Every Tuesday, WFNY’s The 5-Hole brings you up to date with the goings-on of the CBJ…
The Week That Was
A point-per-game in the NHL is basically treading water. Unfortunately, treading water doesn’t get you any closer to the shore that is the playoffs. At some point, the Jackets have to start swimming again. The silver lining? They have looked a little more like themselves from earlier in the year the past two games. That said, they let a point get away from them last night in Calgary. And, they are in the midst of a crazy stretch of six games in 10 days across four different time zones. Yikes.
Thursday, 12/09 in St. Louis – Blues 4, Blue Jackets 1 – (box) – Highlights
Saturday, 12/11 in Columbus – Blue Jackets 3, Rangers 1 – (box) – Highlights
Monday, 12/13 in Calgary – Flames 3, Blue Jackets 2 – OT – (box) – Highlights
I could break these games down, but all you need to know is this: Columbus came out flat against St. Louis, went 0-for-8 on the PP, and gave up 3 goals to St. Louis’s PP. Game over. On Saturday, they fore-checked the snot out of New York, and took a 1-1 tie late in the third until Rick Nash took over, scoring two goals in the last three and a half minutes for the win. On Monday, Calgary took a 2-0 in basically the first four minutes, chasing Steve Mason. Mathieu Garon came in and shut the door long enough for the Jackets to claw their way back in. Only to lose in overtime. It was a good point, but it should have been two. But, they didn’t quit!
The other main thing I wanted to highlight is that Scott Arniel has not been afraid to bench guys. Fedor Tyutin have both been healthy scratches in two of the last four games. Nikita Filatov has been sent to AHL Springfield. Tom Sestito—up in place of Filatov—has been getting some go on the second scoring line. Arniel showed no restraint in benching Steve Mason on Monday night early. And that paid dividends in one point and almost two.
The point? The Jackets know they need to win now. Scott Arniel wants to win now. He talked about playing the guys that gave him the best chance to win back in training camp, and right now he’s walking that walk.
Columbus doesn’t get much rest. They’re currently in a stretch of six games in 10 days (game three was last night), and those six games span four time zones: Central time last Thursday at St. Louis; Eastern time Saturday against the Rangers and this Saturday against Dallas; Mountain time last night against Calgary and on Thursday against Edmonton; Pacific time Wednesday in Vancouver. It’s crazy. This is definitely a tough stretch, especially with the club coming off a five-game skid. So far, they’ve kept their heads above water with the three points in three games. Hopefully they can pull off at least three more.
As we noted above, the Jackets continue out west in Canada for two more games, and then head back to finish their Herculean six-games-in-10-days-in-four-time-zones stretch. They play in Vancouver (16-8-4, 36pts) on Wednesday night, and then head to Edmonton (11-13-5, 27pts) on Thursday. They then head back to Columbus and host Dallas (18-10-2, 38pts) on Saturday night. Frequent flyer miles!
By The Numbers
Let’s take a quick look at the Jackets by the numbers, through 29 games:
2.55 gpg (21st NHL)
2.69 gapg (14th NHL)
11.7% (29th NHL)
80.5% (t22nd NHL)
Rick Nash – 17
Derick Brassard – 13
Rick Nash – 25
Steve Mason – 9
Mathieu Garon – 1.95
Mathieu Garon – 92.5%
Finally, it’s looking like Kristian Huselius will be back soon. He’s on the road trip, and will dress on Thursday night most likely. He’s been practicing full-contact since Thursday. Other than that, there are some minor nicks but nothing major. Derek MacKenzie is fighting a groin strain, and Jared Boll is fighting back spasms. The Jackets are largely healthy other than that, for a change.
Who’s Hot, Who’s Not
Hot: The Captain. Rick Nash has been quietly putting together one of his best starts to a season of his career. Nash is now third in the league with 17 goals, and has scored four goals with three assists over his last four games. Nash also set yet another franchise mark on Saturday, playing in his 544th career game as a Blue Jacket, passing David Vyborny for the franchise all-time lead. He is now also just one assist shy of tying Vyborny for the all-time club lead (204). Nash’s 244 goals are already the club lead by FAR, and his point total of 447 is also the club lead. So, if you’re scoring at home, Nash is now two assists from the solo lead in games played, points, goals, and assists. And he’s only 26, and locked up for seven more seasons after this one. If he spends that entire time in Columbus, the records he will set for the franchise will be around for a LONG, long time. Let’s hope the franchise is in Columbus for that entire time.
