Thursday, November 25, 2010

Game 20: Island Survivor

The Columbus Blue Jackets had to go out and make it interesting, didn’t they?

Riding the best start in franchise history, the Columbus Blue Jackets went into Nassau Coliseum and put themselves in position to earn their second straight 4-3 overtime loss against a miserable, seemingly overmatched New York Islanders team.

But thanks to a nice rebound and Jakub Voracek, something went very right this time.

The Jackets had a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period before unveiling their new third sweater before an excited, suburban mall crowd. You can read about that part here.

Then, after the intermission was over and people had filed out of the gathering space, the Blue Jackets proceeded to scare the hell out of the handful who stayed behind to watch the rest. Even more quickly than the Blue Jackets got their first-period goals from Antoine Vermette and Chris Clark (2:10 apart) to take the 2-1 lead at the first break, the Isles got goals from Michael Grabner and John Tavares (1:33 apart).

Then, it seems this team’s newfound sense of resolve kicked in. Previous versions of the Blue Jackets would panic, play on their heels… essentially, get rattled. However, the grit and determination that have personified CBJ version 10.0 resurfaced fairly quickly. R. J. Umberger took a rebound from a Jan Hejda shot, and wristed it past Rick DiPietro a little over seven minutes later to tie it up. For the next 33 minutes and change, DiPietro kept the Blue Jackets out of the net. More importantly, Mathieu Garon did the same against the Isles. Vocacek’s tap-in on that rebound from Kris Russell’s shot was just a thing of beauty.

Wrandom Wristers
• I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jared Boll skate away from a fight looking as roughed up as he did midway through the first period. Icing his hand, too. Hope he’s okay.
• Rick Nash was kept off the scoresheet last night, so that consecutive game/goals streak is over. What a run, though. Oh, well… start fresh against Detroit, eh?
• Speaking of Detroit, the Jackets’ win wraps up the first quarter of the season with 28 points, tied for the lead in the Central (and the Western Conference overall) with Detroit (although Detroit has a game-in-hand). Needless to say, Friday and Sunday are huge four-point games for the CBJ.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Sweater? Really Like It. “Boomer”? Ummmm…

The wait ended in stellar fashion. A crowd of about 100 people (rough estimate, but I think I’m close) gathered to watch the Columbus Blue Jackets’ game against the New York Islanders (the first period of it, anyway) and see the unveiling of the team’s new third sweater.

I got to the festivities and tried to find a really good place to try and get pictures and hopefully video as well. Because I was on the lower level of the Tuttle Mall, about 50 feet from the stage, I apparently missed the large inflatable jersey on the upper level that everybody was cheering for. However, I was able to catch the models – including original Blue Jacket and head of player development Tyler Wright – coming out in the new third sweater.

Owly Images

I’ll tell you right now: I like it.

I posted earlier this week that the recent trend of putting a logo within a circular patch for a classic look usually winds up not looking very creative. But I have to say I do like it in this case.

Owly Images

Obviously, the pictures are right here, so I don’t need to give you the forensic version of the jersey. You can see the cannon, the circular “Columbus Blue Jackets” banner and the star to represent Columbus as the state capital. The lace-up neckline is always a plus for a jersey, in my opinion – so that’s covered. You can see the lighter-blue used in the logo banner and on the trim stripes on the sleeves and bottom of the jersey. The only thing not apparent is the “JHM” logo – for late owner John H. McConnell – on the back of the neck trim, a feature that will only be included on the original production run of the jersey, apparently. You can see from the shots of Tyler Wright that the numbers are very rectangular. I was only bummed to not see shoulder patches.

However… overall, I think you’re looking at a pretty damn cool-looking sweater.

So the “models” are there, parading their new wares, and then the unveiling took…

…a turn.

A very… abrupt… turn.

As I was struggling to get a steady shot with my still camera to share on Twitter, it was apparent that the unveiling was not over, and a surprise guest was now on stage. I took my eyes off the viewfinders for a moment to focus on stage again, and…

What…

…the hell...

