Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Game 20: Watching Helplessly In Slow Motion

It was one of those scenes from your worst nightmare.

Luke Skywalker watching helplessly as Obi-Wan Kenobi becomes an empty brown robe in one swipe of a lightsaber, as if in slow motion.

Sarah Connor grabbing and rattling a chain-link fence, telling moms and kids on a playground to run, then watching helplessly as a nuke goes off and wipes out everything in front of her, as if in slow motion.

An inch thick piece of frozen rubber trickling from between Serge Bobrovsky's knees, and thousands watch helplessly as it slowly floats across the red line, as if in slow motion.

I suppose comparing a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets to the depiction of a nuclear apocalypse, is laying on a bit thick. Sorry (I teach film... parallels like this happen in my head sometimes).

However, as I stood in Nationwide Arena's glorious CBJ Social Station for the first time, I could think of little more than the split-second urge to find a way to somehow fly over the protective netting and try to stop that puck, screaming "Nooooooooo!" all the way.

Damn it all... what I had was truly a "Sarah Connor moment."

The problem is... that wasn't even the game-winning goal for the Dallas Stars.

That's right... not one, but two Sarah Connor moments in the same freaking game.

The game winner was the thousands watching helplessly as the puck floated through the crease to Bobrovsky's right and seeing Loui Erikkson tap it in as he's falling down in overtime.

Again, you know the drill: Jumping... flying over the protective netting... "Nooooooooo!"... stopping the puck, and so forth.

It was a very unsatisfying ending to an otherwise mostly-satisfying effort by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Jackets responded to an early goal by the stars, despite being outshot 9-3 in the first. The response came loud and clear early in the second, when Nikita Nikitin got the puck through traffic and past Richard Bachman. Then Derek Roy scored for Dallas. Then the Jackets responded with the goal from Derek Dorsett after he followed his original shot, then drove home the rebound of Mark Letestu's shot. Then Antoine Roussel made it 3-2 after two periods. The Nationwide crowd went insane, however, in the third when Cam Atkinson got the puck off the rebound and slammed it home with authority. It was only Atkinson's second game at home this season. He has scored a goal in each.

Then that awful goal by Cody Eakin.

Then R.J. Umberger did achieved a rarity from the last couple seasons... he was clutch. Umby got a rebound just to the right of the slot and soemhow got it around Bachman, with 1:34 to go.

Then, along with three other guys, trying to catch Eriksson 3:03 into overtime, before he can tap the puck in.

A point? Sure. Great.

Still another one-goal loss for a team that worked too hard to have small defensive lapses happen, and small golatender mistakes. When you hear the horn and the Cannon that many times, you should hear it at the end of the game, too.

I'd say all of us in the Social Station probably felt the same way. And although the end result was bad, being able to be a little crazy and high-five everyone around during such a good, quality, back-and-forth hockey game is a great experience, and I'd recommend it to anyone who gets the opportunity.

I still get free Chili for lunch, too.

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
and/or you can "Like" the blog on Facebook....

Realignment Revisited (And Apparently Leaked)

We got a better idea of what the NHL has in mind in terms of realignment... more specifically, the answers about how the Playoffs will be done.

At least according to a memo leaked to the hockey media, anyway.

Under this proposal (tentatively, anyway) the top three teams in each division -- since we are apparently keeping a two-conference, four-division format -- are in the Playoffs. Then, each conference will also have two wild cards from what's left. Team-wise, the divisions have the teams as they were discussed over the weekend.

The Wild Card concept will apparently address the concern that the top-four-in-each-conference concept would leave more deserving teams on the outside looking in on that since the conferences are uneven.

Honestly, I think I like it. The top three in each division thing is a little strange, but I suppose it's workable. I could definitely see where the previous "top four" proposal would bug people. If you have a particularly weak division where the fourth place team could be sub-. 500, and you have someone in the other division that's 5 to 7 games above .500 not making the playoffs... sure, I would be irked.

Still, top three in each division making the playoffs is kind of odd. Why not just the top two in each, and determine the last four by record? Still, it's pretty reasonable, overall.

