Games 53 & 54: Catching up again…

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

Game 52: Jackets slip on Oil, but recover nicely

 

(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.

Game 51: D-Town Down & Out

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.

Blue Jackets looking for a little Moore

 

John Moore (Photo: Jenni Propst)

As first announced via Twitter by 97.1 The Fan’s Scott Torgerson and later confirmed by the Blue Jackets, 2009 first round draft pick John Moore is headed westbound out of Massachusetts to join the team in Detroit this weekend. With Rusty Klesla’s aching knee, the team has six healthy defensemen, but the vulnerability of the remaining six necessitates Moore’s call up. The 20 year-old is 3-15-18, -13, in 47 games played. At the time of his call up, Moore was tied with fellow rookie David Savard for Springfield’s highest scoring defensemen. While it seemed unlikely that he would see any NHL time this season, the Falcons’ lone All Star representative doesn’t have to pass through waivers to be recalled, unlike Nick Holden. Moore, sporting the number 7  jersey, should be available for Friday’s game against Detroit. It’ll be interesting to see if he draws in in place of anyone – perhaps Anton Stralman? Stralman had an especially weak showing against Chicago on Tuesday evening.

Other off-day tidbits:
TSN’s Darren Dreger noted today: “Columbus goaltender Steve Mason (the 2009 NHL rookie of the year), young forward Jakub Voracek (selected seventh overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft) and 28-year-old defenceman Rostislav Klesla – the Blue Jackets’ first ever draft pick (4th overall in 2000) are believed to be drawing trade interest.” Obviously, “drawing trade interest” does not mean that Howson is willing to or considering pulling the trigger, simply that there are teams who are inquiring. It could go nowhere — it’s hard to see Mason being traded with a contract extension due to kick in next season — or it could completely shake up the roster. Will be interesting to see what happens over the next three and a half weeks.

Game 50: Jackets squander early efforts, lose 7-4

Despite an early penalty by Kristian Huselius, the Blue Jackets came out roaring. Just six seconds in, Huselius was whistled for tripping, but the ensuing Hawks power play was unable to get anything going against the buzzing Jackets. Just under four minutes into the game, Derek Dorsett took a pass from Kris Russell and crashed the net to chip the puck past Marty Turco. 1-0, Jackets. From there, although playing a solid game, the Jackets coughed up two poor goals to Chicago: one from Nick Leddy and one from Duncan Keith (5 on 3), both from far out in the zone. It got more unusual from there: with 39.6 seconds to go, the teams were sent to the locker room with dimmed lights, and the time added to the second period. End of the First: Chicago 2, Columbus 1.

Continue reading

Jackets represent at the midseason classic

Photo Credit: Jenni Propst

The Blue Jackets were well represented at both the AHL and NHL All Star Games by captain Rick Nash and prospect defenseman John Moore. On Friday night in Raleigh, Nash was drafted onto host-captain Eric Staal’s team, where he joined division rivals David Backes (St. Louis) and Patrick Sharp (Chicago). In Saturday’s Honda NHL SuperSkills competition, he competed in three events:
 - Accuracy Shooting: defeated Phil Kessel in 17.9 seconds.
 - Hardest Shot: registered the lowest speed, 91.4 MPH.
 - Elimination Shootout: bounced on second shot.
In Sunday’s Discover NHL All Star game, Team Staal would drop an exciting 11-10 decision with a flurry of third period goals that would result in the game winner being scored in an empty net. Despite having several great breakaway opportunities stopped, Nash completed the game with a goal and an assist and four shots on net.

Moore traveled to Hershey, PA to represent the Springfield Falcons in the 2011 AHL All Star Classic. In Sunday’s Reece’s All Star Skills Competition, he competed in two events:
  – Sher-Wood Puck Control Relay: loss
  – Reece’s Pass and Score: 1 of 3
His Eastern Conference team defeated the Western 19-7 in the skills, and would go on to defeat them again 11-8 in the game on Monday night. Moore had no points, but was +1 and played a solid defensive game.

Welcome to Straight Jackets!

Welcome to Straight Jackets, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ corner of G9 sports. Your lead writer here is Dannielle (@frickindannie), who has floated aimlessly around the hockeysphere with snark in hand in search of a permanent place to settle. Part time contributor to The Jacketsblog and The Cannon and creator/editor of the ECHL’s Cycwords. Known to produce jokes and/or photoshops of questionable taste. Cincinnati resident, partial CBJ season ticket holder, fan since a very large green bug handed me a sticket circa 1999-00. Supporter of the plus minus, the offensive defenseman, and the defensive forward.

Wherein I give Rick Nash some credit.

It is no secret that I tend to be less than forgiving when it comes to the sometimes lethargic play of Rick Nash.

At $7.5M/year (apGeek), Rick Nash is the 19th highest paid player in the NHL (sixth if we’re taking cap hit into consideration). For a guy who makes up more than 13% of a small market team’s total payroll, the fans deserve to see a better performance out of one of the league’s superstars. There is no doubt that Nash is one of the most talented and dominant players, evidenced by his dramatically different performance with Team Canada in the Olympics, but his level of effort is sometimes wavering and the Captain is prone to long periods of invisibility. For money similar to that of scoring machine Sidney Crosby and undoubtedly something close to what goal-per-game phenom Steven Stamkos will garner (or deserves) when his ELC is up in the summer, there is no excuse for a guy to take shifts/nights off.

After this past week’s WestCoastDomination and an unbelievable 6 goals in 3 games, Nash is now up to 12 of the team’s 53 goals, or 22.6% of the team’s total goal output. This is the Rick Nash the Blue Jackets expect and deserve. Not that he should be expected to score multiple goals on a nightly basis, but this is a guy who has proved he is easily capable of 0.5 goals/game in the past. With his recent outburst, he’s at 12g in 17gp – a much better, digestive pace if you disregard the sporadic pace prior to the trip. Hopefully it’s a sign that he has broken out of his daze and will continue to give the nightly effort everybody knows he is capable of. When he’s on, he’s on.

One thing I will always stick by: if you could put Derek Dorsett’s heart into Rick Nash’s body, you’d have the most dangerous player in the league.