Owly Images

…was that?

This… inflatable, mustachioed… thing was standing next to Tyler Wright and Stinger. When it wasn’t standing still, it was waddling like a zombified bong on wheels. And believe me… using the word bong is really freaking tame… compared to the many comparisons it was getting to… other things.

Just so you know… I’m not ignoring the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room: “Boomer” is quite phallic. So much so, this blog post just might go blank as you’re reading it because NetNanny just tagged it.

Honestly, I was so caught up in the “what the hell is that” factor, and the cartoonish look to this artillery-themed mascot that was clearly meant to appeal to children… that it wasn’t until after I moved to watch the rest of the game that it even occurred to me. I got a message on Twitter to do a search on “Boomer” to see all the great jokes the CBJ Twitterverse had about this thing. That’s when I looked at the picture again, and realized, “Man, I was seriously in a hockey mindset at this event.”

I was also in a marketing mindset. Marketing communications is my day job, so that often slips into my way of thinking, and it was bound to happen here, with a third jersey launch.
But with “Boomer”? Oh, to be a fly on the wall to see the person who pitched that idea….

Let’s think about “Boomer” for a sec here… keep it PG, ladies. A big, tall, inflatable cannon with a cartoony face and inflated wheels attached. Cartoons = aimed at children. Cannon = artillery = big gun.

Now put those two equations together.

Children see a cute (to them), big, tall, inflatable cannon = Kids conclude big-ass guns are cool.

I’m not even a parent, and that’s more than a little alarming.

Now let’s talk about it from the historical perspective. As they were introducing the jersey, there was a bit of discussion of how Mr. Mac was dedicated to the association of the Blue Jackets team with Ohio’s important role in the American Civil War.

So, is it good to have The Cannon at Nationwide Arena, and the goal celebration it punctuates? Absolutely.

The new third jersey? Hell, yes.

“Boomer”? No… no… a thousand times, NO.

As I said earlier this week, historical references in logos and merchandising can be hit or miss. I think you can only stylize something like that so much without being disrespectful.

Does The Cannon work? Yes. The sweater? Yes.

“Boomer” is so far off course, Sarah Palin can’t even see it from her house.

The sweater is great.

If only it had stopped there….

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Third Sweaters: A Tribute to (Usually Good) Design

Jeez, Columbus Dispatch… why the spoiler?

The hometown paper published an article Monday night providing a full mental picture of what the Columbus Blue Jackets’ new third sweater will look like. I have to question why, but I guess the guys know what they’re doing. It’s their prerogrative. I’d link to it, but you’ve probably read it by now, and I’m willing to wait to critique it until tonight.

I’m going to try and not think about it before then… except for the fact that I’m just so damn stoked about it. Yes, third sweaters are all just a cheap ruse to drive new merch numbers for teams; there is no way around that fact. It’s also a great way for teams to think a bit outside the box. Most of the time, it works. Sometimes, it just… doesn’t.

The stuff that has worked in recent years? Well, the third sweater Phoenix rolled out after their red redesign was pretty sweet, in my opinion. I loved the blowup of the Boston Bruins’ shoulder patch for their third jersey after Reebok started making the jerseys. Carolina’s “hurricane flag" sweater has a nice look to it.

Among the old CCM jerseys, the Oilers turned in one of the best entries with that comet-looking thing with the oil and the gear – it’s hard to make oil look really cool, design-wise, but that one was definitely a winner. I always liked Phoenix’ old jersey designs, and their “desert-scape” third sweater with the Coyote head was one of my favorites. Colorado’s CCM third sweater with the team name laid out diagonally (although it does seem to knock off the classic Rangers design) does have a nice look – at least on the burgundy version, I’m not crazy about the current blue one.

