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What A Battle!

Who did not know that this one was going to be a war??  With Nashville having its back very much against the wall after a loss last night in Chicago, they were in a “must win” situation to keep their playoff hopes realistically alive.

Every write-up leading up to this game focused on the first 10 minutes, and the need for the CBJ to avoid getting blown out by the Nashville intensity.  Well, the Jackets accomplished that mission in spades.  In fact, they dominated the first period and the first half of the second.  They were swarming, playing solid defense, and taking advantage of overly aggressive Nashville defensemen to create scoring opportunities.  Nifty goals by Nash and Novotny should have provided a 2 – 0 cushion, but Peca’s unfortunate deflection of a Nashville shot made the cushion only 2 – 1. However, we were outplaying Nashville at both ends, and when Nash scored again off a great feed form Williams 6 minutes into the 2nd, it seemed that the Somet Center Curse had been fully exorcized.  Of course, this is Nashville, in Nashville, so we know that was a silly thought.

Another screwy bounce, this time off of Methot’s skate, enabled the Predators to narrow the gap to 1, with Jacket-killer Arnott getting credit for the goal.  A few minutes later, the Preds knotted the game with their only power play goal of the season against the Jackets.  After a tentative first half of the 3rd period by both clubs, Bonk knocked in a puck that bounced around the crease for what seemed like an eternity. 4 -3 Nashville, and it looked like the CBJ fortunes were once again going to take a hit in the Music City.  Again, this is not the CBJ team you have been accustomed to watching.  The boys found another gear, and a gorgeous feed from Vermette to Williams, and the ensuing sniper shot, tied it up, and 5 minutes later guaranteed a point.  Not as easy as it sounds, however, as Tyutin got called for a 4 minute high sticking penalty that was imposed only after the play and some extended conversation among the officials.  Nobody raised an arm at the time of the infraction.

Nonetheless, the Jackets dispatched the remaining time in regulation, and the balance of the penalty in OT, and maintained consistent pressure thereafter.  Credit Mase for an outstanding save on Suter coming in all by himself near the end of regulation.  

The shootout was what you would expect for these goaltenders.  Nash got an unlucky bounce off the crossbar, and Rinne handled Williams and Novotny. (Sorry, Hitch — don’t get the Novotny over Vermette choice for the SO).  Mason dispatched Fiddler and sullivan, but Koistinen made a nice forehand move to get Mase down, and roofed the backhand for the winner.  

Here are the +/- for the night:

+  Early Energy — We came out strong and skilled, and really had Nashville scrambling early.  We took advantage of their aggressiveness, while limiting their scoring chances.  Although shots were relatively even early on, we kept them to the perimeter.

+ Offense — We showed some real skill at the offensive end (subject to the hibernation minus given below).  Two goals to the back door, one in regulation and one on power play.  If we can start doing that kind of thing consistently, we will be very dangerous in the playoffs. Nash, Vermette, Voracek, Williams, Chimera, Umberger all showed great energy in the offensive zone.  Great resilience getting the tying goal in the last 5 minutes.

+ Special Teams — True, we gave up a power play goal, but we killed 6 others in solid fashion, including that potentially lethal double minor to Tyutin with 1:48 left in regulation.  We only had 3 power play chances, but cashed in on one of those in beautiful fashion.

Hibernation — When we went ahead 3 – 1, we pulled our heads inside the shells and tried to play prevent defense.  2 SOG in the 2nd period is all the proof you need.  We stopped hitting, took no shots, got sloppy in giving away the puck, and made no takeaways.  No wonder that we lost all of those statistics for the game.  Perhaps natural to have a let down after getting so geared up for the first 10 minutes, but this is the playoff chase, guys!!  

Details — 1 goal indavertently deflected into your own goal is unfortuate.  2 is sloppy. Taking 7 penalties in a game as important as this is inexcusable, no matter what you think about the officiating. (Hey, we won 2 Toronto reviews and got a double minor when the damage was done by our guy, not theirs).  Also need to do better than 50% in the faceoff circle.  Need to clear those pucks out of the crease crisply and quickly.

–Injury (?) — Huselius left right away, then returned, then went away again.  Have looked, but not found any updates as yet.  Hopefully nothing major.

Not the win we wanted, but the single point is extremely important.  First of all, it gives us the second tiebreake, should we end up with the same record as Nashville.  Secondly, it lets us keep 6th over the almost surreal charge put on by Ana

heim (8-1-0 during the Dirty Dozen).  Finally, it reduces our magic numbers toward a clinch.  Right now, our magic number is 0.5 vs. Edmonton, 1.5 vs. Minnesota and Nashville, 2 vs. St. Louis, and 3 vs. Anaheim.  Can’t technically clinch on Sunday, but Tuesday should be the day, assuming a win over the Blackhawks.  

Hitch will have the boys ready to vault over that 90 point mark, and get primed for a playoff celebration that will be soon to follow.  Go Jackets!!

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