July 24, 2014

“Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Week to Quit Sniffing Glue”: Jackets Edge Penguins in Shoot Out

Airplane!

Blue Jackets 4, Penguins 3 – SO
(Box) – Highlights

Record: 35-27-6  (76pts – 6th place)
Sports Club Stats Rank: 6th, 82.3%

This was a tale of three games. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie “Airplane!” and therefore have no idea what the title of this post of the picture to the right even mean, let me give you a brief synopsis: as the airplane disaster gets worse and worse, the main guy in the ground control crew (Steve McCroskey, played by Lloyd Bridges) offers a series of one-liners as he tries to cope: “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking…. smoking… sniffing glue… using amphetamines…” etc. What does this have to do with anything, you might ask? Well, this being my first taste of “playoff hockey” is taking years off my life. With the last two games—how important they have been, as well as how they ended—it’s been like that for me: “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.” We didn’t know whether or not Steve Mason would even be playing as late as 5:00 or 5:30. In the end, he did suit up, and proved to be the game-winner in many ways. That’s not to say there weren’t some bumps (read: a giant collapse in period 3) to be concerned with. But, at the end of the day, it was two more ever-so-important points, and a great start to this four-of-five-at-home stretch, and a record 19,167 fans got to watch it.

Coach Ken Hitchcock had one beef with the crowd, though: “Somebody let in these other people today with the funny-colored sweaters,” Hitch said, referring to the thousands of Penguins fans. “And it screwed the sound up.” Perhaps a more appropriate and kid-friendly quote came from the Jackets coach: “Look who we beat in the last three games,” Ken Hitchcock said. “We beat Detroit, we beat Boston, we beat the hottest team in the NHL. It’s hard. Every game is hard. There are no breathers. … It’s the way it is right now. You have to find the energy and we need new people stepping up. We’ve got to keep going and keep rolling.” This game was a classic two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of game. We documented in the preview how scorching hot the Penguins have been (7 in a row, 9-out-of-10 going into last night), and what it would take to slow them down. For 47 minutes, the Jackets did just that, building a 3-0 lead into the third period. And then, well, the wheels came off for about 4 minutes, and that was all it took for Pittsburgh’s offensive horses to get them right back into the game.

I myself was playing a gig with my band at a bar without the game on TV, so I enlisted the help of friend and frequent commenter Lars to keep me updated. Scott jumped in to help out as well. Here was the timeline:

8:30: Wow, that was a thing of beauty! 2-0 Jackets on PP Vermette to Williams
9:09: 3-0, 13 min left
9:23: (Scott) THREE third period goals?!?
9:25: (Lars again) 3-3, no idea what happened
9:37: OT at least they’ll get 1… can’t believe they blew it… outshot 19-4 in 3rd

You can imagine my surprise when I read each of those. (In addition to those texts and with a hat tip to the Beatles/Joe Cocker, I’m going to do my best to recap this game with a little help from my friends, along the way.)Back to the whole “tale of three games” thing from the lead: Game 1 – Jackets worked their way out to a 3-0 lead with goals by Kristian Huselius, Jason Williams, and Antoine Vermette (who played ANOTHER solid game, his third in a row since coming over from Ottawa), and Mason looked sharp. The Jackets appeared poised not only to end the Penguins streak, but to do so in the most convincing fashion possible. Game 2 – And then, the third period happened. The Jackets got their third goal 1:03 into the third, and then decided they could slow down a bit. The Penguins came out firing, outshooting the Jackets 19-4, and in the span of 3:25 midway through the period had managed to tie the game. Game 3 – OT and a heart-stopping shoot-out. Let’s hear from my pal Jeff, who has season tickets:

Last night was a psychotic roller coaster ride. … I only wish we could have done it in regulation, and that’s how it should have played out.  The Old Jackets showed up in the third, and that was hard to watch.  Nobody can give up 19 shots to the Pens in one period and hope to get away with it.  Mason was a pleasure to watch (and, unfortunately, I got to watch a LOT of him with that horrible third period in my end).  Imagine blanking both Crosby and Malkin in the SO.  He’s the Ice Man, for sure. I’m still not quite ready to believe the CBJ will make the playoffs.  Little five-minute, three-goal lapses like last night tell me there’s too much that can go wrong too fast for me to really feel confident.  Maybe I never will.  What’s different now is I think there’s always at least the possibility that the CBJ can walk into any game, with any team, and steal a point or two, instead of being a sure-thing loss.