Other recent designs, however, haven’t done much for me. Some teams have gone for setting their regular logos (or an older variation of them) inside a simple circle patch, such as St._Louis, Chicago or Florida. I suppose it brings a classic look, but… I don’t know. It just seems to lack some creativity for something that is supposed to prompt people to open their wallets. Then again, there are teams that don’t really do anything spectacular. The Rangers' switch to navy blue and spelling “New York” diagonally? Sure, it’s kind of classic, but… snooze. I appreciate classic logos as much as the next guy, but the old Oilers logo slapped on a new background color is just… not anything special.

Then again, I might just be the weird guy, though. Keep in mind… I liked the “desert-scape” Phoenix jersey I mentioned above. The short-lived, lightning-down-the-sleeves Tampa Bay jersey would be fun (and probably very expensive) for me to find. And, I was one of the five people who actually liked the “pissed-off fisherman” logo for the Islanders – a.k.a., the reviled “Fishsticks” jersey. Then again, if I were an Islanders fan, I’d take anything over that ugly logo they’ve insisted on using.

I even liked – laugh/cringe if you want – the old Buffa-Slug jersey, before the Sabres went back to their classic, “crossed-sabre” look. So, seriously -- take these picks with a grain of salt, okay?

The Dispatch mentioned a circular patch on this new sweater, which makes me a little leery. The cannon idea is nice, but honestly I have gone back-and-forth on that since the rumors first started swirling that the old-school, Civil War cannon motif was going to be a part of it. Logos and merchandising that have such specific historical references can be so hit-and-miss. The whole “Roll Out The Heavy Artillery” tease from the team had me getting visions of some crazy, gun-metal grey metallic thing – either as the dominant color, or as a significant amount of trim.

Still, what I've read sounds cool. The Jackets’ first attempt at a third jersey was simply phenomenal, introducing the hockey world to the wrapped Ohio flag logo, and drawing kudos from Hockey News’ “Greatest Jerseys of All Time” special issue (well, specifically for the significance of the Union cap shoulder patch). It still remains one of my favorite sweaters.

How will this one go? We’ll know in a matter of hours.

I’ll be honest… I’m a little giddy.

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What are your favorite sweaters, third or otherwise? That's what the comment box is for. ;)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Game 19: Owning Nationwide Again?

Letdown? Did I say letdown?

A letdown certainly did not seem to be in the cards Monday night, before a crowd just shy of 10,100 in Nationwide Arena. Steve Mason continued to flash some of the form that won him the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie (behind a league-leading number of shutouts as well) two years ago.

Mason grabbed his first shutout of the season, and the Jackets’ second shutout in as many games, in handing the Nashville Predators a 2-0 loss. The goals came from the expected (Nash in the second period) and the unexpected (Mike Commodore in the first – his second goal in three games). The Jackets looked physically strong, and even mentally strong, against their age-old nemesis. And at home, no less, where wins are very important in order to get people showing up for games again.

But, not much time to celebrate. This win was on a brief visit home on a game-every-other-day pace. The Jackets hit the road for Long Island for a game with the Eastern cellar-dwelling New York Islanders on Wednesday evening, during which we will see the new third sweaters the Jackets will debut at home against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. The Jackets then make their first trip to Detroit on Sunday.

No looking ahead, though. Everything is one game at a time, and the Jackets cannot afford to let up in the effort department, even against New York, which has been off to a horrid start. The best thing New York has going for it is that Rick DiPietro has managed to not have his season ended prematurely by turf toe, a split fingernail or dust in his eye.

Yes, it’s a bit much, but “DiPietro” and “healthy” are rarely seen in the same sentence. The guy might have his own staff of trainers on standby. I honestly couldn’t tell you off the top of my head if the Jackets had ever played him, if I hadn’t looked it up (he got a shutout on Columbus once).

The point is, any hockey team can win on any given night. Even New York… in fact, it has been a few years since the Jackets beat them. Yes, these are different times, and this is sure as hell a different hockey team in Columbus. I won’t kid you… I like the good guys’ chances here.

