• Friday, vs. Chicago: The Jackets got off to a slow start (sound familiar?) and allowed Chicago to jump to a 2-0 lead in the first, but goals by Maksim Mayorov (the first of his NHL career) and Derick Brassard (his 16th) had the game tied at 2 after two periods. Samuel Pahlsson gave them the go-ahead goal, but wouldn’t you know – a minute and a half later, Bryan Bickell tied it back at three. The game would go to a shootout and in true Columbus Blue Jackets fashion, they would go 0/3. Viktor Stalberg beat Garon to seal the victory. Money quote, by head coach Scott Arniel (source): “We’ve made a decision as a league that we’re going to entertain at the end of the night and we’re not going to go home with a tie game. We’ll work on the shootout part… but we don’t back off in overtime. These guys learn how to play in pressure packed situations. It’s unfortunate we’ve lost so many shootout games, but we’ve done a great job of learning how to play under pressure.” Are you sure about that, Coach? I’m a supporter of Arniel for the most part, but I don’t think he knows his team any better than we do.
  • Friday, part two: With Steve Mason sidelined with some sort of undisclosed injury (bruised ego? mono? the clap? softgoalsandnodefenseitis?), David LeNeveu was brought up from Springfield (the Falcons, not the Indians, because this is not 1994). In 41GP with SPR, LeNeveu was 16-20-2 with a 2.97/0.896. His prior NHL experience, with Phoenix, is limited to 21 games. We won’t share those stats, because you don’t want to know.
  • Also on Friday, forward Derek MacKenzie was nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. He was the Blue Jackets’ nominee for the award. The Masterton Trophy is awarded, “under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association and is given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the PHWA at the end of the regular season.” MacKenzie is a veteran of 124 NHL games – half of which have come this season in his first full NHL campaign – and 550 games at the AHL level, where he spent parts of nine seasons before going full-time. MacKenzie is a small, defensive forward without a whole lot of talent, but what he lacks there he compensates for in his grit. He’s contributed 9 goals this season playing in a variety of situations.
  • Jan Hejda was suspended two games for an elbow to the head of Blackhawks’ Marcus Kruger. It was clearly unintentional but deserved, a consequence of the league’s wanting to cut back on careless hits to the head. Hejda is the first Blue Jacket suspended since Jared Boll was assessed a one-gamer in October of 2008 for a late instigator penalty.
  • Blue Sunday: Apparently the Blue Jackets were not privy to their own schedule and forgot to show up to Sunday’s matchup with St. Louis. They were a listless, sloppy, passive bunch in a 6-1 loss. RJ Umberger, playing in his 243rd consecutive game as a Blue Jacket, got the only goal (a power play one, at that). He set a new career high in points (56) and is one off his previous record of 26 goals. Jaroslav Halak turned away the other 23 shots he faced – most of which really were not great ones. Garon was replaced by LeNeveu in the third period with the score already 4-1. Stralman, Upshall, and Russell were each -3, and the only highlights of the night were a long battle between Derek Dorsett and the much-heavier Ryan Reaves, and a not-so-spirited battle of the under-six-feet club between Kris Russell and Vladimir Sobotka. It’s okay to laugh, really.

Photo by Dannielle Browne

For the first time in what feels like eons, the Blue Jackets did what seemed improbable. In fact, they did several things that have otherwise eluded them lately: scored multiple times at home, won at home, and won in the shootout. After losing six straight shootouts, a collective breath of relief was released after Maksim Mayorov sealed the victory in the fifth frame of action.

Scottie Upshall got the scoring started in the first when Derek Dorsett and their buzzing third line were able to rush the puck into the zone. Upshall lifted the puck in the high corner and off the crossbar and in. In the second, an ill-timed penalty by Marc Methot led to a Florida power play and ultimately a goal when the defense let David Booth camp in front. The goal tied it at one and effectively deflated both the team and the crowd. The Jackets were sloppy, but hung in there and managed to not lose track of the game despite their inability to make clean, directed passes.

