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Blues Wipe The Floor With Blue Jackets, 5-2

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Game Recap
Turnovers, turnovers, and more turnovers, but not the tasty kind. That seemed to be the MO for the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night, and they seemed to be happy with it. Playing their second game to the Saint Louis Blues in less than 24 hours, the Jackets just seemed tired. The game had great potential, with Columbus fired up about the hit by the Blue’s T.J. Oshie that nailed Columbus’ captain Rick Nash, but they just couldn’t do anything with the passion. Both teams were fighting to stay in the playoff race, but only the Blues looked like they really wanted it.

Even before the game started, everybody could sense the animosity in the air. Just 20 hours after losing in a shootout to the Blues, the Jackets wanted to grab a victory against their rivals. Additionally, a hit by Oshie against Nash on Saturday night got the Jackets, and their fans, all riled up and ready to fight. This feeling was captured by one fan, as he yelled out prior to the national anthem, “Oshie, you better look out.” To me, this encouragement by the fans is exactly what Columbus needs to clench the playoffs.

Unfortunately, however, it didn’t seem to be what Columbus needed to win on Sunday night. The first period was, more or less, a slow and sluggish affair. Though there were a few breakaways, and some exciting moments, most of the period was just one of control. Though he endured boos his first shift on the ice, Saint Louis’ Oshie scored in the fifth minute to give the Blues a 1-0 lead. This really shut the crowd at Nationwide up. Even with this goal, both teams came out relatively unscathed, with three power play kills apiece.

The second period started off on a good note, but somehow managed to turn bad near the end. The Blues’ Brad Winchester got called for interference in the second minute and the Blue Jackets seized this opportunity to tie the game up. In the third minute of the second period, Fedor Tyutin shot a bouncing puck over the glove of Chris Mason, St. Louis’ goalkeeper, and was able to tie the game. This got the crowd back into it, and it looked like it would end up as a good game.

Later in the second period, Nash streaked down the ice to the delight of the crowd. He was taken out from behind (much to the displeasure of the crowd) and the Blues got a penalty; however, the Jackets arguably should have had a penalty shot for tripping from behind during a breakaway. The Jackets were unable to convert on this power play. Near the end of the second period, with three minutes remaining, Columbus’ goalie Steve Mason attempted to clear the puck out of the zone from behind his own net. He fanned on his attempt, and instead passed the puck straight to Blue’s player Brad Boyes, who promptly scored in the empty net. This goal took all energy out of the Blue Jackets, froze Mason up, and silenced the fans. It was the beginning of the end.

The third period started off like the second ended. The Blue Jackets were already playing as though they were defeated, and only a few players on the team (Nash and Jared Boll) looked like they wanted to win. Halfway through the eighth minute, David Perron intercepted a bad pass and drove down the ice to score on Mason, giving the Blues a 3-1 lead. Just five minutes later, Patrik Berglund stunned Mason with a shot off of his chest, and then drove it past him. Nash, seeing the status that his team was in, drove down the ice and scored with five minutes remaining. Though the odds were against a comeback, there was time, and there was hope; it seemed as though this play alone re-lit the Blue Jacket’s fans and team, and they were ready to keep going. Just a minute later, however, the Blues crushed all hopes as a turnover by the Jacket’s defense in their own zone allowed David Brackes to go one-on-one against Steve Mason. Brackes won that battle and the Blues won the game, 5-2.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The Good
I am really impressed with how hard the Jackets worked to kill off power plays. Though they let one in, they killed off the remaining six and did far better then their current percentage. This is a factor that I had pointed out many times, and the fact that they are improving here will greatly help them when the playoffs come. Along the same lines, the Jackets seemed to be penalized a lot less during this game, and thus were doing much better. The third period had no penalties from either side; this sort of clean play is just what the Jackets need if they want to keep on winning.

The Bad
The Blue Jackets played sloppy on Sunday night and looked like they wanted to lose the game. Tight passing, good puck handling, and puck control are things that are essential to any playoff team, and the Jackets just didn’t have them. Two goals were caused by turnovers, and another arguably was as well (the third goal made from an interception of a bad pass). This sort of play needs to be weeded out quickly or the Jackets will lose most of their other games. The teams in the remainder of the Jackets schedule are just too good to not take advantage of these situations.

The Ugly
There was no passion out on the ice Sunday night, and there was no desire to win. The boys looked as if they were tired, wanted to go home, and just didn’t care. This is how the Colorado Avalanche should look, not the Columbus Blue Jackets. I don’t care if you played 20 hours earlier, and lost in a shootout to the same team, you need to play as though you wanted the win. Columbus still has not locked down a playoff berth, (though they are close) and I would hate to see them knocked out because they stopped caring.

Goalie Steve Mason is a rookie, and the team should stop relying on him to carry them. Sure, he is amazing, and will probably win Rookie of the Year, but he is still a kid and needs a rest. Sunday night, the Jackets left him out to dry as he had to try to stop three giveaways in his own zone. Even veteran goalies will have a hard time doing that, and Mason is just a kid. Even though he made a basic mistake (by fanning on the puck clear), he played extremely well and deserves a break. The team should have carried him after he messed up (I liked the fact that the fans tried to pick him back up) but they didn’t. Coach Hitchcock needs to give him a break and put Doobie in for the next game.

Looking Forward
On Tuesday, March 31st, Columbus will host the Nashville Predators. This is the first half of a home-and-home for these two teams, and a game that both really want to win. Columbus is in 6th place, and needs some more wins to lock down their playoff spot. Nashville, on the other hand, is in 7th and this win would tie them with Columbus. Nashville is a good team, and they have decent power play conversion and killing statistics. The Jackets, who have lacked in these spots in the past, are showing decent statistics at this point in the season. Both teams need the win, and I expect it to be a spirited fight.

Due to the proximity of their playoff hopes, both teams will be coming fighting, and you can expect a spirited and hard-hitting game. I would expect at least one fight between Columbus’s Boll and the Predators’ Jordin Tootoo, though you might see more. When these two teams match, it is a slugfest. I expect the game to be a close one, and probably decided in the closing minutes, if not during overtime. Due to Nashville’s large amount of injuries, and the fact that this series usually goes to the home ice, I expect Columbus to pull of a win Tuesday night. That said, however, I expect Nashville to win April 4th, when they play the Jackets on their home ice.

Know Your Hockey
During the second period, Columbus Captain Rick Nash was tripped from behind, but was not awarded a penalty shot. This irked many Columbus fans, but was called properly. The issue centered around the fact that Nash was not yet on a break away, and thus it did not meet the criteria needed for a penalty shot. To be awarded a penalty shot, the player must be on a breakaway. If this occurs, and he is tripped from behind, the goalie intentionally moves the net, and/or a defensive player falls on and traps the puck in his crease, a penalty shot is given. This shot is taken just like a shootout, with the puck placed at center ice and the player getting a free shot on the goalie.

The Columbus Blue Jackets (39-29-8), who are 6th in the West with 86 points, play host to the Nashville Predators (38-30-8), who are 7th in the West with 84 points, on Tuesday, the 31st of March. The series is currently led by Columbus, 2-1-1

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About Robert M. Barga