It gives Columbus some leeway. It's perfectly reasonable to assume that Boston, Detroit and possibly Tampa could essentially steamroll the rest of the Not-Really-Central Division, giving Columbus a chance to grab a wild-card spot while acclimating themselves to what is looking like the tougher division in the Eastern conference.

[Memo to NHL: Please bring back cool-sounding Division names like "Patrick" and "Smythe."]
Of course, it's pretty premature to discuss this -- or a Blue Jackets Playoff berth -- as though it is official.

Still, the speculation makes for interesting conversation around the table. Or the Cannon.

Guess we will find out soon, with the NHL Board of Governors and the players' union expected to vote on it sometime soon.

I just wish people didn't have to talk the players union so damn much.

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
and/or you can "Like" the blog on Facebook....

Monday, February 25, 2013

New Realignment Pitch: Stuff To Like, Stuff To Dislike

Finally, after a month and a half or so of wondering whether the league was ever going to start talking about realignment again after the NHL announced the end of the Lockout... the NHL finally seems to have given fans an answer.

After the first version was shot down by the NHLPA, the league released the proposal Saturday that actually moves both Detroit and Columbus East while keeping intact the four-conference proposal the league had originally pitched.

What does it all mean for Columbus?

For one, the Blue Jackets to get away from the murderous prospects of playing six games against the likes of Central Division foes like Detroit, Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis. That's probably enough to make any long-suffering Blue Jackets fan happy.

Of course, there are also the murderous prospects of playing teams like the Penguins and Capitals six times a year. The Rangers are no slouches, either... at least not yet. It's reasonable to expect a decline by New Jersey after Martin Brodeur retires. Carolina and the New York Islanders could make playoff pushes interesting.

But essentially, the Atlantic Division will bring on Columbus from the Central and Washington and Carolina from the Southleast. Not bad. Hellaciously competitive, though, and Columbus does not get an easy ride here, by any means.

Wings fans will be ecstatic, because their team more or less does get an easy ride, by comparison. The Northeast Division brings aboard Detroit, and then the Panthers and Bolts from the Southleast. Detroit can roll over most of those teams in their sleep. Sad, but true.

And infuriating. And ridiculous.

"We twavel so muuuuuch. We don't wanna twavel so much. We should be in the Eastern Confwence so we don't have to twavel," says the team that made the Final six times and won four Cups in a 17-year span -- as a member of the Western Conference.

You travel just fine, Detroit. But... you get your way if this gets approved. So the good news is that you'll finally shut the hell up already.

The changes in the realignment out west are less drastic, other than the two conferences going from eight teams apiece to seven. The former "Conference B" takes Colorado out of "Conference A" to make up for losing both Detroit and Columbus.

I'm guessing we're under the assumption that the who-plays-whom-and-how-many-times structure in the eight-team conferences, and the top-four-in-each-conference Playoff format from the previous proposal remains intact, or the NHL and NHLPA are discussing something else in that realm.

Overall, the geographic arrangement in the East makes sense, except maybe for the Florida teams. Still, all 16 teams in the Eastern Time Zone will have a little less jet lag-related wear-and-tear over the course of the season.

The only other sticking point seems to be that the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes is no more certain than it was at the last proposal 14-15 months ago. Is the league that sure that the 'Yotes are staying? Or are they just really confident that if/when they move, they will wind up in Seattle (and stay in that conference) or Kansas City (and they do a quick switch, maybe swapping Colorado back to that Pacific-ish Conference)? Maybe there's something they know that we don't... or something Gary Bettman doesn't know that he just won't admit.

You know me... I'm leaning toward the latter.

Impact on Columbus? The regional rivalries should prove interesting, and potentially help raise Columbus' profile from a TV standpoint. The road to the Playoffs does not get much easier, but we'll see some competitive hockey, for sure. I hate the sweet deal Detroit got, but Columbus only has to worry about itself and controlling its own postseason destiny. And this move does help, if only just a little.

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
and/or you can "Like" the blog on Facebook....

Friday, February 22, 2013

Game 17: Seeing Red, But Not Dread

I hope I'm still doing the kind of crazy stuff that Vinny Prospal is doing at the age of 38, when I get to be that age.

Which means I should probably try to acquire some skill at skating sometime in the next couple months.

