Monday, November 30, 2009
Hockey headlines for the CBJ and from around the league. Mmmmm... hockey
- When does "no news" constitute a hockey headline? When your GM says no trades are imminent as a means of shaking things up on a team that has lost 5 in a row and is sitting 3 spots out of the playoffs.
- Nikita Filatov as trend setter? Another young Russian player has defected to Mother Russia.
- I will agree that while exciting, shootouts are a bogus way to decide the outcome of a game. Would you condone a tie basketball game being decided by a game of HORSE? THN's Adam Proteau addresses the grumblings regarding the use of shootouts to decide games.
- Some news from on the Bluenotes: STL has called up a defenseman from the AHL for tonight's game. D Jonas Junland (6g-12a-18p) leads the AHL's Peoria Rivermen in points so far this season.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
What's worse for the CBJ is that the Flames are hot going 3-0-1 in their past four while the Jackets are 0-3-1 in that stretch taking just one point, a shootout loss in Nashville, during this stretch of poor play.
Captain Canada, Jarome Iginla leads the Flames with 25 points in 24 games on 16 goals including 13 goals in his past 14 games. While he did not score a goal last night in Detroit, he did register two helpers and his chemistry with Olli Jokinen seems to be improving each night.
The Flames are +12 in goal differential having allowed just 61 tallies while the Jackets are a dismal -13 having already surrendered 86 goals. As we mentioned the other day, the CBJ are moving toward allowing an incomprehensible 300 goals this season and the Flames pose yet another test with a deep team that can throw physicality, scoring prowess, speed and team defense at the Jackets. Remember, the Flames have had little trouble scoring over the past few years. Their problem has been keeping the puck out of their net, even with Mikka Kiprusoff between the pipes most nights. But, with the offseason change at head coach that brought yet another Sutter brother to the Flames organization in former Devils head man Brent Sutter, and the addition of all-world defenseman Jay Bouwmeester from the Panthers, the Flames have improved their defensive play and have become much more responsible in their own end.
The attention to defensive detail has paid off for the Flames as they are 7th overall in team defense surrendering just 2.54 goals per game, yet they have not sacrificed scoring as they are 6th at 3.04 goals-for per game. Whereas the Jackets have been struggling to find that sort of consistency. We can score this year (9th, 2.96 goals-for per game) but we are awful defensively surrendering 3.46 goals per game which is 28th overall. Clearly the CBJ must find a way to keep the Flames off the scoreboard while capitalizing on any opportunities or powerplays that come their way.
Control Calgary's first line - While the Flames have formidable secondary scoring from the likes of Daymond Langkow (15 points), Rene Bourque (21 points - who may miss tonight's game) and former Jacket Curtis Glencross (10 points), the Iginla-Jokinen-Lundmark line was difficult to control for the Red Wings last night with Iginla assisting on goals by each of his linemates. If the Jackets can recapture their defensive intensity, and keep this line in check, they will dramatically increase their chances to win by forcing the secondary scoring from other sources. However, both Bouwmeester and Dion Phaneuf can put the puck in the net and are dangerous on the powerplay.
Squeeze the Juice - Kristian Huselius has been incredibly hot for the Jackets with five goals in his last seven games. One thing that seems to have helped is that he is now skating more aggressively and shooting the puck more. Calgary's defense is susceptible to allowing a good number of odd-man rushes. Huselius should look for an opportunity to gamble and take a shot at a breakaway. The key will be whether our defense can control the puck in the zone and make good, smart multi-line passes out of our end.
Drive the net - Whether it's Mikka Kiprusoff playing again tonight, or more likely, his ward Curtis McElhinney, the Jackets should drive the net with vigor. The last time the Flames came to Nationwide, they did so as part of the second game in two nights and the Jackets simply outworked the clearly tired Flames. Now, that game was the infamous 6-5 OT loss to the Blackhawks when they led 5-0 and let it get away. I'm guessing they expended much more energy that night than last night in Detroit. However, Kipper and his defense do not like guys in his face. Phaneuf and Regehr, in particular, are prone to taking dumb penalties. If the Jackets can get in front and make trouble for either a perhaps-less-than-100% Kiprusoff (he made 40 stops last night), or his young back-up, we might have a chance to draw some penalties or score some goals that might not otherwise be there.
Can anyone stop the puck? Steve Mason has been abysmal this season and Mathieu Garon has been inconsistent. Like baseball, good pitching beats good hitting and good goaltending can make the difference any night. Will one of these guys step up and take the #1 job? Whomever plays tonight, if they're bad, forget it - the Flames roll.
In the opener,
- #6 Bemidji State scored a single goal in the first and second periods to take an early lead, but Miami came to life in the third evening the score before BSU senior captain Chris McKelvie sent home a rebound past Miami sophomore netminder Cody Reichard with just a little over three minutes to play to avenge last spring's loss to Miami in the Frozen Four.
