Game Preview: Blue Jackets vs. Sharks (Game #54) – Keep Building

jackets vs. sharksSan Jose Sharks (29-19-6, 64pts) vs.
Columbus Blue Jackets (26-22-5, 57pts)
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
7:00 PM EST
TV: FSN-OH HD / Radio: WBNS 97.1 FM

(Dispatch Preview / SportsDirect Preview)
WFNY Tickets – Follow me @WFNYDP from the press box tonight!

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to do a proper game preview, but the Jackets are in the midst of their most solid stretch of hockey since mid- to late-November. They’ve gone 6-2-2 in their last 10, good for 14 points—including a solid win last night in Pittsburgh (4-1, box/Highlights) to make it three wins in a row. They’re now up to 12th in the conference, and just four points out of a playoff spot; both are the highest/closest they’ve been since early December when their swoon began. The Sharks, however, are even hotter: They’ve won nine of 12, and have lost in regulation just once in that span. They’re coming off of back-to-back road shutouts, including last night in Washington. In short, it’s going to take the best effort for Columbus, but they need to keep building, and therefore heading in the right direction: up the standings.

Projected Lineups

San Jose Sharks:

SC1:Patrick MarleauJoe ThorntonDany Heatley
SC2:Ryane CloweJoe PavelskyDevin Setoguchi
CK1:Ben EagerLogan CoutureKyle Wellwood
CK2:Torrey MitchellScott NicholJamal Mayers
D1:Dan BoyleDouglas Murray
D2:Marc-Edouard VlasicNiclas Wallin
D3:Kent HuskinsJason Demers
G:Antti Niemi

Columbus Blue Jackets:

SC1:Rick NashDerick BrassardJakub Voracek
SC2:Kristian HuseliusAntoine VermetteRJ Umberger
CK1:Chris ClarkSammy PahlssonDerek Dorsett
CK2:Matt CalvertDerek MacKenzieJared Boll
D1:Jan HejdaAnton Stralman
D2:Fedor TyutinMarc Methot
D3:Kris RussellGrant Clitsome
G:Steve Mason

Team Rankings
SJS – 2.76 gpg (14th NHL)
CBJ – 2.66 gpg (19th NHL)

SJS – 2.63 gapg (12th NHL)
CBJ – 3.04 gapg (24th NHL)

Power Play:
SJS – 23.0% (4th NHL)
CBJ – 13.1% (28th NHL)

Penalty Kill:
SJS – 82.8% (14th NHL)
CBJ – 79.7% (24th NHL)

Season Matchups
This is the fourth and final matchup between these two teams this season:

1. 10/08/10 – San Jose 3, Columbus 2 – (in Stockholm, Sweden) – recap
2. 10/9/10 – Columbus 3 @ San Jose 2 – OT (in Stockholm, Sweden) – recap
3. 11/20/10 – Columbus 3 @ San Jose 0 – boxHighlights
4. 02/09/11 – San Jose @ Columbus – 7:00 PM EST

Game Notes

These two teams haven’t met since November in an odd scheduling quirk due to the back-to-back games to open the year in Sweden. They played three times in the Jackets’ first 18 games, and now here we are 36 games later.

The Sharks are making a crazed run at the top of the standings—a place they seem to be almost every year. They have points in nine straight games (8-0-1), and thanks to their back to back shutouts in Boston and Washington on this trip, have not been scored on in over 134 minutes (i.e., almost seven periods). And that marks one of the bigger differences in this year’s Sharks team: they used to be know for straight offense and average defense. This year they’ve approached a much more balanced look, scoring less but also giving up less.

Part of that has to do with injuries, and not coincidentally they’ve gotten healthy and are starting to click at the right time. The Power Play is dangerous as always, though the Jackets have been decidedly better during their three game winning streak, killing off 15 of 16 penalties. Columbus has also been successful killing off three 5-on-3 Power Plays during that stretch.

And, one of the reasons the PK has been better is thanks to the improved play of Steve Mason. He’s won his last three starts, including a shutout of Detroit last Friday night. He’s finally managed to get his save percentage above 90%, which is a mark he hasn’t seen most of the year. Mason has been getting extra practice time with coach Dave Rook, and it’s clearly paying off: he looks more comfortable, more assertive, and seems to be seeing a lot more pucks that maybe he was guessing on earlier in the year.

The Jackets’ offense has been better of late, as well. They’ve scored 14 goals in their last four games to bump their goals-per-game mark into the top-20 for the first time in awhile ,as well. They’re being paced by their top two lines, as all six guys have been contrbuting since the All Star Break. All six guys on the top two lines have goals over the past four games; this is a combination the Jackets need to maintain if they are serious about knocking off some of these better teams and really making some noise in the playoff race.

This is going to be probably one of the toughest games coming up between now and the trading deadline, since the Sharks are at full power roster-wise and are playing as well—or better—than anyone in the league. A win tonight for Columbus may signal that this team is serious about making a playoff push.

From The Outside Looking In

Next Game For The Jackets
Friday, February 11, 2011
7:00 PM EST
Colorado Avalanche at Columbus Blue Jackets


    “though the Jackets have been decidedly better during their three game winning streak, killing off 15 of 16 penalties”

    If my memory serves me, had they had held them off for another 4 seconds last night, this would be a perfect 16 of 16 the last three games….is this something, in the last 10 years, they would have ever been able to say?

    I’ll be at the game Friday and have a few more buy one get one tickets to use the rest of the year….hopefully their play will continue to keep me interested.

  • DP

    REEP: the Pens’ goal scored with :01 showing on the PP clock. While the goal was still a goal, it would have been nice–just for stats’ sake–to have seen it go in a second or two later.

    I can’t say for certain without doing some serious research, but I believe during the playoff season their PK was actually pretty solid for big chunks of the year, and probably got to that level of a streak. But again, I’d have to look it up. :-)

    I’ll be there tonight, and the wife and I may go also on Friday, though the Avalanche scare me given that they’ve run the Jackets 5-1 each time they’ve played so far this year.

  • Marc K

    Was at the game last night in Pittsburgh! Jackets played much better than the undermanned Pens. Mason nearly let them back in it with a couple mishandled pucks but all in all was pretty impressive. Hope they can keep it rolling tonight.