Not: Fedor Tyutin and Anton Stralman. These two defensemen have been scuffling of late. Tyutin has just one point in his last nine games, and has been a healthy scratch twice in the last four. Tyutin was –3 against Calgary Monday night. In other words, he was on the ice for all three Flames goals. Stralman has three assists in his last eight games, but has also been a healthy scratch of late, including Saturday and Monday night. Stralman has been brutal, and is –7 in his last six games played. Not good times. The Jackets need these guys to step up and not only contribute on offense, but to be solid in their own zone as well. Right now, they’re doing neither.
Quote of the Week
From the sometimes-gotta-look-at-the-glass-as-half-full department:
Credit to the guys; we didn’t quit. I feel like we deserved the extra point by our play. When you’re down 2-0, you don’t know what’s going to happen. But we kept going. I thought we got better, and they started to look a little nervous.
—Goaltender Mathieu Garon following Monday’s overtime loss in Calgary
I know you’re not supposed to be happy with moral victories in sports, especially when there are some expectations for your team. But I have to agree with Garon here. I turned much of my attention elsewhere after the quick two goals were scored by the Flames. So, imagine my surprise as, each time I checked back in, the Jackets were working hard and hanging around. From the point they got on the scoreboard, they outworked the snot out of the Flames, and really deserved a better result. Still, when there have been points where it’s looked like they were going to pack it in during this season, to see them come out and claw their way back into a game is certainly encouraging, if nothing else. They’re still interested, at least.
…A Little Help From My Friends
The Dark Blue Jacket takes a look at the overall roster and reads the tea leaves with respect to the “youth core” and where this team goes from here:
While Howson and Arniel make oblique references to a "puck possession" system in the post-Hitch era in Columbus, I can’t make out exactly what their roster vision is. Of course, I’ve never had the opportunity to ask them directly, but it sure would be an outstanding series of open-ended questions to ask either of them: "What exactly IS your vision?" "What’s you philosophy on what an ideal team should be – roster, style of play, etc.?" "Which pieces are in place that fulfill that philosophy?" "What needs to be done to complete the transformation to a [Howson/Arniel] type of team?" Until I get that innate understanding, I’m forced to read tea leaves like the rest of the CBJ fan base.
Brassard, Voracek and Filatov should, by a roster comparison with Detroit, be the top line in Springfield and tearing up the AHL. Mason should be their goalie. Russell should be just now establishing himself on the NHL roster. Instead, we’ve thrown all of them into the fire against teams like Detroit where the opposition is 10 years older than they are. They don’t stand a chance.
Full Mental Jackets interviews Kyle Wilson, and gets so much more in comparison by proxy from Nikita Filatov:
The irony here is thicker than my grandmother’s fruit cake. There I was interviewing a guy [Wilson] that had toiled in the AHL for four years, a guy that had played well and played consistently there, a guy who seemed to be happy with himself and confident in his abilities, yet a guy from whom so little is expected. Sitting next to him was a very young man [Filatov] upon whose shoulders sat the great expectations of a NHL city desperately in need of his talents, a player who has been rushed along in his development (by both himself and his team) and consequently seems light on confidence, a player who is about to spend some quality time in the AHL to learn how to "play well and to play consistently". Just like Kyle Wilson did.
The good news for Filatov is that he isn’t in the Washington Capitals organization. He won’t have to put up four years of solid numbers before he earns his next chance. He might only have to put up four weeks worth. At least we should all hope so. And when he does return, I hope he’s wearing the kind of smile that Kyle Wilson is wearing, not a tentative one.
As I shared with another blogger recently, I just think Filatov had too much expected of him too soon, and clearly didn’t handle it well last year. And both he and the organization are at fault:
I think the Jackets made a mistake not letting him play the entire year in AHL Syracuse in ’08-’09 (when he fought injuries and illness early, and when they called him up just to sit and "be around the team" while they made their playoff run), and he really hurt himself by not accepting the trip back to the AHL last year when he struggled.
Right now, it just looks like his confidence is gone. Not because he’s being beaten into submission by coaches or anything; he’s pressing so hard to score right now (or, was, until he got sent down, heh). Maybe some time getting his mojo back in the AHL will help his confidence. The Jackets are going to need him as a scorer before all is said and done this year.