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 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!
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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jackets start 1-0 in Central Division

The Blue Jackets put together a great offensive package last night in Chicago, winning the division opener 7-4. The seven goals include two by Nash, two by Novotny and three assists by Peca.

Interestingly, the Jackets still had three players with a -2 rating on the night: Chimera, Malhotra and Boll. It's likely they were playing on the same line together, and were simply no match for the Chicago offense. Norrena still let by 4 goals- all four were scored or assisted by the 2007 draft's first overall pick, Patrick Kane.

Kane may not be getting Ovechkin or Crosby status just yet, but if he keeps scoring like that, anything is possible.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Not soon enough: Blackhawks to get TV Coverage

As mentioned in our Bill Wirtz obituaries, the Blackhawks have not been covered by local television affiliates in years. Bill Wirtz, the team's late owner, chose not to broadcast games to encourage fan attendence.

Since Bill's passing, his son, Rocky Wirtz, has taken ownership of the team is changing media policy. Team representatives are already meeting with Comcast SportsNet to arrange for games to be televised.

The earliest the contract could go into effect is November 11, but until the papers are signed it is difficult to tell. The Jackets are in Chicagoland tonight and will not be televised by FSN, Vs, or any local affiliate. If you want to check out tonight's game, you'll have to do it fireside chat style.

Jody Shelley gets 3 minutes: A sign of the end?

Just over a year ago, I wrote a post about how Shelley's days were numbered. The topic has come up more than once, and I think the numbers are finally starting to reflect this truth. A quick check at confirms that Shelley has taken the ice just once yet this season for a total of just two minutes, fifty seconds.

Shelley is still on the Jackets' roster, but is it merely a formality? His spot as a healthy scratch is becoming routine. How much longer will he remain in Columbus? At some point, his spot on the bench would be better suited for a prospect.

Shelley first seemed doomed when Tollefsen has solidified his place on the Jackets squad, but matter have only gotten worse this season with youngster Jared Boll. Boll is a scrappy winger who can score in addition to throw punches. Shelley's space on the roster is collapsing around him. How much longer will it last?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jackets 1-1 Weekend, Leclaire's Streakiness and Big Games Upcoming

A one up, one down weekend for the home team. The Jackets marched into Buffalo on Friday and brought home a satisfying win that will tack on another 60 minutes of shutout hockey for Pascal Leclaire. Sunday's affair wasn't quite as successful, however. The Jackets were knocked down by perennial Jackets killer, Marcus Naslund and his Vancouver crew.

Same old Leclaire, or is it a new Pascal?

It's easy to suggest that it's a new day for Pascal Leclaire, as he already has three shutouts on this young season. In those games (vs. Phoenix, Anaheim and Buffalo) he played to the caliber that he has always been said to be capable of. But in the other two games he has started (vs. Colorado and Vancouver) He gave up five and four goals, respectively. In many ways, this is the same streaky #31 we've been watching for years.
Leclaire has been known to have had a lot of mediocre performances interlaced with flashes of brilliance. Over time, the flashes have become more common, but the mediocrity still lingers, waiting for an early goal or two to open the flood gates. If Leclaire and his defense could get a stronger grip on consistency, the chances of pulling off a win would increase dramatically.

To be fair, it may not be just Leclaire to fault for some of the losses. This team has always had a tough time playing from behind. It's as if giving up a goal or two early just breaks their heart and kills their morale. Sometimes, there's just no coming back. The Jackets are 3-3-1 thus far- a record for which I am pleased. However, their 3 wins are all Leclaire's shutouts. That means the team is 0-3-1 when the other team scores at all.

Upcoming Action

The Jackets open up division play in Chicago tomorrow night. Eleven of the next sixteen games (through most of November) are division opponents, including six games against the Blackhawks and Blues, whom the Jackets should have the mettle to beat. With this many critical games coming up, the Jackets could very well make or break their season by Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jackets beat Phoenix, Leclaire at 120 Scoreless Minutes

Pascal Leclaire completed his second consecutive shutout last night in front of a half-full Nationwide Arena. The Jackets prevailed over the Coyotes by a score of 3-0, including a first career goal by Jared Boll.

