Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Force Is Strong With This One . . .

After a disappointing home and home with St. Louis, and the ensuing panic among the more squeamish CBJ fans, the last name many wanted to see on the schedule was Nashville. Darth Vader. Death Star. Doom.

Well, not so much actually . . . Our own version of Luke Skywalker, Raffi Torres, slammed home the winning goal 4:05 into the third period, and turned the affair over to the rest of the Rebels to finish the job. Through a combination of deft puck possession in the offensive zone, a tenacious defense, a superb penalty kill and solid goaltending, the Jackets killed off the balance of the period, restoring order to The Force.

Sure, this was a depleted Nashville team, with Arnott, Erat and Legwand out. They received another blow when Dumont went hard into the boards and lay motionless for a good period of time. He eventually left the ice with moderate assistance, but I suspect that a concussion is a real possibility. But, as Nash observed in the paper this morning --everybody goes through it, and you just have to keep playing. (AP Photo/Jay LaPetre)

The Calgary win was artistic -- this one was a mechanical marvel. The pieces all fit together, and even when a gear slipped a little bit, the clutch engaged and smoothed it right out. Nashville's lone goal came on a gorgeous cross-ice feed at the left post for a tip in that Mason had no chance on. It was started by an ill-advised pinch attempt, I believe by Tyutin, and he and Boll got caught up ice. A Huselius turnover leading to a breakaway was negated by a beautiful back check by . . .Huselius. Russell thwarted a later breakaway effort. Mason made a number of terrific saves, but none nicer than a second period beauty. He slid to his left as the shooter came down the right wing, reminiscent of Martin St. Louis' winning goal for Tampa in OT. Just as then, the shot went to the far post as Mason was sliding the other direction, but he reached back with the glove and made a terrific save. Give Rinne credit for Nashville -- he singlehandedly kept them in the game.

Here are +/- for tonight:

+ Discipline -- We played an extremely disciplined game, taking zero penalties in the first two frames. Our defensive corps was much better on the puck and in support, after a little bit of initial shakiness. We cycled, we put pucks on the net, and did not get out of our game plan when we could not get things to go. We kept grinding and got rewarded, at the same time wearing Nashville down.

+Possession -- We dominated possession in this one, but in a totally different way than against Calgary. There, we had artisitic passes and combinations that flowed artistically, Here, we continued to cycle, get the puck deep, chase it down, center it, shoot, get the rebound, cycle it . It was amazing to watch for those of us Day 1 season ticket holders who only dreamed about days like this. We generated traffic in front, and though we did not cash in on all our opportunities, we won the majority of the battles.

+ Penalty Kill -- We didn't need to use it much, but when we needed it, the PK came through in spades! The only two power plays of the night for the Preds came back to back, with 28 seconds of overlapping 5-on-3 time. This coming just minutes after we had taken the lead. Nothing like a 3rd period 5-on-3 against you during a heated playoff race to get the blood moving! With Mason as the foundation, the penalty killers were aggressive, challenging the puck handlers and creating havoc. Well done!

+Special Mention---- Aside from the obvious, Jake Voracek was ENORMOUS tonight, though he won't show up on the scoresheet. He was all over the ice, making plays, keeping possession. Vermette was a monster as well. Boll had some good moments, and hopefully was not dinged too badly by his blocked shot. Backman (yes, him) was solid, if unspectacular. Russell was a key contributor in moving the puck and keeping momentum going.

-- Columbus -- 6 games to go in the regular season, we are in 6th place, with a 2 point lead over Nashville, and the Predators are in town. It is Spring Break for most of the kids, so no school tomorrow. No blizzard, no tornado, no NASCAR on television, no OSU rowing meet to distract. So why the hell were there only 14,495 in the house? Shame on you Columbus -- you showed yourselves for the fair weather, attention-deficit fans that you really are. Disgusting . . .

A great win at a clutch time for the team. With 88 points and 5 games left, the fat lady hasn't sung, but I hear something in the wings . . . Vancouver has now taken over the lead in the Northwest Division, so Calgary drops to 4th. Chicago is also standing still. A well-earned rest for the boys now, until Saturday in Nashville. We swept the season series here, now need to break through in their barn. A contingent of 30 or so Jacket Backers will be in the house on Saturday, so we will represent. Funny, I didn't hear any "Let's Go Predators" chants at Nationwide tonight. Hmmm . . . maybe too many syllables.

Luke slays Darth. Pleased we are.

Go Jackets!

No comments: