It's been a long time, loyal readers, and nothing warms the cockles of the heart like sharing our thoughts and opinions about our favorite hockey team. Its good to be back. Let's all hope Steve Mason is back too.
First Line: Matchups on the ice and behind the bench. Word out of Stockholm is that the Sharks will be rolling three scoring lines. These three lines are legit, and could expose a fatal flaw in the recently formed Jackets #2 line of Filatov-Brassard-Voracek. These are three highly talented young players, but none of them are heralded for their defensive acumen. Being responsible for tying up one of those scoring lines for the Sharks could prove to be too much for the Young Guns. Could Arniel need to shuffle things around in the first period of the first game? That on-ice matchup relates directly to Arniel and his career debut at the NHL coaching level. Sharks coach Todd McClellan is experienced and has earned a lot of wins. It will be interesting to watch Arniel and his staff as they match wits with the San Jose staff.
Second Line: So, whats this new "system" all about? All new coaching staff, all new approach to the game. Jackets fans are use to watching a system of hockey that favored 3 offensive players trying to score goals, while the 2 defensemen did little more than keep the puck in the zone. Arniel brings a system that intentionally incorporates those two defensemen into the offensive game plan. It's so crazy, it just might work. Arniel's system asks the defensemen to 1) be more assertive in getting the put out of the defensive zone, and 2) when appropriate feel free to join in the offensive play and help make good things happen. This second part is the tricky one. If the defensmen moves too deep into the offensive zone, it is easy for the other team to get an odd-man rush the other way. So a forward may need to cover for the "pinching" defenseman... now you have a forward playing D, and a defenseman playing offense... it can lead to good and bad things. It is a higher risk, higher reward system than we Jackets fans are use to watching. It could lead to losses, but they will be more enjoyable to watch than in years past.
Third Line: Which Steve Mason will we get? From Rookie Sensation, to Sophomore Death Spiral, Steve Mason has experienced some extreme peaks and valleys. If the CBJ are to have any hope of making a playoff run, Mason will have to be the player he was in his rookie year when he won the Calder Trophy, and challenged for the Vezina. As goes Mason, so go the Jackets.
Fourth Line: Brother, can you spare a match? Year 10 for the franchise... a decade... one playoff appearance resulting in a four game sweep. Is Nash honked off enough to light a fire under the rest of the players? Does he have to do it alone, or will others in the room step up? we saw some fire in the belly of these guys during the playoff run two years ago... last year it wasn't there, even in the beginning. Will the hunger for success propel this team to win games? We'll find out at 3:00 this afternoon.