The Jackets put on a great performance in which they played all the way to the end. Only once or twice did they give up a good scoring chance to the Coyotes. Most of the time the defense was all over the puck before a play could bet set up.

The 'Energy Line' played a phenomenal game, carrying all three goals. Chimera had a piece of each and finished the game with a goal and two assists. The top line was centered by Modin -not Fedorov- allowing #91 to serve as the anchor for Zherdev's second line. It looks like Hitch is reattempting the Zherdev-Fedorov partnership, which was tried early and often last year. The thought is that the two Russian-born stars would be able to find common ground and give Zherdev the support he needs to be a top scorer. Last night we didn't see much from this line, but look for it to be used again and again this season.

A hat tip must be paid to Leclaire for shutting out a second team already this season. Having not played in the season's first road trip, he remains un-scored-upon this season. You could see the tension building toward the end of the game. Every time the play stopped, Leclaire paced the goal line with greater and greater intensity. Despite several seasons in the league, Leclaire is still wanting to prove himself. With games like that, it will happen in no time. This is the Leclaire we've all been waiting for. Tougher opponents are coming, however.

The Jackets are now 2-1 (.667!) and face the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.
Score sheet

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Carry the Flag: CBJ Pride Hits New High

I knew since the inaugural season that the term 'Blue Jackets' was a reference to civil war, not a mutant wasp. Until recently, the organization had not embraced this side of their character. The original CBJ logo had the number of stars in the Union and later images of Stinger showed him donning a Civil War era cap, but until last season, this is far as the reference went.

Last year debuted the Jackets Civil War pregame video. Instead of the fly-by of a fighter jet dropping a puck into the arena as it screamed over Columbus on its way to intercept that night's opponent, we fans saw a Union army rushing through the trees in a full-on attack. They barraged through a snow covered landscape, over fences and atop rolling hills. As they approach the enemy, they transform into 21st century hockey players.

There was something about that video sequence I didn't like. Equating a bunch of European and Canadian hockey players with Northern troops attacking their former countrymen following years of political unrest due to socio-economic disparity between the two regions... well, I think you see where I'm going with this. There was something about it that just didn't add up. Maybe it was too close to home, or maybe it was too near in the past. How long ago is long enough? Would fans be ok with 'The Columbus Doughboys' or the 'GI's', characterized as fighting Germans? I'm not so sure. If nothing else, it was a poor effort at marketing.

This year, they followed through with the theme. The slogan for this season is 'Carry the Flag' and it is more than supported by quotes from generals, politicians, and other famous leaders on season tickets, posters and other marketing paraphernalia. The addition of the cannon is superb. My only non-positive remark about it is simply, why didn't they get it sooner? The completed transition to the Ohio flag logo helps a lot too. The Civil War era hats are also becoming more commonplace, and are available at Nationwide Arena's souvenir stands. To top it off, the opening night swag was a flag with the team logo emblazoned upon it. Greg Murray encouraged us to bring them with us to each and every game this season to help 'Carry the Flag'.

On opening night, there was a spectacular video montage of quotes about battle. The music, lighting, and tone of the show played to everyone's emotions. The goosebumps peaked as they showed each player saying "I will", "I will", and "I will carry the flag." The atmosphere in the arena was so rich with emotion and excitement that I nearly forgot we were talking about hockey. At that moment, we could have been preparing to attack Vicksburg, Shiloh, or Eurasia, and it wouldn't have phased me.

