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Game #22: Blue Jackets vs. Wild

Saturday, November 25, 2006
Columbus Blue Jackets (5-14-2)


Minnesota Wild (13-8-1)

Uh oh! I vanished again for another few days, didn't I? Forgive me, the few readers who check in here every day or other day, but even though I didn't go anywhere for Thanksgiving this year, I just didn't have the time or the energy to come around the blog and get the ball rolling with any new entries. I've been juggling a wide variety of things from my usual class assignments to Christmas shopping, as well as getting back in to an exercise routine after taking a near month hiatus from anything exercise-heavy.

But enough about me. The Blue Jackets have been extremely busy since Kenny Hitchcock was hired on Wednesday, losing in OT to the St. Louis Blues (nice parting gift before Agnew took over his role as assistant coach again, huh?), having a Thanksgiving morning practice to get to know the players and run through a few things, and then a very spirited effort against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday, which ultimately ended in a painful loss.

The Columbus Dispatch ate up that loss to Philly, though; both Bob Hunter and Aaron Portzline speak of how even though the team didn't come away with two points (or even one point), the Jackets looked like a team that was trying, and how the whole team seemed to have an extra bounce in their step, so to speak. And I mean trying. Throughout the game the team outshot, outhit, and out-[insert several things here] the Flyers. But it just wasn't enough. One key thing that stood out to me was the power play, which still looked as lost as ever at some points, and just plain unlucky with bounces at other times. Adam Foote had me ready to tear out my hair at the numerous opportunities during the PP in which he would have been better off just shooting the puck.

Hunter and Portzline are on the mark, and I can say that with certainty a day later, having let my emotions run their course from the game. The Blue Jackets were a team last night that despite fatal errors leading to a loss, worked much more cohesively than they have practically all season so far.

The big question is whether or not this was energy from trying to please a new coach, or something more. Remember the first game of Gary Agnew's interim coach tenure, where the Jackets went blow for blow with the Nashville Predators before losing a heart breaker in the third period, 5-4. After that game, they futily flailed and were crushed by the Preds twice, and the Avalanche once in the next games.

Which is why tonight's game against the Northwest Division leading Minnesota Wild is so important. We need to see if last night was just a fluke. We also need to see how this team responds to now having Hitch behind the bench and running practices for three whole days now, and whether or not any tangible changes will reveal themselves.

The one thing the Jackets have going for them right now is that the Wild are coming in looking sort of dazed, just by the look of their recent record. The team is 3-6-1 in their past 10 games, and a shaky 2-5-0 on the road during the month of November so far. This is as good a time as any to take advantage of a team that is most likely going to be going to the playoffs, but is currently looking a little worn down.

I'm going to be at tonight's game, by the way; I am very eager to see Hitch coach his first game here at Nationwide, and it'd be a shame if I missed it. Win or lose, I want to see in person how he coaches and what he'll do tonight.

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  • At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Truth Serum said…

    Oh no, not you too! The Dispatch is now on board with the Jackets and will give Hitchcock a long honeymoon. And by the way, they want you to overlook the fact that the man mostly responsible for the poor condition of the team is still in place. All I know is that my PSL is not worth a dime.

  • At 10:57 PM, Blogger Michael Turner said…

    Come on, man. You give me too little credit. I'm totally aware that GMDM is still around, and that still doesn't make me happy at all, either. Unless this team somehow, miraculously makes the playoffs on the very last day of the season, I sincerely hope that he's given the walking papers.

    In any event, there was plenty to be angry about with last night's game, but they did nonetheless do more things right as time has gone on. And after all I saw tonight at the arena, I can't really argue with much, save for the continually horrendous goals that the CBJ give up thanks to giveaways (y halo thar Vyborny).

    The Dispatch IS exaggerating about that loss to Philly being the best loss ever for the Jackets, though. That label belongs to the shootout loss to Detroit last year. You know, the second time in two games at the Joe that they came from three goals down.

  • At 12:27 AM, Anonymous Nancy said…

    I have to agree with you, Michael. On one hand, I'd love little else than to see the team tear it up for the rest of the season. On the other, I can't stand Uncle Douggie.

    Ahhh, if we could only have both.

    ::Cut to the dream sequence::

  • At 12:19 AM, Anonymous Drew said…

    Nancy has perfectly enunciated the conundrum facing all CBJ fans right now.

    I guess it's only right to root for winning. But if we have to lose, MacLean might as well face the music, no?

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Name: Michael
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About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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