Every Tuesday, WFNY’s The 5-Hole brings you up to date with the goings-on of the CBJ…
The Week That Was
Week: 1-1-1, 3 points
Overall: 14-15-4, 32 points (4th division; 12th conference)
The Jackets’ one win this week was well-documented here, but unfortunately the rest of the week went downhill. After outlasting the Sharks at home in what could have been the season-changing win, the air came out of the baloon pretty quickly and in gut-wrenching fashion.
We talked about how great the win was against San Jose last Wednesday, but as always, the other shoe was not far behind. I hate quoting myself, and in this case, I hate being right, but:
I probably shouldn’t get too geeked up about the win, even if it does carry the potential to be that proverbial “thing that brings it all together” for this team. Call me cynical, but I’ve been burned by this team too many times before. They have a roadie tonight in Dallas… and these are the games they have usually managed to lose in the past in spectacular fashion: second of a back-to-back, letdown against an inferior opponent (Dallas is currently 14th in the Western conference).
Thursday’s game was unfortunate, as the Jackets managed to dig themselves a huge hole. Pascal LeClaire, getting what is now a rare start in goal, gave up five goals in the first two periods on only 13 shots, including one of their now-patented “let the other team score in the last two seconds of a period” goal in the first period. The Jackets found themselves in 4-2 and 5-3 holes in the second period, but rallied back to 5-4 late in the second, and totally stepped up the defense the rest of the way. They allowed Dallas only 4 shots in the final period AND overtime, and managed to tie the game when The Captain buried a rebound with about 2:45 left.
And then, the wheels came off. Manny Malhotra drove to the net and the puck went in off of his skate only 13 seconds into the overtime period. Many replays showed the puck hitting his skate, but the NHL rule is clear that a goal off a skate is only disallowed if the player demonstrates a “distinct kicking motion”. This distinct kicking motion was absent from all of the replays, as all Malhotra appeared to be doing was jumping over the goaltender to avoid contact and an interference penalty. “I couldn’t have kicked it if I tried,” Malhotra said. “I didn’t understand the explanation. For them to say it was a kicking motion this ranks right up there. It’s a really frustrating way to lose a point.” Aaron Portzline summed it up this way:
In this case, the on-ice call by two respected officials, Stephane Auger and Kerry Fraser, was overturned to the shock of many in American Airlines Arena. Stars broadcasters Ralph Strangis and Daryl Reaugh, among the best in the league, anticipated the goal standing. Fans in the arena started filing out when they watched the replay. Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson had his sports coat on, ready to head down to the locker room.
And, the news was even worse that night. After having lost Jason Chimera to injury against San Jose, the Jackets also lost Derick Brassard against Dallas. After a rough hit on Fedor Tyutin, Brassard mixed it up with the Stars’ James Neal. Unfortunately, Brassard is not much of a fighter, and when the two grappled to fight, his shoulder dislocated and he himself stopped the fight. He did not return to the game. More on this devastating injury below…
And, to add insult to injury [rim shot], the Jackets did not rally around the perceived robbery from the league office on Saturday in Phoenix. Rather, their somewhat diminished lineup that also was suffering from a team outbreak of the flu was unable to even get the puck in the net, and went home after having been swept in four games by Phoenix this year. Not good times.
And, finally, the Fredrik Norrena saga is over. He cleared waivers last week, but then refused an assignment to AHL Syracuse. Norrena then signed a contract with the Russian Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for the remainder of the season. It’s unlikely that Norrena will ever again be back with the Jackets.
The Jackets have three games this week, two of them at home. They host Los Angeles on Tuesday night, have a few off-days for the holiday, and finish up the home stand on Saturday against Philadelphia (your trusty 5-Hole reporter will be there!). They then head out to the left coast to face Los Angeles again next Monday.
Special Teams Who’s Hot, Who’s Not
Hot: The Captain. Nash scored two in the shoot-out loss to Dallas, and is back leading the team in points (29) and goals (15). With the loss of Brassard, the team is going to need Nash to step up and carry them.
Not: The Infirmary Unit. More on this below, but the Jackets are staggering right now under the weight of injury. When it rains, it pours. Sadly, the Jackets just aren’t a deep enough team to withstand these kinds of bouts with the injury bug.
The big news, obviously, is the loss of Derick Brassard. After the game in which he was injured, it was originally thought that it was just a separated shoulder, which could be rehabbed, rested, and would have Brassard back in a few weeks. However, an MRI revealed significant labrum damage, which makes the shoulder much more succeptable to future recurrances of the injury. After getting a second consultation, the team decided to go forward with surgery. The time-table for recovery is four to six months, meaning the Jackets wouldn’t get him back until the playoffs at the earliest, which they would first have to ACTUALLY MAKE.
When asked about the prospect of making a trade to improve the team now that Brassard is probably out for at least four months, GM Scott Howson said, “You certainly consider that a little more seriously now. We’ll consider all the options, and maybe make a few more phone calls than we would otherwise. But we’re not going to do anything rash.”
Forward Jason Chimera also suffered a painful groin injury (I know, I know, is there any other *kind* of groin injury??) against San Jose. “My skate was in a rut,” Chimera said. “My body was going one way, and my right leg was stuck. So, obviously, something had to give.” Chimera had an MRI, which revealed no significant damage, but he did not play in Phoenix
Winger Raffi Torres will not be back in action until January, which is later than previously thought. Torres is suffering from a setback with his surgically repaired knee.
The one silver lining is that the team got Derek Dorsett back last week, and will get Rostislav Klesla back tonight against LA, which will be his first action in five weeks because of his high ankle sprain injury.
Quotes of the Week
The season might have ended in Dallas; first the OT loss, then the long-term loss of Derick Brassard.
–Aaron Portzline, in his Dispatch NHL Power Rankings column.
We won the hockey game. We won the hockey game. It was a good goal. I don’t care what anybody says, we won the hockey game. We outplayed them. They can put up whatever score they want down there, they can put up whatever score they want in the National Hockey League. We won the hockey game. That player did not kick it. All he tried to do was get out of the way of the goaltender.
–Coach Ken Hitchcock, talking to reporters after the shoot-out loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.
You’re not listening to what I’m saying. We won the hockey game.
–Hitchcock, after a reporter followed up his quote above with another question about the loss. Hitchcock then left the interview area.
You’re going to be OK on this one.
–Referee Stephane Auger, to captain Rick Nash before Malhotra’s overtime goal went to Toronto for review. Roughly a minute later, the goal was overturned by the video review team in Toronto.
Link of the Week
Because I’m a glutton for punishment, here’s a great commentary from USA Today about who will win the Calder Trophy (top rookie) now that Brassard is out for the year. It’s not bad enough that he’s out… we also have to remember that he was in effect the top rookie in the entire league.
With Brassard Out, Race For Top Rookie Wide Open [USA Today]