It was an ending that was in very sharp contrast to the beginning.

In a five-minute span away from my car (and, thus, the radio), the Detroit Red Wings hung two goals on the Columbus Blue Jackets, in the teams' third meeting and first in dreaded Joe Louis Arena.

After all, the Jackets had played mightily in the first two games... getting a shootout loss and a blowout win -- three of a possible four points. But those two were in Nationwide Arena. This was The (dreaded) Joe.

Yet, just a couple minutes after nothing less than a dreadful start for the Jackets and netminder Sergei Bobrovsky... R.J. Umberger knocked in a goal to close the Wings' lead to 2-1. Might give an extra assist to Derek Dorsett for taking on the NHL's favorite biter, Jordin Tootoo shortly beforehand to bring the power play... even if the fight wasn't expected.

However, seeing Tootoo do something thuggish and classless like a sucker punch is par for the course.

However, the praise for Dorsett really only begins there. Dorsett camped out in front of the net as the Jackets freed up the puck from behind Jimmy Howard's net, pounded the puck into Jimmy Howard's left pad, then found a way around Howard's skate off the rebound, just five minutes into the third to tie it up.

It would be easy to be nervous from that that point, just waiting for some bad bounce -- any bad bounce -- that would go the Red Wings' way. That is typically how those things go, after all.

Some B.S. penalty... check -- after Jordin Tootoo's epic dive just a few minutes after the tying goal (adding another all-time sportsmanship tactic to his resume). Another penalty to Derek MacKenzie a little more than halfway through the third. However, the Jackets stayed on task from there.

Dorsett contributed to one more highlight... gaining the zone after a Wings turnover and firing a pass to James Wisniewski, who fed Vinny Prospal in front of the net. That spin move in a split second to get that puck to his backhand and past Howard... I haven't stopped watching it.

Not even 25 seconds left.

This is not that kind of CBJ-Red Wings series this year. This team has stepped up in each one, facing down adversity and playing through it. Thursday's biggest adversity was the loss of Artem Anisimov, who was on the wrong end of a frightening accident as he lost his edges and took out the leg of Kyle Quincey, who fell on top of him. In the process, Anisimov took a hip and Quincey's elbow to the head as he fell and took Quincey's full weight... then went off the ice on a stretcher. A tough play to watch, for sure, and a terrible break for a team that is trying so hard to get some momentum.

It taints an otherwise joyous occasion of a win over the Wings. Anisimov has played well -- one of the few who has done so consistently -- and had just returned from a foot injury. He was moving at the hospital in Detroit, though, so here's hoping he's able to return soon.

Two more on the road against St. Louis and Chicago before returning home on Tuesday. Go Jackets!

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
and/or you can "Like" the blog on Facebook....

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pacific Disaster

It's nothing less than a disaster.

Sadly, the way the Blue Jackets played over the last three games against Pacific Division opponents wasn't even all that disastrous.

However, life is a series of moments. And all the wrong moments happened at all the wrong times for Columbus. A slipped coverage here, a defensive lapse there, and the Jackets have dropped the first three of a six-game, essentially make-or-break road trip.

Where Aaron Portzline was premature in declaring the Jackets en route to a losing season barely a week ago... he looks like a freakin' prophet now.

And the Jackets are just halfway through the road trip, with Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago still to come.

To hell with the B.S. "interference" call on Drazenovic... I've said it for years: You have to kill the crap penalties, too.

Even with the defensive corps at full strength... there was nothing this team could do to keep up with the Anaheim Ducks.

Not that turnovers help.

Now, it's sadly very apparent that Jarmo Kekalainen will arrive in Columbus with the team in full Evaluation Mode.

It's only one-third into the season, sure. But this is serious miracle territory we're talking about here to get into anything resembling Playoff contention.

That's the painful truth. Nothing was expected of this team this year. But this fan base needs to see better.

Especially if we're sitting through this many plays of the same Kia Hamster ad. Every. Freakin'. Night.

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
and/or you can "Like" the blog on Facebook....

Friday, February 15, 2013

(New) Dawn In Columbus

Welcome to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Version…

... say, what version of the Blue Jackets are we up to, anyway??

