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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Jackets End Three Game Slide - Fan Fight in 102

The Jackets curbed a non-winning streak last night, topping the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 4-2. The top line and the energy line each managed two goals, not including another that was unfortunately waved off.

Shelley was on ice a fair number of minutes, though his enforcer role was filled by Boll. A number of times during the game, the 'Hawks wanted to rumble and twice the Jackets obliged. Boll faught Byfuglien in the first period, then Nash went at it with Vandermeer after the final horn had sounded.

Fans Fight in Section 102
The players weren't the only ones looking to fight. Late in the third period, two fans in section 102 started throwing punches. From my vantage point in 217, I could see some pretty good fist-to-face contact. It was several minutes before the ushers and police were able to respond. In the meantime, the brawlers moved between a few rows of seats and the spotlight operator flashed his light on the scene in hopes of drawing attention. With play still going on the ice, few noticed what was happening.

Standings
The Jackets are headed back to St. Louis tomorrow, hopefully to shut out the Blues for the third time this season.

CBJ is 9-6-3 for 21 pts for 2nd in the division. Only 2 points separte the 4th place Predators from the Jackets.

Scoresheet

Friday, November 9, 2007

Game Preview: Blue Jackets Start Season Series With Detroit

Tonight is a big game for the Jackets. It will be the first meeting between Columbus and the Detroit Red Wings this season. Tonight's matchup is a great opportunity for the team to test their mettle against their toughest division opponent.

Detroit is on fire already this season, posting a 12-2-1 record for 25 pts. That puts them just one little point behind the Ottawa Senators. That said, the Red Wings have the opportunity to re-take the top spot in the league with a win. Columbus, on the other hand, stands to gain some "street cred" by taking down one of the NHL's top teams.

So far, Columbus has had no problem with weaker teams. Phoenix, St Louis, and even Anaheim have been defeated soundly. The better performing teams have all been losses for the Jackets- Colorado and Minnesota in particular. It's worth noting that games against those two opponents have been away, and their home ice equivelant could yield different results. Tonight's showdown in Motown will certainly fit into the latter category- the "uphill battle".

According to "Puck Rakers", the Jackets lines may be as follows:

Nash-Novotny-Zherdev
Brule-Fedorov-Vyborny
Glencross-Malhotra-Fritsche
Chimera-Peca-Boll

League-leading Leclaire will be in net.

Note that Chimera is playing on the "rough 'em up" line rather than the "energy line" with Malhotra and Fritsche. Also note that Novotny is the starting center. I expect these lines to vary somewhat come gametime, and maybe further changes as the night progresses.

Keys to the game:

  • The Jackets will need to keep their eyes on Zetterberg and Datsyuk. By multiple accounts, they're the new Yzerman/Shanahan duo. They'll score quickly if you let them.
  • Along the same lines, the defense is going to have to keep the shots down, especially early. Leclaire can make some great saves, but he shouldn't have to. Keeping a thick defense early in the game will prevent the floodgates from opening.
  • Give Zherdev and Nash some room to work. I'd like to see these guys get extra ice time on the power plays and any 4 on 4 situation. Nash is more confident than ever, and if you can get him the puck in front of the net, he'll take care of the rest.

Tonight's game starts at 7:30 on FSN. May not be in HD in the Columbus market (not sure why. Bummer.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Can NHL Rookie Patrick Kane stop the Blue Jackets point streak?

The home team is in Chicago tonight to play the Blackhawks. The Jackets are looking to extend their point streak to 7 consecutive games. It will be ht second meeting for the Jackets and 'Hawks, with the first game resulting in a 7-4 win for the Jackets.

Patrick Kane, the first overall pick of the 2007 Draft, is leading the Chicago offense with 17 points. Not yet Crosby-esque, but nothing to shake a stick at either. He's going to need some help to out-gun Nash and crew tonight though.

Khabibulin will likely be in net tonight, and he's looking for a win. The Stanley Cup winning goaltender (Tampa Bay) is sporting a 5-6 record and 3.10 GAA, showing us that he's having a rough start to the season. Lalime is faring a bit better at 2-1, but the 'Bulin Wall' is expected to be the #1 in Chicago for a while longer.

Due to the fact that the Blackhawks also play in the Central Division, this game is critical for the Jackets. They need every win against division teams they can get. Detroit is several games ahead in points and will need a major setback to yield room for another contender to get a shot as the top team in the division. The number two spot is up for grabs this year, however, and the Jackets look the most able to seize it.