- Miami's two goals were scored by junior Carter Camper who has started to heat up after a lengthy goal drought.
- It was Reichard's first loss this season (8-1-1), and by far his worst effort as he allowed two gigantic rebound (literally and figuratively) goals and made just 15 saves as Miami's defensive effort was superb despite the loss. It was Miami's first loss in regulation as the RedHawks fall to 9-2-4.
- Miami must now work to avoid a weekend sweep as they face the #4 North Dakota Fighting Sioux at Ralph Engelstad Arena at 8:30pm. The game will be televised on Fox College Sports - Atlantic.
- #4 North Dakota shook off a nice effort by the Buckeyes as they netted three third period goals to open some daylight. The Sioux led just 1-0 after two periods as junior netminder Dustin Carlson made 29 saves to keep OSU in the game.
- OSU's lone goal was scored by sophomore Zac Dalpe who leads the Buckeyes with nine goals and 17 points.
- With the loss, Ohio State falls to 5-9-1 and will face #6 Bemidji State at 4:30pm this evening at Ralph Engelstad Arena looking for a weekend split.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
What: Subway Holiday Classic
Who: #1 Miami/Ohio State vs. #6 Bemidji State/#4 North Dakota
Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena, Grand Forks, N.D.
When: Friday November 27 and Saturday November 28 (5pm and 8:30pm each night)
TV: Both games featuring North Dakota will be televised at 8:30pm EST on FCS-Atlantic
Complete Weekend Schedule:
#1 Miami (9-1-4) v. #6 Bemidji State (10-1-1) - 5pm
Ohio State (5-8-1) v. #4 North Dakota (7-4-1) - 8:30pm
Ohio State v. #6 Bemidji State - 5pm
#1 Miami v. #4 North Dakota - 8:30pm
When the Subway Holiday Classic was announced last summer, several things stuck out immediately.
- The Ohio Hockey Classic was to be no more. With Ohio State hosting, the event had been held annually since 2004 with Miami also participating in each one.
- Therefore, both squads would need to find another tournament, or series, to fill out their non-conference schedules.
- Though Miami and Ohio State both made the NCAA tournament as at-large teams last season, both had room to improve their strength of schedule to help improve their chances of getting into the dance. As a result, both teams drew #4 seeds (the lowest in the 16-team tournament) and Ohio State was the final at-large team selected.
Simply put, the Subway Hockey Classic will help all four teams as the winners will have quality victories on their resumes come tournament selection time but the losers will gain strength-of-schedule points and valuable experience. Not only that, but this event has significantly more buzz than the College Hockey Showcase considering that both Michigan and Minnesota are currently under .500 and unranked and Wisconsin and Michigan State are both recovering from subpar seasons that saw both programs miss the NCAA tournament. In fact, only Michigan made the dance last season whereas all four participants in Grand Forks made the tournament including two who went all the way to the Frozen Four.
Friday's first game between #1 Miami and #6 Bemidji State is a rematch of April's national semifinal where the RedHawks outhit, outclassed and outscored the upstart Beavers winning 4-1 in a game that really wasn't as close as the score might suggest. The Beavers, who play in College Hockey America, will be moving to the WCHA next season at the conclusion of the CHA's run. The conference will fold after this year so while they do not get a chance to play their soon-to-be conference partner North Dakota this weekend, they are firmly securing their place at the table with larger, more established D-1 hockey schools with games against two upper-tier CCHA programs. While a relative newcomer to Division 1, BSU has experienced success at the Division 2 and 3 levels winning national championships on each stage. It should come as no surprise that a program with a tradition of winning would begin to establish themselves on the D-1 level as their trip to the 2009 Frozen Four would suggest.
Bemidji State is coached by Tom Serratore (BSU '87) who has compiled a 150-119-30 record in nine seasons at his alma mater. Serratore prefers a fast-paced game where speed and puck pressure is a point of emphasis. In their NCAA tournament wins over Notre Dame and Cornell, the Beavers skated both squads out of the rink and made the most of their opportunities. However, when they faced Miami, they faced a team with NHL size who could skate and hit, the Beavers were clearly overmatched. Miami's puck possession style effectively negated the Beavers ability to isolate puck carriers and they were unable force poor decisions and turnovers. The point of Serratore's system is to create turnovers and enable the Beavers to use their speed in counter-attacks and odd-man rushes. In the national semifinal, current Miami captain Tommy Wingels (Wilmette, Ill.) scored twice and assisted on another goal helping Miami completely dominate Bemidji State. The RedHawks set the tone early with their physical size and strength by throwing crushing checks all over the ice. I suspect Miami coach Rico Blasi (Miami '94) will attempt to duplicate that effort tonight in Grand Forks.