Do we count the by the season, so that this is 12.0? Do we count it by the GM, so that the CBJ just wrapped up version 2.5.1? How do we tell updates from upgrades? What algorithm version are we using?

I guess however we choose to look at it, I guess we should just count this as another fresh start for the Columbus Blue Jackets. John Davidson's hiring of Jarmo Kekalainen on Wednesday is no doubt momentous.

Not necessarily momentous, as in, "I'm going to go downtown and start scouting some BITCHEN seats for the Stanley Cup parade this year... but this is a pretty freaking big deal. As with any big change in leadership, president of hockey operations John Davidson wiped the slate clean by letting go of Scott Howson and bringing in "his guy" (well... that and the fact that Howson was no longer effective, obviously). That's business.

Will this make a difference on the ice? Meh, who knows? How much impact can a new guy in a suit have on a hockey team? Hiring a GM is a long-term decision... Kekalainen's job is to help build a team that will perennially contend, and that doesn't happen overnight.

Still, if you're a player... new boss coming to town, you like Columbus because it's a great place to live... I don't know, maybe the chance to prove yourself to someone who's probably a little more qualified then the last guy lights a fire under your ass.

Ah, it's probably too soon to tell. No big deal... it's not like anyone is writing off the Blue Jackets this year...

...well, not anyone who isn't named Aaron Portzline, anyway.

The CBJ Twitterati set the Internet ablaze with less-van-favorable feedback, after Portzline led his Howson firing story in the Dispatch with "Well on their way to a fourth-straight losing season…. "

Now, why shouldn't CBJ fans be upset? After all, this is par for the course for Portzline. I wwouldn't be surprised if there was a drinking game for every tweet that Portzline put up last year that shared some sort of dismal, depressing statistic or streak involving the Jackets. We would all be watching this year's games from Betty Ford.

Conversely, why should CBJ fans be upset? After all... this is par for the course for Portzline. He's reporter. He's not paid to be a fan, he's paid to be impartial. Every writer has a voice, and his is... well, dreary. He has been watching this team too long, that's all.

Imagine being a beat reporter for the Browns. Or being assigned to cover Tony Romo any time there's a clutch situation. See what I mean?

I don't know him, and I've never met him. I'm sure as hell not defending him... the guy bums me out, too.

Now, are the Jackets en route to a fourth-straight losing season? Is Aaron Portzline right?

Of course not.

Yet.

Writing this team off after an effort like Monday's is absolutely asinine -- as foolish as... well, scouting seats downtown for this year's Stanley Cup parade. Assuming they'll turn it around after one game is equally foolish, especially when the next six games are on the road, including two on the West Coast and three in the Central. There is not one "gimme" game in there... just games in which Monday's kind of effort just might be enough to win, or fall just short enough.

Points in each game is a lofty goal... getting to .500 by the end of Feb. 24 is improbable. Get to just under .500 might be more realistic.

Blow this road trip entirely, however... this could be a long week and a half.

And the last thing we want is for Aaron Portzline to be right.

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
and/or you can "Like" the blog on Facebook....

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine (Of Sorts) For Hockey Widows (Part III)

So, another Valentine's Day has rolled around, and so comes what I guess is now an annual tribute to the hockey widows, widowers and others who claim to suffer the existence of the world's greatest sport.

My wife is no exception.

However, I think it could easily be argued that Mrs. Martini -- and the countless others who no doubt want to strangle us at least one today during hockey season -- have suffered considerably less than we fans have this year.

Case in point: While Mrs. Martini last year suffered through the shortest off-season a year ago thanks to the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup run... I suffered through the longest off-season 10 years, thanks to Gary Bettman and -- in a cruel twist of fate -- the same guy who screwed her Cleveland Indians out of perhaps their best shot at a title when he forced the cancellation of the World Series (and helped establish and maintain the perverted, corrupt system that is the reason I will never acknowledge baseball as my nation's pastime).

But I digress.


So, while I was at the unveiling logo the All-Star game I was speaking with a Blue Jackets rep who happened to be a fellow Ohio Bobcat alum, and in the process of shooting the breeze, he asked me if I had considered season tickets for this year. I told him that I had a couple voicemails waiting for me from my ticket rep, but had not had a chance to talk to her.

