Friday, February 2, 2007

Bang Head Here

Ugh. That was no fun at all. I picked up the game right after Chimera scored the Jackets' second goal of the night, which made the score 5-2.

Needless to say, I don't really feel like I totally wasted my evening because I watched "Drumline" on TNT.

Because of Norrena's recent injury, the Jackets started Conklin, but had to switch to Popperle mid-second period. Neither of those two goaltenders 'belong' in the NHL. It was Popperle's first ever NHL game to boot. Given these circumstances, you'd think the team would be focused very heavily on playing a tight, disciplined defense to minimize power play opportunities against their minor league goalies. I may think that, but the team sure didn't.

Five of Calgary's six goals came on the powerplay, with two of those during a five-on-three. The Jackets gave up ten two minute penalties, plus five minute majors to Shelley and Konopka. (Konopka? Who the hell is that?) In the interest of understanding, the Flames did manage three goals in the first ten minutes of play, so the team was no doubt frustrated. But that's not an excuse to give Calgary so many more opportunities to run up the score. If anything, those three goals should be the signal for the team to tighten up, focus on fundamentals, and most importantly, don't do anything stupid!

Right now (according to NHL.com) the Jackets are 20th in power play percentage and 18th in penalty kill. Power plays in hockey are like turnovers in football. You want to seize and throttle every one you get. The teams that win are the ones that give up the fewest and force the most. The Jackets' power play percentage hit the franchise high of 12th place back in the 02-03 season with a 17.3% rating. The best PK rank achieved by Columbus was 8th, in both the 02-03 and 03-04 seasons.

The team has proven before that they can reach the top 50th percentile on special teams, but I retain that the best way to minimize an opponents' scoring chances is to just not take so many penalties. I was previously under the impression that part of the "Hitchcock system" was to emphasize fundamentals, finishing checks and to stay out of the penalty box. Maybe the team is just taking a while to fully adapt to that system, because the Jackets have been on a roller coaster regarding PIM. Some games (like tonight) they give up so many power plays, and multiple 5-on-3's, and in other games the penalties are kept to a minimum- only 4 or 5 during the entire 60 minutes of play.

Get it together guys, there's games to win!
There's still two whole months left!
There's still time!

Jackets lose 6-2. (Argh.)
Box Score

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