We’ll find out Wednesday.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Games 17 & 18: Cali Gets a Nash-Kicking

This was a weekend I’m not sure I even saw coming.

The Columbus Blue Jackets? Sweeping the dreaded West Coast Road Trip? Eight games on the road with seven wins? Really?

Who is this team?

My take: A team that seems to have found its legs right now.

The goal scorers are scoring, not the least of whom is captain Rick Nash, who potted six goals over the long weekend in California, including the illustrious hat trick against San Jose on Saturday night in The Tank. Yes, THE Shark Tank – a place where any kind of wins have been rare, let alone a shutout win for the Jackets.

The weekend saw a couple of power play goals to break the Jackets out of the NHL cellar in that department (not by much, but progress is progress). The Jackets are in good shape right now at 12-6-0, and approaching the quarter-season mark with games against Nashville and the New York Islanders. Then, the second quarter begins with a home-and-home against the West-leading Detroit Red Wings. Yikes.

Even though it seems we have learned so much about the resolve of this team in the past week… we will learn a lot more about how far this team has come by Sunday.

However, enough looking ahead. One game at a time.

Tonight’s mission: By all means necessary, avoid a letdown against Nashville.

Like the seemingly unstoppable mental factor that has plagued the Blue Jackets against Colorado for most of their nine-years-and-change existence – the Nashville Predators also have that nasty habit of getting in the Jackets’ heads. Whether it’s bad goals, bad goal calls from Toronto, or Nashville darling Jordin Tootoo’s questionable hits and playing style – Nashville has always had a knack for making the Jackets do something foolish.

That needs to stop this evening, if for no other reason to stop all the “Darth Vader” comparisons. I just think it dilutes the Darth Vader brand. It’s just a hockey team, people.

So far, Nashville has been streaky. They got off to a hot start earning points in their first eight games (5-0-3) before skidding for five straight losses. Now they have won four of their last five. No doubt about it, this team is always dangerous, and the Jackets need a complete game to keep this current win streak going and keep pace in a tough Western Conference. No one is really pulling away in the West yet – hell, in 13th place, Nashville is only seven points out of first.

The Blue Jackets just wrapped up three games in four nights. Tonight is the first of four games in seven nights, and three of those are in the Central Division. I and other Columbus bloggers have said it a million times, and we'll probably say it a million more, but "in order to make the Playoffs, the Jackets have to do well in the Central."

It is just going to keep getting tougher. But this is a good time for the Jackets to give the home crowds on Monday (vs. Nashville) and Friday (Detroit) something to get loud about, and improve on their 5-5-0 record at Nationwide.

The new third sweaters will be unveiled on Wednesday night, by the way, and the good guys will be wearing ‘em on Friday against the Wings.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Game 16: A Royal Pain

I woke up Tuesday morning and the so-called “news” was talking about the royal family of England, an engagement that actually took place weeks before, topping off a relationship that has been going on for years. Twenty-four hours later, I woke up, and the entire first half-hour of the Today Show was dedicated to more royal family coverage.

This is what happens when the Jackets don’t play for five days. Instead of waking up to highlights, I’m listening to the national media spewing about a family that basically mooches off the taxpayer dollars and adoration of some island across the ocean. By the time I was off work and looking forward to game time, I was ready to hit something if there was any more mention of anything related to royalty.

But… sure enough, on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, the Columbus Blue Jackets had to play, of all teams… the Los Angeles Kings.

Dammit.

Well, at least for now, all is forgiven, thanks to a streaking Derick Brassard heading down the right boards, with Rick Nash storming down the left wing, a pass, a deke… and a Rick Nash goal with 3:12 left.

Like I said earlier, the L.A. Kings were already going to be the last team in the NHL to lose at home… it was just that no one had shown them how. Until tonight. And how.

And this game was scary. The Jackets had and lost two leads, then saw the Kings pull ahead early in the third, only to have Jared Boll tie it up in the clutch. Add Nash’s go-ahead goal and the empty netter, and you get the CBJ being the first team to beat L.A. at home, and only the second team to score more than one goal on the Kings in the Staples Center.