It turned out she was about 100 yards away, and the gentleman make introductions.

Seeing as I had waited for many years for an All Star Game in Columbus, it was a well-established fact that I would probably do just about anything I had to, to get access to All Star Weekend. I was happy to find out that I could get a half-season ticket package and still have the opportunity to buy tickets for both the Skills Competition and the All Star Game, thus preventing the possibility of the Mrs. getting burned out, as she had with previous season-ticket experiences.

Well, then that whole Lockout thing happened.


We managed to fill the time this year. Sure, I poured a lot of time and energy into the job... gotta pay bills. But yeah, we filled the time, catching up with friends and spending time with the dogs. We did the Draft Lottery Party, of course, when she proclaimed the "Fail For Nail!" heard 'round the hockey world, only to find that "Fail" would just be the theme of the evening.

CannonFest was awesome as always.

Tim Thomas went crazy and decided to focus on his family and faith (but more on the fact that he just wanted to mute the criticism for speaking so openly about his politics, rather than apply himself in goal), so she stopped talking about him.

We just kind of retreated back into regular life.

Because I kept paying into my CBJ ticket package and PSL, we got opportunities to see the slew of concerts that were coming to Nationwide... sadly, it seems only country music artists book in large arenas anymore. Once Aerosmith came to town, though, IT WAS ON. And it was a terrific excuse to wear the Aero Force One sweater she bought me on their '04 summer tour (still weird being in a hockey arena with no hockey, though.

Yet even as Mrs. Martini proclaimed her love for a delay of the season, I know in her heart she secretly pined for this season to start.

So, while I guess we're few weeks and season at the longer five… guess what, honey! We get 48 GLORIOUS HOCKEY GAMES FOR US TO ENJOY!!!!!! Isn't that FANTASTIC?!?!?

Honey...

Honey...?

Honey...?

Guess I'd better clear off the couch...


Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
and/or you can "Like" the blog on Facebook....

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Howson Era Ends: No Pleasure, But A Bit Less Pain

It was a day I think we all knew was coming.

We just didn't know when.

However, the ax has fallen for Scott Howson, and the only thing surprising about it is the apparent randomness of the timing.

Looking back at when the Jackets hired John Davidson as president of Hockey Operations, the writing was on the wall: Accountability -- true accountability -- was about to come to the Blue Jackets' front office. Scott Howson would actually have to answer to an actual hockey executive, and not just some executive. He would not be able to make another move without Davidson's say-so.

That say-so apparently meant the next move will involve a couple boxes.

All snark aside, however, let's be clear. I am not dancing a jig on Howson's pink slip. That's a seriously cold thing to do. I don't doubt Howson put in the effort, and the guy losing his job is incredibly unfortunate.

However, if the Jackets are ever going to establish that "culture of winning," this had to happen.

It needed to. This could not be allowed to continue.

Is Howson a scapegoat for the Jackets' overall subpar, inconsistent performance? To a point, absolutely.

However, much of this hell was of his own creation. He did put together this team. He did re-sign "core" guys to ridiculous amounts of money. Hell, Derek Dorsett made a fine argument for team MVP last year as a freakin' bottom-six forward (got my vote, anyway), while he so-called "scorers" struggled. Sellers at the deadline again, blah blah blah.

I held out on the calls for Howson's head as long as I could, but I just couldn't keep it up. The public relations fustercluck that was the Rick Nash saga clinched it all. It immediately reduced the potential return for Nash, destroyed good will, and embarrassed this team and its fans... and during a year when the on-ice results were embarrassing enough.

However, playing a game of All Your Sins Remembered solves nothing. It also doesn't give a complete picture of Howson's tenure. Despite seeming to have a vision with no concrete plan to execute it at times, Howson did manage to clean up the horrid mess that Doug MacLean left him and get the team better in the short term. He took some lemons and made lemonade.

The problem was that once fans see that short-term success, the pressure's on to keep it up... and that long-term plan never seemed to come together.

In the end, being a step above Doug MacLean is not a long-term plan. I'm not even sure that counts as a decent goal.