With just over a minute left in the second, the puck was bouncing around in front of Clemmensen and nearly lost to the Panthers, but Matt Calvert’s persistence (is anybody surprised?) was able to keep the puck in front where RJ Umberger and Antoine Vermette were pinballing it around before finally netting it. 2-1 Jackets, end of two. In the third, Evgeny Dadonov was able to chase Craig Rivet away from the goal, while Ryan Carter shoved Kris Russell down and took him out of the play (in the crease, no less), so that Dadonov was able to wrap around and beat Steve Mason.

To overtime this game would go and not much materialized – the shots were 3-1 in favor of Columbus – so to the shootout it went. Oh here we go again, right? Wrong. Mason, who had been solid most of the evening, turned away all three Florida shots. The Jackets sent Nash, Mayorov, and Calvert out, and with Mayorov getting the game-winning shootout goal.

Scoring:
1 — CBJ — Upshall 21 (Dorsett, Pahlsson), 7:06
2 — FLA — Booth 22 (Samsonov, Santorelli), 3:41 (PP)
2 — CBJ — Vermette 18 (Umberger, Calvert), 18:58
3 — FLA — Dadonov 8 (Garrison, Bernier), 7:31

Shootout:
CBJ — 1/3 (Mayorov)
FLA — 0/3

Goalies:
CBJ — Mason (W), 29/31
FLA — Clemmensen (L), 30/32

Rick Nash, in full streak-mode, knocked home his 32nd goal of the season just 2:14 in the first period with some help from Derick Brassard carrying the puck coast to coast. Brassard and Kris Russell both assisted, bringing them each to a career-best 28 assists for Brassard and career-high 23 points for Russell. Ryan O’Reilly evened it up just a few minutes later as bodies were flying in front of Steve Mason and a series of passes drew the defensemen away from the net.

For the first two periods, the Jackets didn’t amaze anybody, but they played a tight game. Midway through the second, with Marc Methot in the box, Derek Dorsett intercepted the puck at the blue line and dropped it across to Derek Mackenzie who was able to knock it past netminder Brian Elliot for their first shorthanded goal of the night.

In the third, RJ Umberger tore out of the defensive zone on another Avalanche power play and ripped an easy shot over the shoulder of Elliot to make it 3-1. According to the Blue Jackets PR department, that was only the second time in team history they scored two shorties in one game. The other came in February 2007.

But nothing ever comes easy. With their foot off the pedal, Matt Duchene popped a pinball past Mason at 7:44 (just forty-four seconds after Umberger’s shortie) and 14:36. Colorado was abuzz in the third with their gained momentum, and both Duchene goals could have been prevented had the defensemen and Mason both had any sense of each others’ whereabouts.

Hopefully you had your seatbelt fastened and your seat in the upright position. It got bumpier from there. Two minutes after Duchene’s 3-3 goal, Umberger clobbered Elliot and squirted the puck past him. Why wasn’t that goaltender interference? Who knows, but the Jackets had taken another lead! 4-3, under four to go.

Good to go, right?

Wrong. Daniel Winnik had something to say about that. With four seconds left in the game he tied it at four. There was no excuse for the Blue Jackets to give up that goal. Sure, it was six-on-four, but clearly they were already thinking about the bus ride to the airport. The net was half empty for Winnik’s shot. Both teams had some brilliant chances in overtime, but ultimately it would go to everybody’s least-favorite overtime of overtime.

Do we need to elaborate on what happened next, or can you guess? Columbus was 0/3. Milan Hejduk, the never-aging pest of a Jacket killer, scored. Colorado 5, Columbus 4.

The Jackets have lost six consecutive shootouts.

The broken record sings on.

Columbus is back at it on Thursday against Phoenix. Make sure to take your Dramamine and/or Pepto.

For a Colorado look at things, check out Katie’s recap at Hockey Without Oxygen.

– 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.

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: 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

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.

 

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.