Is the situation perfect? Obviously not. The power play was kept off the board, keeping the Jackets thoroughly in last in the NHL in that department. There’s still time to fix that, since the Anaheim Ducks are a couple days away. But this is how a team has to start the West Coast Road Trip, which can be a speed bump for even the best of teams, especially when the three California teams are all playing well to start the season – although Anaheim has dropped three straight now. Tonight was a damn good first step.

Wrandom Wristers
• How much are we loving these third and fourth lines in Columbus? Andrew Murray opening the scoring in the game, then assisting on Jared Boll’s game-tying marker less than four minutes into the third? When teams have been able to contain guys like Rick Nash and Antoine Vermette, guys like Jared Boll, Derek Dorsett and Andrew Murray step up. It’s a thing of beauty. It is what good hockey teams are made of.
• Columbus’ 10th win of the season keeps them in 10th place in the West, but with one or two games in hand versus the teams in the 6th-9th spots. Only five points separate 1st place from 11th place in the West.
• Ryan Smyth, as usual, was a pain. He has a nasty habit of showing up when you don’t want him to, like when he tied the game at 2 with 1:20 left.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Game 15: Davy Jones' Locker

Well, that was harsh.

As physical, aggressive and amazing as the Columbus Blue Jackets were in their 8-1 trouncing of the St Louis Blues, the Jackets were… well, they came up short.

After laying a smackdown on a physical Central Division rival two nights before, the only thing that kept the Jackets from totally laying an egg on Friday was the goal by suddenly-scoring Antoine Vermette that opened the scoring.

The real shame of it was that the 8-1 win probably helped draw the paid attendance of nearly 13,600 (didn’t look like that many showed up, but hey… revenue is revenue, baby), after only 10,000 and change saw the big win.

It wasn’t for a lack of effort… at least not on offense. The Jackets matched the Avs shot-for-shot, but the defense was as lacking as it has been in the previous two 5-1 decisions the CBJ have awarded the Avalanche. Simply put, Colorado looked faster, stronger, and sadly… better in just about every aspect of the game. Their replenished lineup of young players was led by David Jones, who opened and closed the scoring for Colorado, and finished the night with two goals and an assist and a plus-3.

But, cheer up. It’s just one game. You know what the Avs did in their next game? They lost to Detroit. Then they beat St. Louis 6-3 two nights later. That’s hockey. You get your ass kicked, you get up, you go back to work.

The question is, will Coach Scott Arniel have the Jackets hungry to beat up on Los Angeles this evening to open a crucial West Coast Road Trip of three games in four nights? It is a grave understatement to say that tonight’s game goes beyond the need to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time this season. The Jackets have had about five days rest (aside from practice) to prepare for this trip. They have played atypically well on the road this year (4-1-0), while their first opponent on the trip, the L.A. Kings, have not yet lost at home in eight games.
In fact, the Kings will the last team in the NHL to lose at home… if only someone would be kind enough to show them how…

Maybe tonight?

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Game 14: St. Louis Bruised

It was an avalanche of goals. Emphasis: lowercase A.

Too bad the Avalanche wasn’t in town. You have to wonder if the Blue Jackets shouldn’t have banked a few of the goals tonight.

However, for a team that hadn’t broken the three-goal plateau yet this season, this was…

…wow.

Really, that’s what it was. Wow.

Three goals in the first. Oh, yeah… chili in the first. Then three more in the second, then two more in the third. Eight goals, tying a franchise record… before a whopping crowd of 10,265. I may have jinxed it on Twitter when I said “dare anyone say ‘Triple Chili?’”

Seriously, though… I think I’m on to something. Whenever I have cashed in a three-goal-game ticket for Wendy’s chili, the person at the drive-thru seemed to have no idea what I was talking about. So, here’s my pitch:
1) Establish the “double chili” and (dare anyone say it?) “Triple chili” rule.
2) The Blue Jackets do a morning conference call (after an eligible game) to all the Wendy’s restaurants in Central Ohio to notify them to make a LOT of chili.
3) Fax the boxscore for posting at the drive thru.
4) Chaos ensues.