So who's next? Supposedly, the Jackets are already close to naming someone, per Aaron Portzline at the Dispatch. Seems awfully quick for something that Davidson told Porty he had been considering in recent days. Still... can't hurt to have a guy in place.

Will it mean the transformation that the Jackets and their fans sorely need? Who knows?

All we know is that the Jackets' new direction officially starts now. Whatever your sentiments are toward Howson and what his tenure meant to this team, this had to be done, and it's time to embrace what's coming.

Because a lot of us... well...

...we asked for it.

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
and/or you can "Like" the blog on Facebook....

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Game 13: Rare Show of Dominance

I will be the first to admit that Monday night was the second straight Columbus Blue Jackets game I attended, in which I was not exactly brimming with confidence. A seemingly overmatched Jackets team was probably about to be taken to the proverbial woodshed by a very hungry and perennially tough team.

The previous game was against the Detroit Red Wings. This game was against the San Jose Sharks.

The Jackets beat both by four.

At this rate, I just might be comfortable with never being right again.

Just don't tell my wife that.

And while the evening's harpooning of the San Jose Sharks could pretty much be rendered meaningless in the "grand scheme of things," unless the Blue Jackets can do this on a much more consistent basis... this game gave fans lingering hope that this team has not given up on the season yet.

Sometimes you're the sharks, and sometimes you're the chum. For once, San Jose was both. The game had barely started before the Jackets got the first lead, courtesy of a goal from Brandon Dubinsky, who finally hit the scoresheet with his first goal as a Blue Jacket.

However, perhaps carrying over some of the admirable play from Sundy against Edmonton -- the part before the wheels feel off, anyway -- the Jackets seemed to play with a sense of urgency... even with the lead. Sure, they seem slow down toward the end of the period, but the team was still getting shots on nets, while managing to keep the Sharks out of theirs.

Well, they kept pucks out, anyway. Hard to keep the Sharks themselves out, when they seem to fall down a lot when they're charging Mason.

However, what happened a little more than halfway through the second brought nothing less than pandemonium. James Wisniewski got back on the scoreboard in his second game back from injury, with a power play marker. Then Cody Goloubef slapped one in from long distance just 1:11 later for his first career NHL goal (and the CHILI! Goal, no less).

Having seen and heard many San Jose third-period comebacks against the Jackets over the years, Patrick Marleau's goal just 13 seconds after that was disturbing, and had to make some wonder if this could be another one of those nights.

Apparently, it wouldn't be.

All "blood in the water" cliches aside, well... never mind. Not going there.

Nikita Nikitin took Matt Calvert's pass from behind the net just 21 seconds in and put the puck past Thomas Greiss to put any of those hesitations to rest. And as if that weren't enough, Nick Foligno danced around a stickless Marc-Edouard Vlasic and centered to Vinny Prospal to make the fifth goal look effortless.

The sixth looked even more effortless... Mark Letestu's flip looked more like a quick dump-in, than a shot. It counted, though.

I know this is a minimal mention of Steve Mason, and much less than he deserves... but he was kind of a badass.

So, the Jackets now head into a six-game road trip over a span of 10 days, needing to capitalize on some momentum and get their heads above water. A 2-3-1 performance on a six-game homestand was woefully short of what needed to happen, and now the Jackets have to find and display Monday night's sense of urgency on the road to dig themselves out of a hole again. Two games are with division leaders and three in the Central Division.

Insurmountable on a six-game road trip...? Could be.

But then, I thought this one could be, too. I've been wrong before.

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
and/or you can "Like" the blog on Facebook....

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Game 9: Priceless Work Of Art(em)

Some flat play, an early goal, and it would have been all too easy to give up on those Columbus Blue Jackets.

These, however, were not those Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Jackets were skilled... they were physical... and one long-range blast from James Wisniewski for the tying goal with less than two minutes in the first... the Jackets were a team possessed.

The crowd wasn't far behind. The standing O after the horn in the first period was a good first sign.

From then on, the Jackets had an answer for everything.

For Steve Mason, his answer was "denied." Every Red Wings shot (well, almost... 32 of 34 shots). Stick save, pad save, what have you. Mason was solid. Rebounds were rare. Even rarer... the cheers that erupted from the sellout Nationwide crowd.

