Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some Mason-ic Observations & Capitals Game Odds & Ends

Mason vs. Ovechkin

From our position behind the Jacket's attack twice goal, we got a great view of some of Mason's best plays during the second period, many of them involving some ferocious line drives from Ovechkin's stick. Some things we noticed:

  • Mason has a way of moving and getting square in a way that is almost invisible, it is so fluid. Watching Leclaire, you are always amazed at his quickness, but it is always a flurry of rapid motion -- legs whipping out, arms flailing. You have a much calmer sense from Mason, even under pressure.
  • Mason's size enables him to be able to hang closer to the goal line and still cut off the angle. Two or three times during the second period, Ovechkin was clearly trying for the high far corner, but shot wide or into Mason's shoulder every time.
  • Hands down, Mason is the best of our three goaltenders in playing the puck behind the net. He is purposeful and made some beautiful passes and clears from the trapezoid. For Pazzy and Freddy, I have the "blue ice" rule -- if they look down and do not see blue ice, they need to move!

Other observations:

Two Way Player of the Game -- Nash. His single handed stop on Ovechkin, the steal leading to his shortie, and his huge presence on the PK all night were a sight to behold.

Nice To See Efforts- Torres and that whole line showed a lot of hustle, determination and execution. Murray had his best effort yet, and Modin showed some real grit.

Best Cheer of the Night -- Well, calling it a cheer might be a bit generous, but a third period yell from Section 109 was priceless : " 3 Goals Allowed Johnson!!! That's 5 goals Canadian!!"

Best Almost End Of A Bad Streak--Torres' goal was technically not a PP goal, but functionally was, as we still had the advantage in the zone, and the play setting it up occurred with the man advantage. Overall, the Tyutin/Russell pairing on the point is showing promise.

Fan Support -- A good crowd saw a great game, and appeared to appreciate it! I sense there is lots more to come!

Go Jackets!

A Watershed Victory

As the season progresses, keep 9:34 PM EST on November 29 in the back of your mind. That was the time that the CBJ closed out a magnificent 3 -0 victory over the Washington Capitals, but more importantly, it signified several important milestones:

1. A Complete Effort -- 60 minutes of hard charging, smart, tough hockey. No scrambling, no big blocks of time where we fell asleep. Stifling defense, lots of motion in the offense.

2. A Team Effort -- While Nash, Mason and Hejda received the stars, this was a victory shared by virtually the whole team. Torres, Murray, Malhotra, Modin, Chimera all played hard nosed, hustling hockey at both ends of the ice. Commodore, Russel, Tyutin were all huge and Backman showed more. We supported in all zones, and played with a calmness that we have not yet seen.

3. A Display of Character -- Less than 24 hours after a gut wrenching loss that would have sent us into a tailspin in years past, we came back against a hot, tough opponent, and not only won, but dominated throughout the game. A lot of guys grew up in the last 24 hours, and it showed tonight.

4. A New #1 -- Forget the politically correct sound bites for the media -- Mason is the #1 goalie, at least for now. He stared down Ovechkin and came out on top several times, three during a brief 2nd period flurry for the Caps. His calmness and focus are what we need right now. Let's be honest -- Mason will have some bad runs, and Pazzy will get over his current bad run. No need call for Leclaire to be run out of town, or to put Mason on the pedestal. We are fortunate to be in this situation, where Pazzy has time to work through this bad spell, while Mason continues to shine. Rookie of the Month for November???

No guarantees, but mark this date down as the day the Jackets became a team, found some identity, and took a big step forward. Bravo!!!

Time To Take Advantage Of Opportunities

With Ovechkin and Company coming to town, we need to play smart hockey in our own zone -- not giving up the odd man rushes and keeping things spread to the outside. Let Mason take care of the shots from outside by creating lanes for him to see. We have shown we can shut down some high powered scorers.

At the same time, we should have some opportunites. Washington has given up a lot of goals, and their goaltending is middle of the road. We need to create some odd man opportunities, get traffic low and keep the puck moving on offense.

Some calculated recklessness on offense and discipline on defense should create lots of scoring chances. Huselius, Chimera and others are due to capitalize tonight. Go Jackets!!!

The Dispatch Does It Again!