Admit it… you love this idea. You're welcome.

But, I digress. It was obvious that with the Jackets returning to Western Conference play, and considering that tough loss to Minnesota on Saturday, they had to put together 60 damn good minutes of hockey tonight against the Conference-leading Blues. For additional pressure, let’s throw in the fact that it’s a Central Division game, and we all know how important those are. The Central is the best division in the league, and every year, the fact that the Blue Jackets are in it has not been good news.

Now, it’s an 82-game season, and 24 of those are against the Central, and the Jackets are only three games into the division slate. But did this team answer a few questions tonight? I’d like to think so. A slouch team doesn’t hang eight goals on a team allowing only one-and-a-half a game through the first twelve.

Scott Arniel had the Jackets doing drills playing around the net over the last couple practices. I’d say it worked. It’s a rule, after all: Throw the puck at the net, and keep doing it, and good stuff will eventually happen.

No “eventually” about it here, though. Good things definitely happened tonight. And how.
Voracek on a breakaway; Jared Boll from the backhand off Blues netminder Jaroslav Halak’s skate; Nash from a centering pass from behind the net after Marc Methot falls trying to get the puck on net; Voracek on another breakaway.

Nikita Filatov may not be finding the net, but that effort he had on the boards fighting off a defender before getting free and centering a pass from behind the net to R.J. Umberger? That was some damn good hockey being played.

Antoine Vermette finally getting his second of the season in a crowded crease? Good stuff.
Sure, the Blue Jackets didn’t have a whole lot of acquisitions in the offseason… but it’s obvious that getting Scott Arniel this summer was huge. I didn’t hit this blog much over the summer, but I wrote a piece on his hiring for ColumbusSports.com back in June.

Abridged version: Dude, I want to play for this guy. It seems the Blue Jackets have responded in a very similar fashion.

This was a hell of a game to have, going into a big Friday game (and the last of a three-game homestand before the West Coast Roadtrip) against Colorado, who unceremoniously hand the Jackets their asses a few games back. The Avs are better than their record would indicate. There are no gimmes in the NHL. The second a team starts thinking the opponent’s a gimme, you can bet that the next second, that same team is looking up at the scoreboard and wondering where the hell their two points went.

There are 82 games in a season for a reason. Anything can happen.

But damn, this game was sweet.

Get some tickets and get your closeted hockey-loving ass down to Nationwide this Friday. If the Jackets play with this kind of fire, no one can guarantee eight goals, but you’re going to see some damn good hockey.

See you there.

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Game 13: Clutter-What?!?!?

Sadly, this is so far after the fact, I’ll keep this short and sweet. The Jackets lost, and lost on a bit of a double-play. First, there was the jarring hit by Cal Clutterbuck on Jakub Voradek against the boards. That was tough enough to see.
What followed was either very impressive (if you’re being objective) or groan-inducing (if you’re me). Clutterbuck makes his way back to the crease, takes a pass and puts it past Mathieu Garon.
You saw the rest, so just some random notes as the good guys head into a home game against the West-leading St. Louis Blues:
• Kyle Wilson continues to impress as a rookie, putting home his fourth goal in eight appearances against the Wild.
• Antoine Vermette is still wicked quiet right now. That dude needs to get on the scoresheet.
• I must have slept through the late offseason, because I had no idea Jose Thoedore found a team in the NHL to sign with this summer. You would think it would make bigger headlines if the guy who had a freakish career year with the Capitals last year would finally hear the phone ring… for a backup job in net. Ouch.
• Anyone else think “Cal Clutterbuck” sounds like a character from Harry Potter?

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Game 12: Enjoying The Moments

One hour.

One fleeting hour.