This year, it's a top-to-bottom Civil War homage. Maybe it's because Hitchcock is a Civil War buff, or maybe this was the plan all along. Either way, I'm over the dilemma regarding it being too soon or too close. I still get a laugh over Zherdev saying he'll carry the Union flag, but hey, I'll get past that too. Most of all, I don't mind roughing up an on-ice Johnny Reb- which is all the more appropriate when the Jackets face Nashville, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay, and especially Atlanta. Sherman's march shall be re-enacted inside the arena. It's really about the notion that if the Jackets are going to make a statement, it's going to be hard work. It's going to take pride and perseverance to succeed. Maybe it's just the marketing, but this team looks up to the task.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Opening Night 2007: After

If you were not in attendence for Friday's opener, I'm sorry. You missed something special. The pre-game, the goals, the cannon and the shutout were incredible. From the opening video montage to Stinger's placing of the 'victory flag' at center ice, there was a certain buzz in the air that kept the crowd on edge and the players on their toes. The 'Carry the Flag' slogan turned out far better than I hoped, but more on that in a later post.

Nash netted himself 4 points in the win, and he was seriously looking for that fifth point, preferably in the form of a hat trick. Even in the last moments of the game when Modin took the face off in Anaheim territory, Nash tried to get into position for that remaining shot. Modin even strategized before the play about how he would try to get the puck into position.

Fedorov and Leclaire rounded out the three stars, with the goaltender missing the second star spot by about 5 saves.
It was an impressive performance all around by a team that put the pressure on early and kept the pedal to the metal until the final horn sounded. Anaheim, on the other hand, became quite frustrated by the middle of the second period. They continually tried to rough up the Jackets, particularly with after-the-whistle aggression. The Jackets didn't bite, and were able to keep their cool.

Great game. GREAT game. I'm skeptical enough to realize that the whole season won't be this dominating, but hopeful enough to dream that way.

Saturday night in Minnesota wasn't quite as magical. Despite playing hard, the Jackets fell to the Wild, 3-2. I wasn't able to watch the whole game, unfortunately. The bits I caught at the end well illustrated Michael of Army of the Ohio's point about being 'vexed' by the neutral zone trap. The CBJ offense could not get past center ice, barring an icing call. The team seemed to play a tough game though, and that's what matters. Next up is the Phoenix Coyotes at home on Wednesday.

Jackets now 1-1 (.500)
Friday's Scoresheet
Saturday's Scoresheet

(Scoresheets have been redesigned this season)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Opening Night 2007: Before

We're merely hours away from showtime. At 7pm, the puck drops for the Jackets' 2007-2008 season. I, for one, am quite excited. As a matter of fact, I could barely sleep last night. So much has changed since last year. On opening night of last year, the Jackets were coached by Gerard Gallant and led by GM and President Doug MacLean. Just the switch to the 'H&H' leadership team has changed the tune of Columbus hockey. Now that Hitch has had the remainder of last season, plus the offseason and training camp of '07 to work with the team, the Jackets should be in better shape to start the season.

It may be the first game of the season for Columbus, with a clean slate 0-0 record, but Anaheim is already 1-1-1 following two games in London and a shootout loss to Detroit on Wednesday. The Ducks are likely tired and weakened from their road trip, but will certainly want to rebound from their loss in Detroit. Look for them to try for early scores so they can turn on the cruise control. If the Jackets can get the first point on the board, chances are high that they can outlast the Ducks down the stretch and keep it close, if not put Anaheim away in the third period.

I will be in attendance for tonight's opener. This year, my girlfriend bought me a 20-2-1 plan for my birthday. Look for me in section 217.

Here's what other sources are saying about tonight's game:
Army of the Ohio
Columbus Dispatch
Orange County Register

Jacket Times Sidenote:
Tonight's home opener marks the one year anniversary of The Jacket Times. Thank you for stopping by our corner of the hockey blogosphere. After 170 posts, three writers and 16,000 hits, it's been a fun ride. Here's to an even better 07-08!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Two Goalies, One Job. Will Norrena or Leclaire be the #1 'tender?

