Even Jake Voracek couldn't wake up Steve Mason. (Photo by @Vladekk35)

Remember back in the olden days of February or maybe even on Saturday, when the Jackets were able to complete passes and put the puck on the net? Those were the days, weren’t they?

Apparently the epic Supermoon event sapped them of their ability to operate as functional professional hockey players. Did they do anything right in this game? They didn’t get a shot on goal until late in the first period. Thirteen total? Did they forget this was Martin Brodeur and he’s, you know, kind of good?

And maybe it’s just the Dispatch wanting to stir up some unneeded controversy, but a quote by Steve Mason after Sunday’s loss has supposedly rung the wrong bells with the coaching staff:

“It’s a crappy feeling and an embarrassing effort tonight,” he said after the club was shut out for the second straight time on home ice. “It’s frustrating. We just couldn’t generate anything in their zone. For a team that is looking for a playoff spot right now, the effort we put forth isn’t acceptable.”

Is the truth so bad? The majority here seems to think Mason was right, and fair in making those comments. It doesn’t come across as Mason holding himself in any higher regard than his teammates – just simply stating that as a team, they were bad. And we all agree.

They leave today for Colorado, sans Grant Clitsome (knee) and with  Anton Stralman, according to the boys at the Dispatch. Colorado is on a slide – having won less than a handful of times over the last 60 days – but topped Edmonton in the shootout on Saturday. Don’t let them know that Colorado’s struggling. We all know how they act when they think they’re the better team. Make sure to check in with Katie at Hockey Without Oxygen for an Avs side of tomorrow’s bout.

Photo by Bridget Samuels

If you, at any point in this game, had any confidence in the outcome of the game, you’re lying. It started interestingly enough, as Rick Nash got off the schneid with his thirtieth goal of the season, assisted by Derek Dorsett and Sammy Pahlsson. Pahlsson chipped the puck to Dorsett along the boards, who flipped it over to Nash who was steaming into the zone full speed. Confidence level at this point: 6! But, of course, that wouldn’t last long as just under two minutes later Minnesota got a goal of their own off the stick of Brad Staubitz, his first of the year. Confidence level: shrinking.

In the second, everybody’s favorite name to laugh at, Cal Clutterbuck knocked the go-ahead goal past Mathieu Garon. Suddenly the Jackets were in full-on defenseless mode, battling with the Wild both competitively and physically. It got chippy — Grant Clitsome was injured on an uncalled knee-on-knee hit — and then Dorsett danced with Staubitz (embarrassingly) after a hit on Sami Lepisto. Dorsett got the worst of the fight and a misconduct and instigator to go along with it, but the team absolutely had a subsequent spike in energy. With under a minute left in the second, a whiff by Nash was redirected by Lepisto to the blue line to Kris Russell who fired it past Backstrom to tie it at two.

Going into the third, after a goal by Jan Hejda and another by the Captain to make it 4-2, things were looking good. But no, this is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Things can’t be that easy, right? A two-goal lead more than halfway into the third… no, no it can’t be that easy. Antti Miettinen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard had something to say about that. Garon gave them too much net to work with and the capitalized.

Off to overtime. Interestingly enough, the NHL.com Event Summary sheet had the score as 5-4 Columbus at the end of regulation, with a phantom goal awarded to Antoine Vermette. Apparently, the NHL has ESP, as Antoine Vermette took a shot right into a flurry of  flustered Wild players in the crease and won the game for the Jackets with 0:34 to go in OT.

Some notes, courtesy of CBJ PR guy Ryan Holtmann:
– Their 17th road victory of the season surpasses the franchise record of 16 previously set in 2008-09.
– Sami Lepisto had three assists for the first time in his career, also setting the single-game assists record for CBJ defensemen.
– Jan Hejda now has a career high in goals with 5.
– Rick Nash & Jarome Iginla are the only two players to currently have four consecutive 30-goal seasons.

OK GO says it better than words ever could:

Let’s recap those lyrics, in case you’re unfamiliar:

Just when you think that you’re in control
Just when you think that you’ve got a hold
Just when you get on a roll
Here it goes, here it goes, here it goes again
Oh, here it goes again
I should have known, should have known, should have known again
But here it goes again
Oh, here it goes again

*

Sound familiar?

Ample opportunities. Uncapitalized upon. Points left on the table.

Against Detroit. Really stings, doesn’t it? A nice, firm kick in the jewels.

There isn’t much to say about this game. They’re in a holding pattern in twelfth place, but it’s starting to feel like 1200th.