For one wonderful, glorious hour… on the road, with a television audience hopefully somewhat larger than the average Nationwide Arena crowd this year, the Columbus Blue Jackets were…

…wait for it…

…the leaders of the NHL’s Central Division.

Not only were the Jackets off to their best start in franchise history, four games above .500 just twelve games into the season (what?!?!?), winners of four out of five road games (double-what?!?!?), and boasting a better road record than home record (triple-what?!?!?)

…they were the leaders of arguably the NHL’s best division.

(head explodes)

It’s true. Look, I took a picture.

Then, after that fleeting hour, the St. Louis Blues beat San Jose and ended the moment. Then Columbus was tied with St. Louis for tops in the Central… but wait, with two games in hand, the Blues not only had the lead (via tiebreaker) in the Central, they had the top spot in the West over L.A. because of games-in-hand.

Then L.A. won a couple hours after that, and the overall lead in the West is theirs. Now, neither I nor Jeff_Quirin of BlueNoteZone is on top of the world. But… I think he’d agree we’re both pretty damn close, for less than a quarter of the way into a season.

And why not? Twelve games in, the Columbus Blue Jackets are 8-4-0, backup (technically) goaltender Mathieu Garon is 4-0-0 and has back-to-back shutouts have him sitting behind only red-hot Tim Thomas in GAA. Things are going so well for Columbus through 12 games, I’m almost afraid to talk about it.

Should we be concerned about the schedule? I mean, sure it’s just Atlanta and Montreal. It’s not that they’re bad – they’re in the top half of the East – it’s just that they’re teams a Western Conference team should beat. Kind of like when a real college football team plays Boise State.

True, the lines seem to be playing well. Garon’s on fire, and when Mason is on, he’s on. Guys you may not think of first when it comes at points are scoring points (how about Kyle Wilson, right?). Derick Brassard seems to have found his game. Sixteen points in the standings through 12 games is great.

However, the Jackets don’t need to be bragging right now, that’s for sure. Yep, there are still 82 games in a season. The Jackets have yet to break the three-goal plateau, and the guys that should be scoring a bunch of goals, aren’t (Vermette and Filatov are off to rough starts).

After making the East look easy (again), the Jackets are back to playing the West for the next seven games, and it’s a very good thing the next three are at home. If people actually start showing up to home games, the Jackets have a chance to pad that 8-4-0 record a little more before hitting the road.

And it’s a nasty first big road trip, people. In the ten games the CBJ have played since coming home from Sweden, they have not had to travel very far. Out of four road games, two were in the Central Time Zone, and one in the Eastern Time Zone. The Blue Jackets have gone further West than Central Time just once. And you’ll recall, they got their asses handed to them by Colorado. The results of the infamous West Coast Road Trip (three games in four nights, too) will tell us a lot about this Blue Jackets team.

But for now, let’s enjoy the moments we’ve witnessed so far, like Rick Nash’s almost-200th career assist (before the goal credit changed from Marc Methot to Jakub Voracek) midway through the third period. Speaking of Methot, let’s enjoy his strong play with six assists. Or Brassard’s fifth goal of the season Thursday night, when he had nine all last season.

Most importantly, let’s see people in Columbus look in the standings and think, “Wow, I should buy tickets.” Home attendance is flat-out scary this year. Yes, a winning team should get people in the seats. We all want to think that, but look at Nashville a few years back. A team that was making the Playoffs fairly regularly (and still has its original coach!) almost left town because they couldn’t meet minimum attendance requirements in the arena lease.

Come on. If you haven’t made it to a game yet, go. It’s time. Get your closeted hockey-loving ass back down to Nationwide.

Who knows… you might get to share in the Jackets’ next great moment.

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Late To The Party… But Thanks For Keeping It Cold

Writer’s Note: Well, game-by-game coverage was a goal of mine for this season, but sometimes things don’t turn out the way we think they will. Sorry about that. We now join the 2010-11 NHL hockey season already in progress…

proceed to Game_12:_Enjoying_The_Moments