But this is how Steve Mason has played so far all season. The key difference... the team in front of him actually played hockey in front of him.

And played it well.

Artem Anisimov continued his trend of strong play, by far the highlight of the trade that sent old whatshisname to the Rangers so far.

His first strike came after dodging Jonathan Ericsson, and roofing the puck over Jimmy Howard's shoulder. But where the Jackets have faltered thus far in this short-but-painful season, they played with this lead and kept it coming.

Anisimov's second came in the closing minutes, after he made Howard commit to his right,then made a sweet deke to his backhand to flip it in.

This was a "character" game, in which the Jackets seemed to have an answer to everything. Even after losing Wiz in the second period, the team persevered. Hell, Jack Johnson put up team record minutes, with 34-plus of ice time.

And even a late, garbage penalty on R.J. Umberger (because tripping over the goaltender's outstretched pad is apparently interference now) couldn't shake this team. In a situation in which Detroit could have shifted momentum, Mark Letestu took a pass and managed to get the puck through Howard's pads for the team's first shorthanded goal and the 4-1 lead.

It was one of several deafening moments of the night, but few beat the satisfaction of that last 26.4 seconds. This night. Against that team.



Enjoy. See you Tuesday... Go Jackets!

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
and/or you can "Like" the blog on Facebook....

Friday, February 1, 2013

Game 8: Glass Half Emp-- Actually, You Know What? It's Empty.

"Please welcome back YOURRRRRR Columbus... Bluuuuuuuue JACKETS!!!!!"

Sure, the voice was familiar. The surroundings were familiar. It is a phrase I've heard many times.

And yet, somehow, I was caught off guard

What the hell did he mean by "welcome back"?

The scoreboard on the Dispatch Media Center read that St. Louis was up three to nothing. I honestly thought I had been watching a Blues practice during what was supposed to be the first period...

...because the home team clearly was not in attendance during said first period.

A bit cold, you say? A bit brutal, and perhaps even a little unfair?

You watch the first period of that game and tell me that the home team showed up. I bet you can't.

This game was ugly. The blues ran roughshod over the Jackets for the first period, plus about five minutes of second.

It wasn't until Nick Foligno (Nick Foligno!) dropped the gloves at 5:20 in that I was even aware that anyone in a Blue Jackets sweater had taken the ice.

Then Derek Dorsett dropped the gloves, charged the paddles and shocked the Blue Jackets into existence for the first time all night. I don't know how many colors Dorsett's face turned during that fight, but the fact that he took a seat in the penalty box, and then still got up to jaw at Chris Stewart some more gave me a good feeling about this game.

However, that is the nature of the Blue Jackets-Blues matchup these days... they get physical, they get nasty, and the visiting team really likes to assert itself in the home team's barn.

That's pretty much what happened tonight.

Apparently confident that they could bounce back and find the adequate will needed to come back and perhaps salvage a point, the Blue Jackets promptly spotted their opponents not just two, but three goals in gruesome fashion.

Foligno's fight produced a spark, Dorsett's fight fanned the flames, and a pair of fights involving Derek MacKenzie and Jared Boll with a couple minutes left in the second provided to fans a demonstration that at least the Jackets perhaps would not be beaten down by the Blues.

The damage, however, was already long since done. They may have found some motivation after the Blues chased Bobrovsky, and for once they did not leave Mason out to dry. Hell, Mase was perfect in relief.

But the Jackets were far from it. In fact, the word "godawful" comes to mind.

The only other thing that comes to mind is the endless repetition of the same tired postgame soundbite: "We didn't play 60 minutes. We have to learn to play for 60 minutes."

No! Really?!?!?

Players can tell fans that all they want. Shut up and actually change it.

Or else games will be meaningless starting in about mid-February.

And that is not how you welcome fans back to this game and this team. And fans in Columbus came into this season pretty damn pissed at the NHL to begin with. You don't want that ire to turn on the team.

Hell... this poor S.O.B. behind us couldn't even bear to finish his beer before he bailed.

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
and/or you can "Like" the blog on Facebook....