Tonight's game will be on FSN for Columbus in HD, as well as on Chicago's local FSN station. It will be the first time ever that the Jackets will play in the United Center in front of not only an in-house Chicago crowd, but a over the airwaves Chicago fan base as well.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Stat Check: How far in front of the NHL is Leclaire?

With his fifth shutout this season happening on Sunday against the St. Louis Blues, Pascal Leclaire is the standout among NHL goalies. Here's a look at his stats in comparison to other top goaltenders.

Goals Against Average
Leclaire's league-leading GAA is an unbelievable 1.12. A number like that is completely unprecedented by Leclaire. By comparison, he managed a 2.97 GAA last season in 24 games played. When compared to others in the league this season, only the top eight netminders have a GAA lower than 2 and only the top four are below 1.5. The best GAA last season was Niklas Backstrom (MIN) with 1.97.

Save Percentage
Leclaire leads the NHL in save percentage as well, if by only half of a percent. His current Sv% is .957, ahead of Dan Ellis of Nashville at .952. Leclaires 06-07 Sv% was .897, which means he blocked roughly 1 in 10 shots. Currently he's letting by less than 1 in 20. Last year's best was Backstrom with .929.

Shutouts
Five is just enough to put Leclaire in the number one spot. Henrik Lundqvist (NYR) is right behind Pascal with four and is keeping a good pace. Worth noting, however, is the fact that Lundqvist has played fourteen games to Leclaire's nine. At Leclaire's pace, he has a 55% chance of shutting out the other team every time he starts. Last year, the top shutout goalie was Martin Brodeur who amassed 12 shutouts in 78 games played.

At his current pace, Leclaire is arguably the best goaltender in the league. He and Lundqvist may continue to duke it out until injuries, a hot streak, or a downward spiral separates them from the top of the rankings. With a pair of crossed fingers, Leclaire may make it through the rest of the season injury free.

Stats from http://www.nhl.com/nhlstats/app and http://www.hockeydb.com
Photo from NHL.com

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Jackets Not Spooked by Kings on Halloween

Chimera was the first star of last night's game following two goals against the Los Angeles Kings. The Jackets won 4-1 with Pascal Leclaire in the net.

The Jackets current record of 7-3-1 is a franchise best, and worth 15 points already this season. At the current pace, the team could break 100 points. But let's not break out the "P Word" just yet. I'm sticking with the "cautious optimism" approach for a while longer- until the all-star game, anyway. All I'm going to say at this time is that it's November, and the Columbus Blue Jackets are still in it. Truth Serum at End of the Bench brings up an excellent point about the upcoming challenges on the CBJ schedule this month.

Tonight the Jackets are at it again in Anaheim. The Ducks aren't doing too well so far this season, so the Jackets may have their way with them, just as they did opening night. (Also recall last year's come-from-behind win at Anaheim.) The Ducks just aren't the same without Sellane and Neidermeyer. Notice how much ice time Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin are getting- they're #1 and #2 in the league.

Freddy Norrena will be in the net tonight. He's had a little trouble getting started this season, especially compared to Leclaire. Tonight will be a great opportunity for him to stand out. Anaheim is a beatable team and he has a confident group of skaters in front of him. If the defense can keep up the good work, Norrena can get the win.

Jackets win 4th consecutive game for a total of 15 pts.
CBJ 4, LAK 1
Official Scoresheet

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Blue Jackets Head Out on Two Game West Coast Roadtrip

The Blue Jackets are on the west coast for the next few days to visit Southern California. Tonight they take on the Los Angeles Kings and tomorrow they will head across town for a second meeting with the Anaheim Ducks.

Neither of these Pacific division teams is above .500, so the Jackets should be more than capable of putting up a good game.

The LA Kings winger Mike Cammalleri is currently tied for the league lead in goals with 10 in 12 games this season. Despite consistent scoring, Cammalleri is only sporting a -1 rating. That's reminescent of Rick Nash a few seasons ago.

If the Jackets are to win tonight, they're going to have to keep Cammalleri contained, particularly when the Kings go on the power play. They'll also have to tie up Jaroslav Modry when on the attack. He's currently their best defensman.

Modin is back in the lineup tonight, and will likely play on the top line with Rick Nash and Michael Peca. Westcott is still on IR for now, but could come back soon. Leclaire will be in net, keeping the potential for a fifth shutout alive. According to Puck Rakers, Norrena will netmind on Thursday regardless of Leclaire's performance tonight. Also mentioned in Puck Rakers: A Soup Nazi sighting.

