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Blue Jackets Links

That spotlight's getting a little bright ...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007
So in the past week, the Columbus Blue Jackets ...

-Have continued to set a franchise record for best start ever (8-3-2), and sit 4th in the West, as well as 2nd in the Central.

-Have seen goalie Pascal Leclaire be named 2nd star of the month by the NHL, after which he proceeded to get his fifth shutout in his very next game against the Blues on Sunday (who he's now kept scoreless for two straight games against them).

-Have been recognized by the national media (that's really just a small taste of some of the attention they've received so far, too).

-Have seen several of their big-time prospects get honored or recognized for equally awe-inspiring play (Steve Mason is 9-2 after returning from Jackets' camp, Derrick Brassard was recognized as the AHL's rookie of the month, and Jakub Voracek was the QMJHL's player of the month).

I mean, for the love of [insert your favorite deity here], I might as well start shooting rainbows out of my eyes while singing Tiny Tim's Livin' in the Sunlight (aka Having a Wonderful Time) and prancing about like some sort of ninny. Seriously, what the Hell do I even have to gripe about? Maybe Rick Nash needs to shave that beard? Or how about I start complaining that we only have one short-handed goal on the #1 penalty kill in the league?

But really, to tell you the truth, all this attention and all of these good things happening leave me just a little concerned. It isn't so much pessimism as much as it's a case of knowing that sooner or later, this team is going to hit its first real roadblock ... and from the looks of it, this next week to two weeks could be considered the Blue Jackets' first real test, as they have seven straight games against divisional rivals to look forward to starting Wednesday.

Blackhawks, Red Wings, Predators, Predators, Blackhawks, Blues, Red Wings. And then one more Red Wings' game about a week after that last one. Daunting task, thy name is November schedule.

The Jackets did start off this long, Central Division swing on the right foot, however, when they once again shut the Blues out 3-0 on Sunday. I'll get through all the positives real quick, simply saying that Leclaire was again amazing (that glove save in the 2nd period on Paul Kariya was highway robbery); Adam Foote now looks like some sort of grizzled Union Army officer, and is playing with about as much passion as one, too, tallying two great assists; Nash and Nikolai Zherdev are practically sharing brains, and no better an example can be seen than by that beautiful airmail pass from Zherdev to Nash, who was waiting in the slot, before dropping it down, weaving a Blues' defenseman, and wristing it home. And don't forget that extended, extended delayed penalty in the 1st period, in which for what was almost a full minute, the Jackets' cycled, passed, shot, left and then re-entered the zone, cycled, shot, left and re-entered the zone again, then finally rifled one into the net thanks to a shot by Manny Malhotra.

Okay, then, that takes care of most of the good. So let's get to the bad, and then move on. The power play never registered a point, despite a prolonged 5-on-3 opportunity very early in the game. Give credit where credit is due to the Blues, who actually have the #2 penalty kill in the league, but also heap a little bit of shame on the Jackets for not being able to bury anything on such a marvelous opportunity right out of the gate. My stance is that so long as the Jackets' can at least manage to keep their power play efficiency somewhere between 16th and 20th in the league, it'll ultimately be a net gain when also factoring in their #1 penalty kill. The problem is that at the moment, it's 21st in the league, so unless they start to pick it up in the next few games, that great penalty kill will be put to waste.

David Vyborny is continuing to struggle, and it's hard to watch. I'll admit, he's playing with a good bit of passion in his recent play, but he's still been held pointless for four games now, after showing some signs of life with a three-game point streak between the 21st and 25th of October. It can be painful to watch, largely because during some of the Jackets' most bleakest times, Vyborny was there to at least give the team some hope (he led the team in scoring in the past two seasons). Is it because he's no longer consistently paired up with Nash? Or maybe he needs more time to gel with his linemates, who have shifted from time to time. He's been paired with Jiri Novotny the past two games, so maybe that can help him out ... maybe, considering Novotny's now gone three games himself without a point, after grabbing five (3g, 2a) in three games.

For now, that's all I got. There's a certain game that I'm eagerly anticipating at the end of this week, but I'm reminding myself -- and all of you Blue Jackets' fans out there -- that we should be focusing on Wednesday's first. Getting ahead of ourselves about certain, measuring stick match-ups can be a bad thing.
  • At 10:18 PM, Anonymous Drew said…

    I think saying that a slightly below average power play puts to waste a top ranked penalty kill is a bit misguiding.

    They're two separate entities, and while it would certainly help to have good special teams on both sides of the coin, a struggling power play does not degrade or affect a good penalty kill in my opinion. I suppose if the lack of scoring on the PP causes the team to become frustrated and take penalties, then it could affect the PK by causing more work.

    Maybe I don't understand what you're trying to say?

  • At 10:31 PM, Blogger Michael said…

    It's probably just me looking at it from a very simplistic point of view. If you have the #1 penalty kill, but also have the worst power play, it then stands to reason that you better be in the green when it pertains to Goals For compared to Goals Against on even strength, since the PK and PP cancel one another out.

    Like I said, it's an extremely simplistic view. It doesn't factor in the different amount of times a team is on the PK compared to the PP, for one. But I just feel that a great PK goes to waste if you don't also take advantage of when you yourself have the man-advantage.

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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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