In addition to the rematch angle, this game features the top two defensive teams in college hockey. The Beavers lead the nation by allowing just 1.67 goals per game while Miami is second at 1.71. Both likely starting netminders have been superb. BSU's sophomore Dan Bakala (Calgary, Alberta) is 7-1-1 with a 1.64 goal against average and 93.8 save percentage while Miami's Cody Reichard (Celina, Ohio) has been even better at 8-0-2, 1.44 and 93.6, respectively.
The Beavers are led by sophomore defenseman Brad Hunt (Ridge Meadows, B.C.) and junior forward Matt Read (Ilderton, Ont.). In last weekend's sweep of CHA foe Alabama-Huntsville, Hunt registered a hat trick and four points on Saturday night demonstrating his ability to create and score from the blue line. In the national semifinal, Read scored the Beavers' lone goal on the powerplay making a nifty move in front of Miami goaltender Cody Reichard to deke the defense and deposited the puck in the net. Miami will have their hands full with the two of them and will have to deal with the Beavers speed. The key will be if Miami can effectively control the flow and pace using their size advantage as they did in D.C. to punish the Beavers every time they have the chance. Miami leads the all-time series with BSU 3-0 with Rico Blasi at the helm for each game.
Last weekend, Miami won and tied at Western Michigan with Cody Reichard earning a 3-0 shutout in net on Friday and Connor Knapp (York, N.Y.) surrendering just one goal in earning a 2-1 shootout win which is viewed as a tie nationally.
In the nightcap, the Ohio State Buckeyes will take on tournament host and seven-time NCAA champion #4 North Dakota. The Sioux are the second WCHA team the Buckeyes have faced this season. Earlier, OSU split a home weekend series with Denver and are 0-2 all-time against the Fighting Sioux with both prior games coming in Grand Forks - in 1979. So, you can probably throw out any meaning to those games on tonight's match.
North Dakota is coached by Dave Hakstol (UND '92) who has compiled a 137-75-20 record in six seasons. While the overall record might not look that impressive, Hakstol has guided the Sioux to five Frozen Four appearances in his six seasons with last year's first round loss to New Hampshire the only blemish in the tournament's first weekend. Yet Hakstol is still searching for his first national title at North Dakota, something the school has not won since 2000. With a $135 million arena and a large, passionate fan base, Hakstol probably needs to win a title to cement his place at the school. It's not unreasonable to believe the school will move on should he be unable to get the program back on top within a year or two. Hockey is to North Dakota as football is to Ohio State, so you get the idea.
The Sioux are loaded with NHL draft picks including senior captain Chris VandeVelde (Moorhead, Minn.) who leads the team with 12 points on four goals. VandeVelde made the decision to return to school after last season's NCAA tournament loss which was quite a relief to Sioux fans who had to lament over the loss of former Hobey Baker Award winner Ryan Duncan and his skill and speed. However, senior defenseman Chay Genoway (Morden, Manitoba) who has 10 points in nine games was injured two weeks ago and missed North Dakota's series at Denver where the Sioux were swept 1-0 and 3-2 by the Pioneers. While he might be a small defenseman, Genoway does a lot to control the game by moving the puck out of the defensive zone, and obviously, he chips in on the scoresheet as well. Currently, Genoway is not expected to play this weekend which is a blow knowing the offensive talent the Buckeyes and RedHawks possess. However, sophomore goaltender Brad Eidsness (Chestermere, Alberta) has been solid stopping nearly 93% of shots on goal while allowing just 1.69 goals per game. Whatever the Sioux lose defensively by not having Genoway is more than made up for by the presence of Eidsness who is building on his stellar freshman campaign and showing no signs of a "sophomore slump."
The Buckeyes are coming off a rough weekend at Big Rapids, Mich. where they were swept in CCHA play by upstart Ferris State 8-1 and 6-5. On Friday, the Bulldogs simply overwhelmed the Buckeyes, and to add insult to injury, inserted their third goaltender who had never before played a game at the Division 1 level to play the entire third period. Ohio State was not so certain as they rotated both starter junior Dustin Carlson (Forest Lake, Minn.) and sophomore Cal Heeter (St. Louis, Mo.) to no avail. And, on Saturday, the Buckeyes blew leads of 3-0 and 5-2 eventually falling in overtime to the Bulldogs. As a result, Ohio State took no league points as overtime losses do not earn a point as in the NHL (and that's the way it should be).
Saturday's meeting between Ohio State and Bemidji State will be the first ever between the two schools. And, Miami and North Dakota will meet for just the third time overall and the first time since 2005 with the Sioux holding a 2-0 advantage.
Fearless predictions -
Regardless of who wins this weekend, goals will be earned, not given.
