Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Dirty, Grimy Victory

Sitting here in a sleep-deprived fog, recovering from following the game on radio and internet last night/this morning, then watching coverage on NHL Network, this is the only description I can come up with to describe the victory over the Kings. Brutal hitting, tight checking, incredible goaltending on both sides. They should have worn overalls instead of hockey sweaters for this one.

Klesla was the metaphor for this victory. He kept hitting, getting hurt, coming back. Stops a 3 on 1 by getting his forehead in the way of the puck. Still he came back. He got off the deck more times than Jerry Quarry. (Youngsters can Google Jerry to find out who he was.) ;-) Make no mistake, however -- this was another team victory, in a game that was destined to go against the team that blinked first.

Hejda was huge all night. Peca came to the fore, as did Boll. Nash, despite having only 1 SOG, was a big presence all night. Huselius was a gnat, keeping motion in the game. Umberger, Murray and Voracek all contributed. Even Backman was a visible presence. As predicted in the preview here, it came down to some incredible goaltending. Both tenders robbed shooters of some prime opportunities.

+/- for the game:

+ Tenacity -- "Energy" does not describe the attitude that the CBJ brought to the ice last night. While there was the periodic display of skill and tape-to-tape passing, those efforts were frustrated by great defense and goaltending on each side. We stayed physical for 60 minutes, pounded pucks from the point, and did all of the unpleasant things that you need to do to win on the road.

+ Defense -- Another game where we did not let them breathe. Lots of support in our own end, good clears, limited chances. Only 24 shots against -- a big improvement over 42 a couple of weeks ago! We dominated faceoff circle again, with Manny coming up huge.

+ Goaltending -- The two young Turks of the netminder world squared off, and our guy came out on top. Another nice effort!

+ Special Teams -- We were prudent about taking penalties, and the game winner was a power play goal (on an abbreviated power play, no less!) We are moving the puck better on the PP. PK was perfect again (14 for our last 14)!

+ Individuals -- Klesla, Hejda, Russell, Mason, Nash, Murray, Voracek, Huselius, Umberger.

- Finishing -- I almost hate to put this in as a minus, because both defenses and goaltenders did tremendous jobs, but other chances were missed from the magic triangle. Shots wide or high, and guys just not having their sticks on the ice when the puck got there. Need to start cashing in on opportunities, as I can guarantee you that we will need some of those during this trip.

Bottom line was a great start to the longest road trip of the year. A day to lick our wounds and end 2008 with a victory over Anaheim!

Go Jackets!

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