 

Juice's Game Winner / AP Photo/Paul Vernon
AP Photo/Paul Vernon

Well stated. Both goalies made some serious stops in the overtime period to get it to the shootout, where they continued their dominance. Marc-Andre Fleury shut down Jason Williams and Rick Nash with back-to-back pad saves, and Mason was equal to the task, stopping Kris Letang and Sydney Crosby. Then, Huselius took center stage. “It’s pretty amazing being out there, in that situation,” Huselius said. “The game is on the line, the crowd is standing you want to be out there. I saw how quick (Fleury) was with the pads on Willy and Nash, and so I decided to take a different approach.” And it worked, as he didn’t make too many moves en route to smoking a shot through Fleury’s 5-Hole and into the back of the net.

But, the game was not yet over. Mason had to come up big one more time, this time against league-leading scorer Evgeni Malkin. And come up big he did, forcing Malkin’s shot to the side for the win. “As long as we score first, I feel pretty confident,” Mason said. “It doesn’t matter to me what the score is or what happens in the game. My demeanor never changes out there. I was calm throughout.”

“It felt like we were playing in Canada,” Huselius said. “It was unbelievable. Hopefully, we can pay back the fans by making the playoffs.” Indeed, Juice. Indeed.

The Jackets have reached 35 wins on the season. Only one other time in franchise history have they won 35 games, and with 14 games to go this year one would expect that record to fall. And, Stevie Franchise fought through his cold and pulled out hs 28th win of the season, which puts him all alone as the franchise record holder for goalie-wins in a season as well. One can only hope this is not the last time he sets that record, however.

Other Important Scores
Thanks to the great people at Sports Club Stats, we have started looking at Jackets games in the context of the rest of the conference and who the Jackets are fighting with for those playoff spots. Picking up from the “Who To Root For” section of the preview, here are the “Other Important Scores” from around the Western Conference last night:

Pittsburgh at Columbus – CLS wins, 4-3 (SO)
Minnesota at Colorado – COL wins, 2-1 (SO)
New York Rangers at Nashville – NYR wins, 4-2
Atlanta at Edmonton – ATL wins, 4-3 (SO)
San Jose at St. Louis – STL wins, 3-1
Carolina
at Dallas – DAL wins, 3-2

The Jackets obviously helped themselves, and got a little help from the Rangers Avalanche, and Thrashers, but St. Louis and Dallas helped themselves, as did Minnesota and Edmonton managing to get at least a point. SCS has the Jackets moving up  6.5%, to their highest ranking of 82.3%.

  • http://www.NoLogoNeeded.com Don_NoLogoNeeded.com

    Great, great headline DP. Gave a me a nice chuckle this morning!

    I’m not a Blue Jackets fan, but I sure enjoy beating a “Pittsburgh” team last night. Lost of unchecked aggression, dude.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com DP

    And, from what I’ve read/been told by people who were there, there were A LOT of Pittsburgh fans at the game. That in and of itself is not surprising, since there were a ton of Penguins fans in Columbus before we got a team. But still…

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    Man do I love when Pittsburgh loses in anything. I wish that WFNY teams could not be such an emotional roller coaster, but I guess that would take the fun out of it.

    Nobody likes the Ferris Wheel.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Rick

    Are you kidding me? I love the ferris wheel! Smooches at the top!

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    Its 2009. Smooches anywhere you please.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com DP

    Another quote from my friend Jeff the season ticket holder about the Pittspuke fans:

    I’ve never seen so many enemy fans in the building, and I hated it. Most of them appeared to be from Ohio, and I recognized a few who usually wear CBJ colors. Get over it, folks. Represent for the REAL home team for a change. The best consolation is sending them home, each and every last one, as dejected losers. It was especially sweet, since those Pens fans were absolutely positive that they’d feast on the lowly CBJ.