North Dakota 4, Ohio State 1
Miami 3, North Dakota 2
The formula for the Jackets is as simple as gravy -- keep it hot and take out the lumps. The first two periods they played in Montreal were pristine. And the third period was a high-speed train wreck. If they play as they did in the first two periods -- which involved winning board battles, high-energy checking and excellent breakouts -- the Jackets should get off the losing streak. If not, then they will probably give up another 4-5 goals in a losing effort and return to Columbus with an even greater sense of frustration.
This is my favorite holiday because it is totally focused on eating. But wait...something is giving me indigestion. It's my hockey team. Who are these guys? It has been really difficult to put a label on this team, because they beat Dallas on the road one night, and give up a TOUCHDOWN in unanswered goals against a slumping Rangers team on another night. Key players (Nash, Vermette, Klesla, etc.) were given contract extensions in the off-season. So is there an element of complacency from these leaders? I don't think so. I know that too much has been made of this fact, but I have to take solace in the fact that this team is still quite young (avg. 26) and needs to find a balance between calm confidence and unbridled passion. It's not an excuse - it's a fact. And I'm willing to live with that for a (little) longer. What makes this perplexing is that the Jackets have retained much of the same leadership that took them to the playoffs -- notably Nash, Umberger, Commodore and Hejda. So these (increasingly regular) blowout losses and meltdowns are becoming pretty concerning.
The team is scoring goals at an unprecedented pace. And that's a new place for the Jackets to be, because offense has never been a strong point. Finally, we have a team that can score regularly, and our much-heralded defense has collapsed? Why? Ultimately, I think this is the question that we have to tackle, so I've given some of my thoughts below:
Essentially, the personnel are the same on the blueline. So you have to look at the variables that have changed. Anton Stralman, the only newcomer, is logging more NHL minutes than he's ever had the opportunity to do. Certainly, it takes some time to learn how to effectively compete as an NHL defenseman. Nobody can really dispute that. However, the pairing of he and Tyutin has not been very effective at five-on-five hockey. They are showing great success on the powerplay, and the Jackets really depend on the goal production from that powerplay right now. The fact that the Jackets now have the top-ranked powerplay in the league (26.1%) is worth a whole additional post at some later point, but reinforces some of the monumental shift that has happened on this team with essentially the same players. Back to Stralman -- I'm just not sold on that pairing. Combined, they are (-14). Tyutin has not been the responsible line of support that Hitch may have hoped for in that pairing. He has been guilty - way too often - of giveways and missed coverages. When the two are together, I see a lot of blown coverages, some "skate arounds" by opposing forwards and a general lack of communication in the defensive zone. I see little compelling reason to put two "offensive minded" defensemen on the same pairing in even situations-- especially when you've given up more than 80 goals at this point in the season. Let me say that again....more than 80 goals. The Jackets are on pace to give up more than 300 goals this year.
Kris Russell has seen a fair number of healthy scratches this year. Just last year, he was considered un-tradeable by Howson. However, his status this year seems less certain. He continues to show promise in his puck-moving ability, and he's rarely accused of not putting in a solid effort. I think he has great instincts for jumping into the offensive zone and he can certainly skate the puck out of trouble. However, he's just not that big and is moved off the puck by larger forwards. In some respects, that makes him a "role" player and could ultimately relegate him to more time on the powerplay unit. Obviously, that role is currently being filled by Stralman, who apparently has a much more effective slapshot from the point. All that said, Russell is a worker from Western Canada, and I think he brings more than Marc Methot right now. Methot hasn't shown me much this year. In fact, the only plays I remember him making were bad penalties. He is a physical presence and provides some much-needed grit, but he's not providing even the modest offensive threat that he showed last year and hasn't dropped the gloves with anyone. He has to bring some more energy to his game or he'll start watching more games in the pressbox. He's an Ottawa native, so if he cracks the lineup tonight, I would expect a solid showing.
Rusty has been around long enough for the organization and the fans to know exactly what to expect. I believe that the positives outweigh the negatives in the long-term. He is physical. He has a great shot from the point. He brings energy and he won't hesitate to take the body or drop the gloves. He is a streaky scorer, and he has proven he can move Holmstrom from the crease. He also makes boneheaded turnovers and occasionally loses his way in the defensive zone. It's Rusty and he's a loyal Jacket. I think he has played pretty well this year, but I haven't seen him really flourish with any of his partners this year. If he plays like he did in the playoffs last year, he can stay around as long as he wants.
Why have we not re-united the "Death and Taxes" pairing of Hejda and Commodore? How about just once? I understand there have been concerns about conditioning and injury rehab - in fact Commodore looked pretty beat down and just plain ineffective in Montreal. He is not picking his spots well, and he can't get into the flow of the game. Playing independently of one another, neither player has shown the efficacy they did last year. Missed clearing attempts, blown coverages in front and miscommunications -- these are chemistry and conditioning issues, not skill issues. But this was the top pairing for the Jackets last season -- and frankly, one of the most effective shut-down pairings in the league. Chemistry is so important in hockey, and these two players obviously have that asset when playing together. At this point, what is there to lose?
