not a struggling team. The Jackets were simply a better team than the Penguins last night, and for that they prevailed on the scoreboard.

 

Photo: Terry Gilliam/AP Photo

And then they came home to meet San Jose…

For the first twenty minutes, they were buzzing. With two big power play goals from Kristian Huselius and Grant Clitsome, it was suddenly 2-0 Jackets with a whole forty left to go. Unfortunately, the chances stopped coming, despite a massive 44 shots on goal. Niemi stood tall after the first, even when guys like Derek Dorsett and Jakub Voracek peppered him relentlessly with shots (8 and 7, respectively). Even with San Jose’s three unanswered goals, the foot was never entirely off the gas pedal, perhaps just slowed in the middle frame. A heartbreaker. Can’t win them all, but it would have been nice to take that one. 

Where we are: 12th place, Western Conference, -6 points from eighth place Calgary

What’s next: Friday vs. the Foote-less Colorado, 7pm

 

(Photo: Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

It started off ugly, and much like many nights the Columbus Blue Jackets have seen this year: lazy defensive plays, penalty trouble, screened shots, and a 2-0 opponent lead before the first period had even settled down. RJ Umberger ignited some life into the team late in the first when some criss-crossing plays with Derek Dorsett cut the deficit in half. It would be just the beginning of what would turn out to be one of Umberger’s career nights with the Blue Jackets.

Kristian Huselius, who one night before in Detroit had become the most recent victim of Arniel’s doghouse, returned in place of Chris Clark. Combined with Umberger, the two were responsible for all four goals and creating opportunities that prior to his benching, Huselius was not finding. The game was tied at two in the second period when Umberger and Huselius connected in front of the net, drawing Khabibulin aside to allow Huselius a half-empty net to shoot at.

John Moore in his NHL Debut (Photo: Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

The third period would be a brand new game. One that, as usual, the Oilers would jump out to an early lead in, when Paajarvi would net his second of the game. But Umberger, with two points already in his pocket, wouldn’t let the game go so easily. He took the puck from Kris Russell and worked through all kinds of traffic to get the puck past Khabibulin and tie the game yet again on his nineteenth goal of the season. Huselius would give the Jackets the lead for good just over two minutes later when Russell – the puck moving defenseman – did just that and moved it up the ice to Umberger, who handed it to Huselius to beat Khabibulin. 4-3 Jackets, and that would be the final score. For a team who looked awful in the early going, they recovered nicely on a monster night by their second-line forwards.

Tonight’s Stud: RJ Umberger, of course. Two goals, two assists, and yet another three-period 100% effort by Umberger. Honorable mention: Kristian Huselius.
Tonight’s Dud(s): Russell and Clitsome were out for all four Columbus goals, but gave up a few brilliant chances to the Oilers. Can’t happen that way. Honorable mention: the first line – combined for 13 shots, but all three were minus two with little legitimate offensive impact.

 Notes:
Despite penalty trouble early on, all seven goals were even strength.
— Umberger now has 19 goals, just 7 off his career-high of 26 with the Jackets in 2008-09. Twelve points off his career high of 50.
— Russell, probably partially responsible for the first Oilers’ goal, managed to finish the game a +2 with two assists. The fourth-year defenseman had an ugly night, but was out for all four Columbus goals.
John Moore made his NHL debut and played 12:05. He was a -1, but had a relatively quiet night on the ice. He didn’t look overly nervous or jittery at all.
— Rookie Matt Calvert played just 5:07, only taking four shifts after receiving a high stick in the first. Back on the fourth line after a one-game promotion, he and his linemates all played five minutes or under.
— Three players had a multi-point night: Umberger (4), Huselius (3), and Russell (2).
— This team is not afraid to throw their weight around: Methot & Murray each had six hits. Derek Mackenzie had 3 in just 4:17 TOI.
Rick Nash had eight shots on goal. Yes, eight.

NEXT GAME: Tuesday at Pittsburgh, 7pm.

AP Photo

Due to a roller derby commitment, I’m watching this game on a sixteen hour delay, so have some observation notes on last night’s game versus Detroit:

Kristian Huselius was a healthy scratch. He became the eleventh player on the current roster to fall victim to Arniel’s willingness to sit his expensive underachievers.
– How good is Matt Calvert? The kid plays like a guy with more intensity and maturity than a rookie should. He stepped up to the second line in place of Huselius and brought breath of fresh air to the line. He complements Umberger’s style very well, giving Vermette two wings that battle and can get him the puck – as they did on his laser beam of a shot that beat Howard. But can Arniel continue to keep Huselius out of the lineup?
Rick Nash had a goal waived off for goaltender interference (by Brassard) shortly after Vermette’s goal. Normally that causes a momentum shift, but it didn’t slow the Jackets at all.
– Detroit had plenty of opportunities, but couldn’t capitalize on any of them. Steve Mason stopped all 34 shots thrown his way (another 12 shots were blocked, and 12 more missed the net). He showed Vintage Mason, with poise and confidence. Hopefully the team’s recent roll has him feeling good.
– That was the first-ever shutout by the Blue Jackets in Joe Louis Arena. Yes. The first.
Jared Boll potted his sixth goal of the season, his single-season career high, and the nineteenth of his career. He currently sits at 10 points in 42 games. His career-high is 14 in 75 games.
– Since being paired with Grant Clitsome, Kris Russell has begun playing like he has been expected to all season. He hasn’t buried the puck recently, but he’s moving the puck out of the zone and creating opportunities for the forwards, without sacrificing his defense. It’s a surefire sign he trusts his defense partner. Everybody’s a Clitsome fan.
– Alyssa over at Hockeytown Beat has a great recap of the game. Be sure to check it out.