Both will be, according to today's Dispatch.

As of today, Leclaire gets the start on Friday at home against Anaheim and Norrena will fill the net on Saturday's road game in Minnesota. Neither goalie has proved himself above and beyond the other, so the starter role is going to bounce back and forth for a while. That is, until one netminder dominates the crease, or until one of them is injured.

The tendency for the Jackets organization has been to lean on Pascal Leclaire. The team has invested much time, money and a first round draft pick in 2001 for his services. There's no doubt that the team wants to see a return on this investment, but he's going to need to stay healthy before any results will be seen.

Norrena, whom many chose as the team's MVP last season due to his winning record in the net, is going to keep the pressure on Leclaire. He was intended to be the backup last year, but quickly stole the goalie spotlight when an injured Leclaire played his last game midway through last season. If Norrena can pick up right where he left off last season, there's no reason why he couldn't take the number one spot. Even if Leclaire stays healthy, I predict that Norrena will have played more games by season's end.

However the cards fall, having two healthy goaltenders will keep the competition for the starting role fierce. If one goalie has so much as one bad game, you can rest assured that the other is waiting in the wings for his chance.

An added redundancy to the Jackets goaltender situation is 19 year old Steve Mason, who will be sticking around Columbus in the short term to see how things progress. Seeing as he is only 19, he retains two more years of eligibility in the junior leagues. The Jackets would like to send him back for "more seasoning", but if the time comes, he may just get his NHL debut. Turning to Mason as a third-rung goaltender is better than looking for a Boucher or a Conklin, as the team did last year when injuries emptied the crease. At least with Mason, the team is building a prospect, not just filling a hole in the roster.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Peca, Foote, Modin Return to the Ice and Fedorov Loses PK Privileges

Tom Reed of the Dispatch reports that three of the Jackets' top veterans are returning to the ice following off-season injuries. All three will skate this week in preparation to play in Friday's opener.

Peca's practices this week will be of particular importance. Because he was acquired just this summer, he hasn't had the opportunity to play much with the team, and has not had true in-game experience since midway through last season. He is expected to center the second or third lines this season, pending the performance (and injury) of other centers.

In the same article, it is stated that while Fedorov will take the top line center position, he will not play on the Penalty Kill unit. This is an unfortunate consequence of the Jackets' failure to come up with a viable solution to the center problem. With an aging Fedorov needing to play more minutes at full-strength on the top line, he'll have to reduce his special teams play to conserve energy. This is unfortunate because Fedorov is an excellent defender. Simply recall his service late last season on the defensive lines, or his two Selke awards to understand what the special teams are sacrificing to leave Fedorov on the top line. With any luck, one of the younger centers will be able to step up their game to take that top spot and allow Fedorov to play the second line and serve on the PK unit.

Let's hope the veterans can be ready to rock on Friday night.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The NHL goes to London- A fair trade for Beckham?

The NHL 07-08 season opened over the weekend with two games in London, England of all places. The two southern California teams traveled nearly halfway around the world to take to the ice in 'The O2', which looks like one of those fish that will kill you unless it's cut just right. arena. John Bull attended the game but was unavailable to be reached for comment.

Taking a piece of the NHL to Europe is great way to expose the game to foreigners. England was a good choice, given that many other European countries already have their own hockey leagues. But taking the league abroad is a bit premature. Right now, the league is having a difficult enough time building and keeping a domestic fanbase. If the league wants to broaden its horizons, perhaps it should have considered playing a game in a U.S. city without a team. Las Vegas, Kansas City, Houston, Anchorage, New Orleans or Portland would have all been great choices to play a game. It would have been an opportunity to test the market in those cities as well as bring in new fans.

The games resulted in a 4-1 win by the Anaheim Ducks and a 4-1 win by the Kings, who will hopefully still be jetlagged from their aggressive international road trip preceding the Jackets' home opener on Friday.