Speaking of losing, let's talk about goaltending. Mason is in a sophomore slump. Game. Set. Match. It has been proven beyond argument that he's not performing to his ability. The good news is that we all know what he is capable of. He can shut down a game and lead this team with confidence. He's still young, and he's not had near the level of defensive support that he enjoyed last year. That being said, he's just off in his technique right now. I still believe that this is a short-term problem and not something to lose to much sleep over. Hitch has a delicate situation here, and I think he's handled it pretty well thus far. He's striking a good balance between disciplinarian and mentor. Jackets' fans should also be encouraged to know that Mason has overcome great adversity in the past, including injuries, death threats and splinters from the bench. He is mentally strong. For young pros that meet with early success, the game seems simple. Then they over-analyze and make it too complex. And then, hopefully, it becomes simple again. Apparently, he's in the middle stage right now.
Garon has been playing pretty well, with the notable exception of the Montreal game. He is consistently capable, solid in shootouts and brings a good veteran perspective to the room. I continue to believe that he was a smart acquisition and a good fit as a backup. If Mason doesn't get out of his slump soon, the Jackets are going to find out just how much starting duty he can handle.
If team defense is a glaring problem, you can't just limit the criticism to the defensemen and goalies. The Jackets forwards have been occassionally committed to backchecking, but not nearly at the level at which they need to compete. Rick Nash "leads" this team with the worst (-11) rating. It is simply unacceptable. It's become clear that the leaders on this team -- and he is at the top of that list -- have a tremendous impact on the energy and play of the rest of this young team. As such, Nash has to set the tone and expectations for defensive zone coverage and neutral zone play. That is not happening, and people around the league are noticing. I think the team misses Andrew "Weighty" Murray, who wasn't a tremendous offensive threat, but very solid on defense and wins a lot of battles in the corners. MacKenzie has filled in admirably, but I haven't seen too much from Blunden recently. Speaking of recently invisible, Chimera has got to step up his game as well. Like...right now. He made a gutsy "soccer" clear on the PK when he was without his stick in Montreal, and maybe that's a sign of things to come.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Montreal only has four players with five or more goals. Cammalleri leads the team with 11. Again, the Jackets are facing a team with only one bona fide scoring threat, but that doesn't seem to matter too much. Only the slumping Carolina Hurricanes have given up more goals than the Jackets (79). Clearly, they can't take anyone lightly as a scoring threat.
However, that point will be null and void if the first line doesn't show up. Nash and Juice didn't contribute a whole lot the game last night, nor did they in Nashville. They are both playing very well overall, and I'm sure they'll bounce back tonight. Vermette has been brutalized in the last two games -- it seemed as if he was completely unprepared for the competitive pace of the game. He needs to get focused and bring a more physical game to bear. He needs to be every bit as good of a defensemen as a forward when he's on the ice, and he needs to check the body to fill that role.
Monday, November 23, 2009
The Rangers have certainly cooled since their blazing start. They now sit at fourth in the Atlantic. The Rangers have lost four of their last five, and when they faced top-tier teams, they weren't up for the challenge. "Torts" as he's known, is not exactly a lilting flower on the bench. He is less than pleased with the recent stretch of games, and his doghouse is getting a little more crowded with Blueshirts. The Rangers have felt some pain from injuries, but eventually every team always does, and they are not dealing well with the adversity.
Tonight's game should feature an intriguing special teams matchup. The Rangers' PK is the fourth best in the league -- which is even more surprising given their poor performance in the faceoff circle (47%). The Jackets have the second best powerplay in the league. Yes, I just wrote that. They are clicking at better than a 25% conversion rate, and Stralman, Tyutin and Brassard are doing an excellent job of generating effective puck movement and shots from the point. The Rangers take approximately 20 minutes of penalties per game, so if the Jackets can manage to be a little more prudent in staying out of the box, the powerplay should get at least 3-4 good chances to convert.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Saturday's tilt marks the second Central Division matchup thus far for the Jackets -- surely, they are hoping for a better result than the 9-1 drubbing they suffered at the hands (and feet, and elbows) of Detroit on November 11. It won't take much to get the Jackets motivated to win this game, but one has to wonder if they can bounce back with an appropriate level of energy after losing Dorsett to injury in Dallas and having an extremely physical game only two nights previous.
The Predators' powerplay has been fairly atrocious in the first quarter of the season -- not a tremendous surprise given their lack of goal scoring in even play. They are dead last in the league, averaging only 2.2 goals per game. However, the Jackets' defense and PK has been so inconsistent this year, that they can hardly afford to discount any team's powerplay efficacy. As proof, the Jackets are allowing 3.3 goals per game and currently rank 26th in the league in that category. The Predators penalty kill is right in the middle (15th in league) at 80.6%.