  • http://www.NoLogoNeeded.com Don_NoLogoNeeded.com

    I’m slowly climbing onto the CBJ bandwagon (sorry, DP), but one thing I’ve noticed that yesterday really solidified for me, there are people out there who live in Columbus and say they root both the Blue Jackets and Red Wings or Blue Jackets and Penguins or Blue Jackets and insert NHL team here.

    What?!?!

    The only sport this is acceptable, I believe, is baseball where you have two separate leagues that (for the most part) don’t play one another.

    Yet his idea of rooting for the CBJs because you live in Columbus, but still have allegiances to another team (really, only because they win) disgusts me.

    Maybe that’s why I’m taking so much pleasure out of this win last night.

    I truly hope, especially for those bandwagon CBJ fans out there like me, that the Blue Jackets make the playoffs. Playoff hockey is fantastic and Columbus would embrace this team. I’m ready and willing.

    I also hope that would stifle the incessant Ohio State talk around Columbus, for at least a glorious 24-hour period.

  • Lars

    Oh yea there were tons of Pittsburgh fans… the one thing, even as a quasi-hockey fan that is growing into a pretty serious fan, that i never understood living in Cleveland is rooting for the Pens since they were the closest NHL team. Screw Pittsburgh. All of their teams… even the Pirates.

  • B-bo

    #7: That seems tad silly to me. I for one am from NEO and growing up had two real choices for which hockey team to root for, thanks to geography: Wings or Pens (I suppose the Leafs were an option, but c’mon). Now, there was no way I was going to pull for a team from Yinsburgh, so Wings it was. Been rooting for them since age 9. The Jackets didn’t even exist until 2000, at which point I had been a Wings fan for nearly 12 years. But because I am from Ohio, it’s CBJ or no one? That’s ridiculous. When it comes to hockey, I am a Detroit fan only. It’s nice to see Columbus finally developing, but I’m not going to switch allegiances now.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com DP

    Our own RockKing is in the same boat: he grew up in NW Ohio and was always a Wings fan.

    I think there are two classifications: if you’re a die-hard hockey fan and have been the fan of one team passionately for a decade or two, you can’t be expected to switch just because the city you live in gets a new team.

    However, I lump myself into the other classification: I didn’t start even watching hockey until about 1995. I, too, followed the Wings, for the reasons mentioned above: they were close, and they weren’t Pittspuke.

    When I heard Columbus was getting a team, I weaned myself off the Wings: first, it was “Columbus is my regular season team, and the Wings are my playoff team” because Columbus never sniffed the playoffs. Then, once Columbus started to solidify a roster, it was, “OK, I’m now a Jackets fan, officially. The Wings are still my playoff team, but once guys like Yzerman, Shanahan, Fedorov, etc are gone I won’t learn the new Wings players or follow them anymore.”

    Now, I’m a full-fledged Jackets fan.

    So, there’s some grey area there, and room for both points of view, I think.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    Now if we could only justify that whole U of M thing…

  • B-bo

    It’s funny, DP, because I almost considered a similar weaning period when Federov (my all-time favorite) went to the Jackets, but I just couldn’t bring myself to stop following Detroit–too many memories. Still, I wish CBJ all the best–unless they are playing the Wings.

    And there’s always room for different points of view. Things would be quite boring otherwise.

  • B-bo

    I stand corrected: Scott just identified the one situation in which a different viewpoint is unacceptable, and that’s when it comes to the school up north.

  • http://www.twitter.com/dennymayo IRB?

    Goooood point Scott.

  • Bridgecrosser

    I used to be a decent hockey fan (pre-strike)…. but felt compelled to jump on a BlueJackets thread here for the 1st time ever. It was completely due to the photo and glue-sniffing caption. Arguably the greatest photo on in here in history. I do not say that lightly. In five years, ten years, I may still feel the same way.

    I can’t believe how freaking hilarious that photo is…

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