Our local scribes are at it again. Today's CBJ coverage proclaims in the subhead that "Bluejackets tie it three times . . ." Very nice, except it's WRONG! Voracek scored first, Detroit then tied it, went ahead on their second PP goal, we tied it with Tyutin's first, they went back ahead with the awful goal at the end of the second, and we tied it with Tyutin's red line special.

While the article correctly places the loss at Pazzy's feet, where are the mentions of Russell's play, Huselius hitting three posts, Chimera's effort (and open net miss at the end), and of the much better looking point play with Tyutin and Russell???? More coverage of Ovechkin today than of the CBJ.

The fans deserve better coverage. Did Tom Reed actually watch the game, or just catch the highlights on NHL Network????

And people wonder why I get on the local paper about their CBJ coverage . . .


Friday, November 28, 2008

A Win That Slipped Through The Pads

This was a win, or at least an OTL, that slipped squarely through the pads of Pascal Leclaire. While he made a good save now and again, he was often a half step slow, looking behind him, and gave up two awful goals. No excuse for the game winner for an NHL starting goalie.

Overall, a very up-tempo and strong effort. Momentary lapses, and too much time in the penalty box, but some very strong play again from Huselius, Tyutin, Commodore, Umberger and others. Even Backman looked much better. Russell was very strong, and the fourth line chipped in with some good shifts. Huselius still haunted by the posts, and Nash likewise had a couple get away. Chimera missed a wide open net on the last PP, which could have made the whole thing moot.

This was one that should have been in the "W" column for the good guys, or at worst, an OTL. Maybe Leclaire is not 100% healthy, but he is noticeably slower than last year. For my money, look for Mason in goal tomorrow night, as that last goal will have Hitch seething.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

TSN Has A Sense Of Humor

Seeing that Scott Cullen at TSN had downgraded the CBJ from 16 to 22 in the latest power rankings, I took the opportunity to email my disagreement, noting that the CBJ had dismantled Buffalo (#17) on the road, and had the same record, had beaten every Candadian team they had played ( with the exception of the second Edmonton fiasco), had two great battles with Minnesota, and shutout Atlanta.

Surprisingly, Cullen responded almost immediately:

My reasoning for the Jackets falling was that Pascal Leclaire returned and, unfortunately, he hasn’t been as good as Steve Mason. If Mason continues to take starts, or Leclaire starts playing better, I’ll happily move the Jackets up because their goaltending grade will be higher.

I have no problem with Columbus – and certainly no reason to want them to fail -- but, let’s not get too excited about shutout wins against Atlanta.

I had to concede the point about Atlanta . . . ;-)

Another Fighting Casualty

Per Arace in Puck-Rakers -- Dorsett broke his finger in the fight with Carcillo in Period 1 and was placed on IR immediately after the game. Kris Russell has been recalled from 'Cuse -- maybe some help on the point in the PP.

We need to stay out of fights -- Boll, Torres and now Dorsett -- all significant down time due to fights. Maybe our guys just need to learn how to punch properly. . . This one is strange, as both Carcillo and Dorsett shed their helmets with their gloves before starting up.

The Great Missing Car Caper -- Part I

As if the 3 - 2 loss to Phoenix wasn't enough, we (wife, son & I) strolled to the Chestnut Street garage to retrieve our car, and arrived at our 3rd level location to find -- missing car!!!! Needless to say, we scurry down to the office, meeting some fellow season ticket holders, who, like us, paid good money to Standard Parking for the full season. Their car was likewise missing, and were told that the car had been towed, as they were parked in Reserved spots.

Now, we have parked in exactly the same spots for 4 preseason and 11 regular season games, and even went so far as to check with 2 different employees as to where permissable parking and impermissable parking was located when we came to the first game this year, as this was a new garage for us. We were assured that these spots were fine.

After receiving several different stories from the onsite employee, assurances that the manager was on his way, and making a call to the Columbus Police to investigate the prospects for pressing charges, we were told that our cars had been towed to the 9th Floor of the garage! While two of us retrieved the cars, checking for damage, the manger and cohort arrive, and provide several different versions of what the rules were, finallly saying that they were not responsible for what their employees said!

Clearly the intent was to hold us up for towing fees, which we vociferously declined to do. Come Friday, Standard Parking will hear much more about this, and the CBJ will be notified about the quality of the vendor they have chosen to use for their parking. Stay tuned for the next installment . . .