Second Line: Turn the Juice Loose. Since his return from a brief injury rest, Huselius has been on fire. He's playing with passion, controlling the puck and looking to score. Jackets fans haven't seen this Huselius for awhile and he is managing the ice very effectively. Perhaps most impressively, he's been doing so in two very physical hockey games. He needs the puck on his stick - plain and simple.
Third Line: Hit everybody. As Hitch mentioned in the post-game presser on Thursday evening, the Jackets are being mindful of their checking game again -- and it's paying big dividends. They have size and speed, and when those assets are combined with a commitment to punishing the other team, a lot of good things happen. The Jackets have to stay true to that commitment -- especially on the road. There is no doubt that Nashville will bring a physical presence to the game and the Jackets have to exceed it. The Predators powerplay isn't a tremendous threat (14.7%) and that should allow the Jackets to take some more liberties with physical play.
Fourth Line: Support Mase. Sophomore slumps can still go away during the sophomore year. Mase has been playing really solid - with the notable exception of the Detroit massacre - and with Hejda and Commie now healthy and back in the lineup, he should be feeling much more confident. The Predators shouldn't generate more than 25-30 shots, and as long as the Jackets keep the shooting lanes free of screens and traffic, Mase should have another solid game. Building momentum and confidence for Mason is crucial for success on this road trip -- and certainly for the balance of the season.
Friday, November 20, 2009
- Dallas Stars F James Neal has been suspended two games for his hit on CBJ F Derek Dorsett last night. It was a dirty play and the suspension is warranted. The league, however, needs to reassess how many games they are suspending these players. Two games (or 2.4% of the regular season) should not be deemed adequate for the kind of disregard for player safety that Neal displayed last night. Maybe I am biased. Puck Daddy seems to think that Neal's defenders in Dallas are right in arguing that intent to injure was not part of the equation. You be the judge.
- Kristian Huselius has been named one of the 3 Stars of last night by the NHL. Juice put up 2 goals against the Stars. One goal was of the shorthanded variety, the other was a PP tally. Huselius has 15 points in 16 games.
- John Kreiser over at nhl.com has some interesting league numbers at the quarter-season mark. Mathieu Garon is mentioned.
- I've tried on more than one occasion in this space to express my thoughts about the NHLPA and the whole firing of Paul Kelly issue. John Buccigross over at the World Wide Leader has an excellent piece that succinctly (as much as possible) portrays how/why the situation happened, and what impact it will have on the union, the league and we fans in the future. I cannot recommend it enough.
- Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to express condolences to Chris Speilman, his 4 children, and their entire family as they morn the loss of Chris' wife Stefanie to cancer. Stefanie Spielman was a remarkable woman whose public fight with cancer inspired others to fight harder in their own battles, and raised awareness for Breast Cancer Research around the world. She will be missed. Please visit The Stefanie Spielman Fund to learn more about her courage and how you can help the fight.
The CBJ started the season-long, five game road trip with two first period goals. Rick Nash (who else?) got his team on the board by chipping a loose puck over Marty Turco’s shoulder. The second goal of the game was a killer for the Stars as red-hot Kristian Huselius beat Turco five hole on a two-on-one with Antoine Vermette after a giveaway at the Dallas blueline. Not only was the goal short-handed, but it dented the twine with .3 seconds left in the period. Huge goal for a guy who has come to life in the last couple of games.
The first period featured three fights and a couple of additional scrums to make things interesting. During one scrum that happened in the Dallas end, Turco got involved with Nash and Stephane Robidas. CBJ netminder Steve Mason skated a couple hundred feet from his crease to see he was needed before being sent back to his net by the zebras. Jason Chimera fought Steve Ott after an Ott shift where he tried hitting, kneeing, biting, kicking and/or scratching anyone in a white sweater. Derek Dorsett gave up 20 pounds to Trevor Daley and still gave the Dallas defenseman all he wanted and Jared Boll tried his best to feed Krys Barch some knuckles in their tilt. It was family friendly entertainment at its’ finest!
In the second, more nastiness ensued. James Neal, who reportedly turned down a fight offer from Dorsett earlier in the game (Daley stepped up in Neal’s stead), drilled Dorsett’s head into the glass with his shoulder, knocking Dorsett into next week. It was a gutless hit on a defenseless player. Neal was given the gate and the CBJ a five minute major. The CBJ made the penalty really hurt when Huselius potted his second of the game and Torres roofed his 9th of the season from a beautiful pass from Jake Voracek. Both goals came on the major power play. Mike Modano capped the scoring in the second with a goal off a nice back door pass from Brendan Morrow.
Unlike games earlier in the season, there was no loose or panicked play in the third. The Jackets kept rolling four lines and hitting everything in sight. Mason has an answer for all six shots directed his way in the third. Jackets win, Jackets win 4-1.