– The Blue Jackets lost this game the way they have lost most of their season: by blowing ample opportunities to put the game away. They were able to pull Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask away from his net and give themselves a handful of golden, empty-net opportunities but were only able to capitalize on two chances – one from Scottie Upshall in front of a completely empty net.
— Their powerplay was nothing to write home about. In fact – only Boston scored on the Jackets’ PP.
— Steve Mason made some key stops. He had a quick glove and looked rather confident coming off the big W in Raleigh.
— Fedor Tyutin was – and pardon our Russian – Fyucking Terrible. The last two games especially, Tyutin has been incredibly soft on the defensive side of things. In Carolina he took two penalties while illegally defending because he was too slow to keep up otherwise, and against Boston he was just flat out no good. Yet, Scott Arniel remains a fan and rewards TurnoverTyutin with 25 minutes of ice time on a regular night. Who knows why.
— Paging Rick Nash. Repeat, paging Rick Nash. Where, oh where, has Rick Nash’s scoring ability gone? Somewhere in the septic tank with the team’s playoff hopes. He hasn’t scored since February 22nd. He’s garnered assists – somehow – but his effort has been really poor. It isn’t news to anybody that Rick Nash’s “streakiness” has hints of “just not giving a sh*t” but as the team has dropped out of the running, so has Nash’s momentum. Nash apologists would disagree, but the $7.8M man has been a disappointment when he was needed the most.

As happens frequently for the Columbus Blue Jackets, they received pivotal, game-changing secondary scoring to carry them to victory. Derek MacKenzie had two goals and Samuel Pahlsson scored his sixth — shorthanded, no less — to give the Jackets a 3-2 victory. Pahlsson’s goal came just 4:44 into the first when Kris Russell (on the PK, no less) blocked a shot, tore out of the zone with the puck, and passed it to Derek Dorsett, who initially took the shot that Pahlsson rebounded in.
MacKenzie notched his seventh of the season just 42 seconds into the second. The 2-0 lead will hold until midway through the third when Jeff Skinner knocked a goal home to make it 2-1. The game picked up pace, then, and both teams were in a frenzy. Carolina pulled Cam Ward with two minutes remaining, and MacKenzie fired one into the open net. But the game wasn’t finished then. The Hurricanes kept pressing and less than 30 seconds later made it 3-2. The Jackets were finally able to hold it down from there for the victory.
Steve Mason was both very good, and very lucky in this game. He turned away 29 shots in the victory. He made some very nice stops – and was able to keep out some lucky, sloppy bad angle shots from the Hurricanes, who had nine power play opportunities in the game, including two 5-on-3 chances. The Hurricanes’ struggling power play met a cohesive Jackets penalty kill to go 0 for 9. Unfortunatly, the Jackets were not able to capitalize on any of theirs, either.
– Russell now has 9 points in his last 12 games. Has he finally arrived? He’s accomplishing what Arniel and company have asked him to do: moving the puck with efficiency, and right now he’s doing that and getting points, even while the team is struggling. And he’s doing it while drawing the least amount of ice time among defensemen.
– According to the Columbus Dispatch, Chris Clark was lost in the game and will be out up to a month with a lower body injury. Can’t say he’ll be missed. The 35 year old has been a frequent healthy scratch and has only 14 points on the season. Even when in the lineup, Clark doesn’t seem to bring much to the table. His contract — and 2.63M cap hit — are off the books after this year.
– The Jackets return to the ice on Tuesday night at home against Boston, 7pm.

The Jackets left over a week ago to embark on their longest road stretch of the year: Nashville, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and St. Louis. What seemed upon departure to be a winnable road trip, has left the team’s seething with only two points over those five games. Games against teams they have beaten who themselves are in the Western Conference playoff predicament – St. Louis and Nashville – were close, but only one point was salvaged out of either. Vancouver, the one team of the trip who seemed to be the biggest hurdle after scoring seven goals on them in December, was a 1-1 game that needed a shootout to be decided. And let’s not talk about those games in Alberta. Just absolutely wasted points.

It should have been realistic to come home with six or seven points. It would have been preferable to do so. It was possible. Instead of being just a few points back of eighth and right in the pack, they’ve suddenly dropped back seven points with seventeen games left. There’s little use, at this point, in trying to guess how many games they would need to win, how many points to get back into the picture.

The fact of the matter here is that they have played themselves out of the playoff race after playing back into it. After a long, ugly skid that should have derailed them permanently months ago, their current skid is a mere speed bump, but shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. They’ve been good, but they’ve also been very bad.

But one thing they have consistently been is resilient. They have had poor performances and rebounded the following game to play even with the league’s best team. They have had terribly bad meltdown periods, and rebounded to tie games with impossible seconds left on the clock. They have (especially lately) done a very good job of keeping themselves in games and giving themselves a chance to win it, even when they did not deserve to.

Wasting your time, at this point, doing the math to tell you what you already know (which is: they need a miracle) is nothing but a morale waster. Seventeen games left are left. Ten at home, in fact, so don’t excuse yourself from this season just yet. There is a lot that can be taken away from the 65 games already played, and those remaning.