The photo is of the California wildfires from NASA.gov. Not sure if the Calgary Flames were in town when all this started.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Jackets Win AND Opponent Scores, Leclaire Leads NHL

It was a "CBJ Saturday Night" in Nationwide Arena when the Jackets hosted and defeated the San Jose Sharks. In a 2-1 game, the Jackets secured a third straight win and an 8th place spot in the league standings.

Notably, Leclaire was the winning goaltender despite giving up a first period goal to Joe Thornton. It's the first time this season that the Jackets have given up a goal and still pulled out the win.

Columbus goals came from Fritsche and Fedorov, the latter being a slapshot from the point that lasered into the back of the net.

Pascal Leclaire is now leading the league with a 1.29 GAA, and has the #2 spot in save percentage with a .949.

Shelley Watch:
#45 had just 2 1/2 minutes of ice time and didn't fight, despite San Jose's best efforts.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Buckeyes at #1: Why not?

The Ohio State Buckeyes are still #1 in the nation, though so many people seem to wonder why. Routinely, I hear comments that "they aren't that good" and that they "Don't deserve to be #1".

I ask: Why not?

The season began with the Bucks outside the top 10. While their season schedule hasn't been the toughest nut to crack, they've still made it to almost the end of October without a loss. That's more than can be said for Florida, LSU, USC, Virigina Tech, and every other team that started the season ahead of the bucks.

Until another team proves that they can beat the Buckeyes, they should remain #1.

This is a team that hasn't lost a regular season game since 2005. The only loss since was to Florida in that infamous rout last January. No other undefeated team (Kansas, Arizona State, Boston College, Hawaii) can claim that kind of history.

With the toughest segment of the schedule still ahead, there's plenty of opportunity for the Buckeyes to prove their worth. Illinois, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan all have the potential to knock OSU from the top spot. I'll concede that this team isn't as sharp as it has been in recent years: no Heisman hopefuls, no Ted Ginn, and no league dominant linebacker corps. Despite that, they haven't lost a game yet. Why not #1?

Rick Nash Magic and Pascal Leclaire gets 4th Shutout


Make that 2-0!
BOOM
That comment was left by Matt on my last post about the Jackets defeating the Blackhawks. Leclaire did it again- shutting down the St. Louis Blues by a score of 3-0. The win bumps Columbus up to 2nd place in the division.

Equally big news of the night was Nash's goal. As reported by the AP:

"Ron Hainsey then tried a slap shot from the blue line that was just wide to the right of the goal. Nash played the ricochet off the boards like Manny Ramirez fielding a ball off the Green Monster, stretching to reach the puck to pull it in and then lifting the shot between his legs and high into the top of the net."

I tried to get a reply of the goal from the Jackets' online video archive, but it's hard to see from the camera angle. From the acclaim I've heard so far, it's bound to be in the top 10 on sportscenter, so keep an eye out for that today.

Tomorrow, the Jackets will play host to the San Jose Sharks. Over the years, they've become one of my most dreaded opponents. Leclaire will probably be in net: let's make it five.

* On an unrelated note, Michael of Army of the Ohio is gathering reader contributions for names for the CBJ cannon. Check out his post and leave your ideas. *

Also, be sure to see Yoder's take on last night's game including an explanation for Jiri Novotny's goal.

Score Sheet

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Leclaire posts 4 shut-outs in 5 games

The Jackets take two more points from the central division and move to second place, as they take down the St. Louis Blues 3-0. This comes after a 7-4 win over the Blackhawks on Wednesday. Goals came from rookie Jared Boll and Rick Nash, with one being automatically awarded to Jiri Novotny.

The ruling is this: St. Louis had pulled the goalie, Hannu Toivonen; Novotny was in alone and was hauled down from behind; what would have been a penalty shot...but unfortunately, there was no goaltender on the ice abd the puck would have been in the net regardless, hence the awarded goal. I've only previously seen it in the squirt leagues, but hey, it was only a matter of time at the NHL level.

As I sit here with my Hanson brother glasses on (it was Slap Shot night, ha!) I was impressed with this game, not only did the Jackets sport their "new look" where they show absolute dominance of the hockey game, but they managed to place a couple of players atop the league leaderboard. Pascal Leclaire comes in at no. 2 on the GAA list and no. 4 save pct. Michael Peca shows a knack for faceoff wins at no. 3. They may not be the most glamorous areas of the leaderboards, but hey...they help win a few games once in a while.