The CBJ run their record to 12-6-2 through 20 games and remain two points behind the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division. They sit 6th in the Western Conference standings and look to a tough matchup with nemesis Nashville on Saturday night.
Carry the Flag!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The Dallas Stars are the proud owners of one of the ugliest logos/sweaters in all of hockey.
Columbus (11-6-2) @ Dallas (9-5-6)
American Airlines Center, 8:30 pm EST
TV: FS-O (HD) / FS-SW (HD)
Last 5 games: CBJ (4-1) / DAL (3-2)
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
- At the quarter-season mark, Pierre LeBrun over at ESPN has Rick Nash as the Hart Trophy winner. With 13g, 11a, 24p, -7 in 19 games, Captain Columbus certainly deserves to be in the mix.
- Sticking with the ESPN theme, LeBrun, Scott Burnside & John Buccigross have their North American Olympic teams posted. No R.J. Umberger on either list for Team America. At least Burnside/LeBrun explain the snub.
- Shanahan is hanging them up. The Hall of Fame awaits, and possibly a role in the NHLPA. At least according to the Canadian Press.
- Next up for the CBJ is the start of a 5 game road trip against Dallas tomorrow night. Get some scouting done this evening when the Red Wings host the Stars on the NHL Network. Game time is 7:30 EST. Don't have the NHL Network? Too bad... NHL On The Fly is the cat's ass! Wanna find out what cable provider in your area has it? Click here.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
- It appears that F Nikita Fiilatov's days as a Blue Jacket are over, at least for this season. While nothing is confirmed by either side, the Dispatch is reporting that in addition to the rumors that an agreement is in the works to send the Russian born winger to the KHL, his lockeroom stall has been cleared out and his name plate removed. Oh, and mom is in town. Being the good journalists that they are, the boys at the Dispatch didn't do much speculating, but I will. I am a fan of the kid and want him to succeed in this league, and specifically for this team. That being said, if he is incapable at this point of his career of not being a defensive liability to his teammates than he shouldn't be playing. This goes for any player, not just young Europeans. Some will say Hitchcock hasn't given the kid the chance he needs to prove himself. Horse puckies! Between last season, training camp, practices and games this season, he has had more than enough time to show that he can be a reliable teammate. Apparently he hasn't done that. We will know shortly if Filatov is headed back to Russia, as the rumors say, or if there is something here on this continent that will appease both sides. My question is did the Jackets just let a 1st round pick walk out the door without any kind of compensation? I doubt it will be that lopsided, and there will certainly be caveats that will determine the final outcome of this. For the foreseeable future it looks like we just helped relieve our "glut of forwards" problem. TSN has an article about kids in the NHL which features Filatov prominently. Porty even gets mentioned!
- Jackets take 2 against the Oilers. For the second game in a row, the CBJ have won in a shootout. This time it was against Edmonton. G Mathieu Garon was in net for both wins. Read all about it here... here... and here.
- Is Ovie back? Speculation is that Washington F Alex Ovechkin will make his return to the lineup tonight against the Rangers.
- POWER RANKINGS: Even my fellow bloggers here at JR were surprised to hear about the fan feedback for this item. Let's not waste time. ESPN, TSN, Dispatch, The Hockey News.
Monday, November 16, 2009
- F Tom Sestito makes his season debut for the CBJ. Filatov will sit tonight to make room. Sestito has 5g, 3a, 8p and 64pim in 16 games for Syracuse thus far. He will likely fit into the fourth line along side Mike Blunden and Jared Boll. Also, D Mike Commodore will sit this game out. This will be the second consecutive game Commie has missed due to conditioning issues.
- Oilers D Sheldon Souray returned to the lineup last night against Atlanta. Souray had missed 5 weeks recovering from a concussion. Dude came back and played 27 minutes (led the team). The Edmonton Journal will get you up to speed.
- Last week I mentioned that fans should in no way expect much to be done by the GM's regarding hits to the head. During last weeks GMs meeting in Toronto, the issue was obviously the elephant in the room, yet they GM's managed to ignore it for the most part. They decided to have a panel formed to look at the issue and make recommendations at a later date. THN's Colin Campbell has the story. While they are "looking at the issue" let's hope nobody else gets seriously injured.
- Finally, here is a great opportunity to help out a very worthwhile cause and to meet some of your favorite Jackets players in the process. Tomorrow night at the Lakes Golf and Country Club you can attend a fund raiser benefiting the Luke Billings Foundation. This organization raises funds to help local children with Cerebral Palsy. Nash, Commodore and Mason are scheduled to attend, so take this opportunity to meet some of the local heroes and help out some disadvantaged kids, you'll be glad you did.