There is a lot to be excited about, if you’re the optimistic type. How about Matt Calvert? He’s only going to get better with age, and he’s amazed us over and over again. The kid doesn’t have an ounce of quit in him, just a whole hell of a lot of grit and hustle. There’s Scottie Upshall to be excited about – he’s brought something so elevated and new to the team that you’ve got to believe they’re going to give him a talk in the offseason. There will be depatures, free agents, and a fresh crop of rookies with a year of AHL seasoning ready to jump into the the fold.

Faded playoff hopes don’t erase these good strides the team has made. They’ve evolved, even from minute to minute, game to game, over the course of this season. Playoffs or not, it has been incredibly enjoyable. And if you have been focused on the number “95” since October 1 and watching the standings on a minute by minute basis… well, you missed out on something good. This was a good team. This still is a good team. We’ll be holding your seat on the bandwagon next year.

Honkeytonk Heartbreak: After a poorly-reviewed disallowed goal that caused much indigestion across the board, the Blue Jackets rebounded with a goal in the second period off the stick of Matt Calvert, his 10th of the campaign. Early in the third though, the Predators would return the favor when Shea Weber and then Jonathon Blum (his first career goal) would set the Preds ahead 2-1. Nothing is ever easy in Nashville for the Jackets, not even when a mid-period unassisted power play goal by Kris Russell ties the game. No, never easy. David Legwand’s killer of a goal would give the Predators their ultimate lead with just over a minute and a half to go. A brutal loss of two points for the Jackets to a team they are chasing in the standings.

Nashville Notes: Is anybody tired of typing “Matt Calvert” yet? It was his 10th goal in just his 21st game. For his performance last week, Calvert was named the NHL’s Third Star of the week. He has 8 points in his last 4 games and he’s shooting 28.6% on the year (10g on 35 shots). Kris Russell’s goal was his fourth of the year, and his fifth point in his previous five games (2g, 3a). He stepped up nicely in the absence of Anton Stralman… Stralman suffered a knee injury and didn’t accompany the team to Western Canada, instead returning to Columbus. Good timing for the new defensemen on board.

Thanks, Rostislav Klesla: After 10-plus years of service as the very first ever amateur draft pick of the Blue Jackets back in 2000, on Monday they traded defenseman Rusty Klesla to the Phoenix Coyotes. The Jackets also sent minor leaguer Dane Byers along. In return they received forward Scottie Upshall and defenseman Sami Lepisto from the Coyotes. Klesla, 29, played 515 games for the Jackets and was 41-92-133 and a career -50 in that time. His history of fragility was clearly no issue for the Coyotes, who accepted the trade pending a physical. Klesla missed the last month with a bruised knee. The Jackets also sent fan-favorite Tom Sestito to Philadelphia for QMJHL prospect Michael Chaput & minor-leaguer Greg Moore. Poor one out for Tommy’s career as a Jacket, but best of luck to him.

– What’s up, shall?: Meet Scottie Upshall, your new #8. The 27 year old Alberta native is a veteran of 340 NHL games and 3 NHL clubs (Nashville, Philadelphia, and Phoenix). He’s 80-85-165; almost even on goals and assists for his career. He scored 18 goals in only 49 games last year, and joins the Jackets with already 16 on the books for this year.

Lepist-who?: Sami Lepisto, #4 in your programs, is a 26 year-old native of Finland. In 132 career games (Phoenix & Washington), he owns only 27 points to his name, but he’s a +16. Before he joined the Jackets, he had 4-7-11, +7 on the season. He also represented Finland at the 2010 Olympics. In his Columbus debut against Vancouver, he logged 21:46 TOI, including 2:29 on the PP.

About Vancouver: The Canucks got an early goal from Mason Raymond who broke a scoring drought by outworking the defense one on one in front of Steve Mason. Scottie Upshall would provide a breath of fresh air by scoring his own goal to tie it up in the second period, with assists to his linemates on the third line, Dorsett and Pahlsson. It stayed tied through regulation and overtime, and moved onto the shootout. Raymond, Burrows, and Torres (hey, remember him?) scored for the Canucks in the seven-round shootout. Nash and Vermette tallied in the shootout for Columbus. While two points would have been fantastic, pocketing one point from a first-place Canucks team is a treat, especially when giving up the “third” point doesn’t negatively affect their competition.

Where We Stand: 31-24-7, 69 points. 12th, -5 8th place LA [one game in hand].

What’s Next: Thursday at Edmonton, Friday at Calgary. Two huge games to salvage points from – Calgary is sitting six points ahead in fifth place. Steal two, capitalize, and beat Edmonton while you’re at it, boys.

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