Monday, November 27, 2006

Jackets' first win under Hitchcock

The Jackets got their first win with the new coach on Saturday on only their second try. The team was solid all around, making fewer mistakes and having better execution of fundamentals.

There was no magic to Saturday's win. Even though Fedorov had a 4 point night, it didn't seem like he had to carry the team to get the W. There was great contribution from all four lines, and the top line (Nash, Fedorov, Carter) was fantastic. Even Norrena, the 32 year old rookie played a good game and got his first NHL win.

The Wild had also been struggling, though not nearly as bad as the Jackets. They played hard but tired out faster than the home team, even as both teams were playing in the second of back-to-back games. Vyborny personally gave up the Wild's second goal. In a heartbreaking play, #9 turned the puck over just steps from Norrena's goal. The favor was returned in the third period however, as a Wild defenseman deflected the puck into his own net.

Jacket goals, which have been few and far between this season, flowed like water. An unprecedented five pucks hit the back of the net. That's 10% of all goals this season, believe it or not. Columbus has only 50 goals for this season, better than only Chicago. At the same time, the NHL leader is Buffalo at 105. The division leader, Nashville, has 78.

Hitchcock is already working on this team. Between what I've witnessed and read, his focus has been largely on fundamentals and basic strategy. The players have begun to function as a team- even Zherdev was making passes and playing aggressive defense. Hitchcock is doing away with the dump-and-chase strategy, which will be a first for the CBJ franchise.

Jackets are now on the biggest road trip of the season and won't be back at Nationwide until December 10 vs. Ottawa. In the mean time, Hitch should be able to spend some quality time with the team, reminding them how to play this crazy game on ice.

Anson Carter had this to say about the change since Hitch arrived- I think it sums up what we all think.

"I can’t tell you how many times I went home after a game and banged my head on the wall because we weren’t playing the game right (earlier in the season)," Carter said. "The important thing now is we’re all playing the same way. A funny thing happens when not everyone is doing their own thing..."
Jackets win 5-3
6-14-2, 14 pts
Last in the division, last in the NHL
Box Score

Photo by Adam Cairns via Dispatch online

(Update: Frederik Modin
will not be traveling with the team this week due to a foot injury)

1 comment:

Drew said...

I'm not so sure that the dump-and-chase is gone, per se. What I'm getting from the recent talk is that it's not going to be the same type of dump-and-chase.

Before, a CBJ skater would rip the puck into the offensive zone, and all three forwards would race for the puck. If (as often was the case), the opposition reached the puck first and executed a semi-clean breakout pass, an odd-man rush would go the other way resulting in a good scoring chance.

Hitch's new forechecking system will have the puck dumped in, one forward goes hard to gain possession. The second forward has two options: if we get the puck, he goes low for support. If the opposition gets the puck, he anticipates the pass and plays the defender. The third forward stays high and either prepares for cycling action (with puck), or to steer the play coming back up the ice one way or another (without puck).

I think a lot of Jackets' fans are looking at the initial statement of "we're not going to do the same old dump-and-chase" and not reading the explanation. It also adds to the confusion that the 'new' system is given the fancy hockey name of forechecking.

At least that's my take. I think we'll still see dumping the puck over the blueline, but not as many Jacket forwards deep (and more hustle from those that do go in hard).

I could be wrong, though.