First Line: Make a statement. The Jackets blew a big lead against the Oilers the last time they played. They squandered points and it set the tone for the disastrous road slide. The Oilers are playing a back-to-back after playing Atlanta on Sunday afternoon and this is the last game on a five-game road trip. Even with the benefit of three days fo rest, they blew a lead against a tired Atlanta team and lost in the southern library known as Phillips Arena. This team will be ready and primed to give the Jackets two points - they are 0-2 for the second game of back-to-backs this year. The Jackets have to come checking hard out of the gate and do their best to sustain an aggressive style of play for 60 minutes.
Fourth Line: Contain Penner. The Oilers really depend upon Penner to initiate goal scoring right now, and are fairly one-dimensional in that regard. Penner is the only Oiler in the lineup with more than 5 goals. He scored against Atlanta yesterday to continue his torrid scoring pace. With the return of Horcoff and Souray from the injury report, the offensive capabilities of the team should improve and the Jackets need to be mindful of that. As mentioned above, Penner blasted the Jackets with 5 points in the last meeting and he needs to be shutdown. He's big and great off the half-wall, so it will really fall to the forwards to slow him down through the neutral zone and for the Jacket's d-men to put a body on him at all times.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Kristian Huselius was huge in his return to the lineup with a goal, an assist and the shootout winner, and though Raffi Torres was placed on IR freeing a roster spot for Juice, it's clear we trade grit for skill in that exchange. In addition, Ken Hitchcock gave a start to Mathieu Garon, and he did not disappoint making 32 saves and improving to 17-4 all-time in shootouts. Garon made several nice stops but a glove save on Ryan Getzlaf when the game was tied at 2 was probably his best of the evening. And, in playing so well, does this set up a goaltending controversy? Will Garon get another opportunity Monday night or does Hitchcock return Steve Mason to the lineup with an ultimatum?
Next up for the Jackets? Monday night at Nationwide as the homestand concludes against the Edmonton Oilers at 7pm. Assuming an empty building on a Friday night is a predictor of Monday's attendance, I think it's fair to suggest there are still good seats available. The lower bowl looked to be pretty sparse which is not a good indication for a franchise that purportedly is struggling with financial issues.
Around the college game, Ohio State defeated Western Michigan 4-2 on the strength of three goals in 49 seconds as the Buckeyes rallied from a 1-0 third period deficit. Junior netminder Dustin Carlson (Forest Lake, Minn.) made 19 stops to earn his first victory of the season. And, it was the first time this season Ohio State has won on Friday night. With the win, Ohio State improves to 4-6-1 and 3-3-1-1 in the CCHA. The two teams will meet again this evening at Value City Arena at 8:05pm.
In Bowling Green, Ohio, the Bowling Green Falcons earned their first win of the 2009-10 season by upsetting #9 Alaska 3-1. Many in college hockey circles have questioned the legitimacy of the Nanooks as they had not yet played a game outside the state of Alaska. With the win, the Falcons improve to 1-7-1 and 1-3-1-1 in the CCHA. Despite being outshot 25-17, the Falcons potted a goal in each period with highly regarded freshman, and Jordan Samuels-Thomas (Windsor, Conn.) scoring his fourth goal of the season. Samuels-Thomas was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 7th round of this year's entry draft and stands 6'2" making him an interesting prospect if he continues his rapid development. With the loss, the Nanooks fall to 6-2-1 (3-2 CCHA) and have had a little of their early season luster removed. The teams conclude their weekend series this evening at the BGSU Ice Arena at 7:35pm.
In Oxford, Ohio, #1 Miami and Ferris State played to a 2-2 tie with the Bulldogs earning an extra point in the CCHA standings by winning a shootout. The game is viewed nationally and for the purposes of RPI and NCAA tournament selection as a tie because the CCHA is the only college hockey conference that has decided to settle ties with a shootout. So, Miami moves to 8-1-2 overall and 5-1-1 in the CCHA while Ferris moves to 7-3-1 and 2-2-1-1. Ferris got on the board first in the second period on a goal from senior forward Blair Riley at 1:50, but Miami would tie it on a shorthanded goal from freshman defenseman Joe Hartman (St. Cloud, Minn.) at 19:59 of the second period. Miami led 2-1 with less than a minute left in regulation, but as has become this team's most concerning problem, the RedHawks were again unable to hold down the fort after Ferris State pulled their goaltender with around a minute to play. In fact, of their last eight games where an opponent has pulled their goaltender for an extra skater, Miami has surrendered goals in six games. And, in two of those games, Miami allowed more than one extra attacker goal, no larger than the two they gave Boston University in last spring's national title game. What's worse is that Miami has only scored empty netters in two of those eight games. Extra attacker defense must be a point of emphasis going forward. It's getting to the point where you wonder if a team isn't better off playing without a goaltender for longer stretches of time just to test it.
Ferris State and #1 Miami conclude their weekend series tonight at 7:35pm from Steve Cady Arena. The game can be seen around the great state of Ohio on ONN.