Missed Opportunity -- 3-2 Loss To Phoenix

Heartbreaking game tonight -- another great effort goes for naught. The ice was definitely tilted in the CBJ's favor all night long, time of possession, faceoffs, hits, shots on goal, you name it. Penalty kill was tremendous. Though Phoenix technically got a PP goal, it was a weak lobber that looked like it caromed off of one stick and two bodies before changing trajectory over Mason's head. Mase probably would like the first goal back -- kind of took a misstep to the left as the puck was coming to his right, but this was not on him.

Power play held possession and got more shots off, but we clearly need a right handed shot out there, and maybe need to be a bit more reckless down low, firing pucks even when the lane may not appear clear.

Huselius was huge all night long, Boll looked better, and Voracek, Peca and Nash were consistently strong. Defense was consistent, we battled hard in the corners, and overall looked like an energetic, accomplished team. Some ragged puck handling in the neutral zone, and Hejda was not strong on the puck in his own zone. Most importantly, need to finish opportunities. This could easily have been an 8 - 2 game.

Scattered boos at the end were unwarranted, IMHO. Lots of effort out there tonight, just no finishing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Miscellany

Dispatch Q1 Results Are In!

This morning's 'Patch has an unusually fair and upbeat assessment of the first quarter of the season. The local scribes seem to be getting good with the concept that you can't turn over 50% of your roster and expect them to be playing as a seamless unit from Day 1. Kudos to Messrs. Portzline & staff for a nice review.

More Dispatch Ruminations . . .

I have never been shy about criticizing the local paper for its CBJ coverage, but maybe have been overly harsh on the writers themselves. If you read the Portzline and Reed contributions to Puck-Rakers, the contributions are far more flowing, upbeat and complete. Contrast this writing with what actually gets printed in the Dispatch. Granted, blogs are generally more free flowing, but the tone is distinctly different as well. I went back and re-read the 1st Quarter review of the Jackets referred to above, and even that reads like it was cut short. Could we have more of an editing issue than a writing issue here???

Be Thankful . . .

As you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, be extremely grateful that you are not in Tampa Bay. A knee-jerk coach firing, turmoil in the locker room, injuries and an apparently rudderless ship. A great object lesson in how not to handle an influx of new players. The Bolts are still suffering from the Modin/Norrena for Denis trade, and the rash of deals that followed the change in ownership. Might the new owners want to kiss and make up with Doug McLean???

Payback Time

The Coyotes come back to town on Wednesday, and Hitch and the gang will be primed to atone for the sloppy 5-2 loss on 11/11. Look for continuation of the stifling defense we showed in Atlanta. Mason back in the net.

Howson Busy??

Rumors have Scott Howson working the phones, more on the listening than talking side right now, trying to come up with some additional pieces for the power play and adding overall depth. Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Florida are likely partners, with Colorado also in the mix. Klesla, Tollefson, Novotny, Le Claire and Norrena most frequently mentioned in the rumor mills.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Well Crafted Victory

If there was ever a Hitchcockian win to be witnessed, tonight's 2 -0 victory over Atlanta was it. Solid goaltending, stifling defense, a timely goal, no panic, effective penalty kill. Sure we whiffed on some opportunities in the offensive end, but so did Atlanta.

This is a game the CBJ of old loses more often than not, or at best takes it to overtime after surrendering a late goal. Instead, tonight the boys played with their heads as well as their skates and sticks. No stupid penalties, minimized turnovers, and a good forecheck. The puck did not linger on the sticks in the defensive zone, and we got pucks to the net from the point. No power play goals, but much better possession and some good opportunities.

In the "it's about time" department -- Backman had by far his best game, in all three zones. Voracek had more bounce in his step, Tyutin continued solid play. Torres was more of a factor, and even Boll showed brief flashes. Huselius is a wizard holding on to the puck, but couldn't he may get a stick that is a little less narrow, so that the whiffs and close in misses can go down. He has inherited the Chimera mantle of "can't hit the ocean from the beach" of late.

I will be fascinated to see how the Dispatch treats this one. Headline will probably ready something like "Fortunate Jackets Escape With Win"

More features coming here -- just getting this off the ground, so let's see some comments, ideas, topics. Thanks for visiting!