Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Not Ideal, But Oh, So Close…

It’s not as good as four points.

But against the Detroit Red Wings and playing games in back-to-back nights – and when the West is starting to shape up like it is – you take three points wherever you can get them.

What I mean by the West “shaping up” is that the division leaders have now built decent leads to the point where – barring major streaks or schneids – the only major movement you’re likely to see at the top will just be a conference lead change each day or two. However, the rest of the West is starting to show the climb the Jackets face. The difference between 4th and 14th places in the West is but a mere nine points; but that difference is so much tighter above the Playoff line, where 4th through 8th (only three points difference) now figures to change daily.

Unfortunately, the Jackets are on the 13th/14th-place end of that nine-point spectrum, six points out of eighth, and though this December was not nearly as bad as last December, it was still a disaster of missed opportunities in a Western Conference that has been very competitive.

Besides, January has been worse.

Win three or four more of those games during the team’s 6-14-3 slide going into the weekend series with Detroit, and the Jackets are sitting in seventh or eighth. No sense dwelling on that, though. Maybe all that is behind the Blue Jackets after the weekend series with Detroit, a pair of games that both saw overtime, and ended with each team going home with three points. All-in-all, not bad. Four would have been nice, but Columbus is only trying to catch the Playoff line… not the Red Wings. Small steps, people.

True, the next few steps are small, yet their potential impact is unmistakable. The Jackets have four games in eight nights before going into the All Star Break, starting with a back-to-back in Florida. Tonight’s opponent is the rejuvenated Tampa Bay Lightning, well on pace to make the Playoffs again after taking a few years off to play golf in the spring and rebuild. However, they have been average of late and – like the Jackets – are looking to find some consistency in the win column – they also have Washington breathing down their necks for the Southeast Division lead.

The Bolts have lost three of their last four, including two losses to the woeful Devils. The Jackets are also non-winners in three of their last four, but are coming off showing some signs of life against Detroit. One can only hope this weekend’s performance means enough to draw some momentum and fire from it for this road trip.

Yes, Detroit had some key guys out, but good hockey teams don’t use injuries as an excuse, and I doubt they did (assuming here, as I did not read the Freep while out of town on business), so let’s take the three points from Detroit, smile and nod…

…and the team needs to focus. They have a chance to get right back in it going into the Break, but they just need to worry about each game… one at a time. Worry about the standings later.
Better yet, leave that to puckhead lunatics like me.

Wrandom Wristers

  • The NHL revealed the All Star Game uniforms for the Jan. 30 game. They’re sharp. Check them out here. According to Reebok, these jerseys use the “latest design techniques and innovations in cresting, lettering and numbering. This, of course, is merchandising-speak for “your Nash All Star jersey will cost another 20 bucks each for the sweater and customization.”
  • Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal have been named the All Star Game captains, and the teams will henceforth be known as “Team Lidstrom” and “Team Staal,” continuing to add to the outright silliness of this ridiculous new All Star Game format. Cripe… and people thought the Big Ten’s “Leaders” and “Legends” divisions sounded cheesy? Oh, well… at least Crosby isn’t a captain and we won’t have to hear his name any more than we absolutely have to on Versus -- although they'll always come up with some excuse to mention the little twerp.
  • Matt Calvert continued making the most of his call-up over the weekend, grabbing a goal on his only shot Saturday night in Detroit, which at the time gave the Jackets a brief 3-2 lead in the second. He’s getting things done and seems to be working hard. I hope he sticks.

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