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The Blue Jackets Beat the Blackhawks in Overtime, 4-3

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Game Recap
On the edge of your seat: that is the best way to describe what the Blue Jackets game was like Wednesday night. With the Blue Jackets on the verge of making the playoffs, for the first time in franchise history, and sitting only three points behind fifth place in the Western Conference, Nationwide Arena was roaring. The Chicago Blackhawks, on the other hand, have a secure position in the playoffs, and are currently fourth in the conference (only four points above Columbus). The fan base never let up, the Jackets played a killer game, and both teams were, quite frankly, great. The game was characterized by many scoring opportunities, on each side, and amazing saves by both goalies. It was a great game.

The Chicago Blackhawks got off to an early lead, with Chicago’s Dave Bolland scoring just one minute into the game. All hope seemed lost for the Blue Jackets, who usually head south if scored on early, but they somehow managed to fight back into the game. Just two and a half minutes later, Columbus’ R.J. Umberger tied the game up, at one a piece. The Jackets did not let up, and, at the midway mark of the first period, Derek Dorsett scored to give them the lead. Chicago tied the game at 2 a piece near the end of the first period.

With eight minutes gone in the second, Columbus’ Fedor Tyutin was sent to the sin bin for hooking. This allowed Chicago’s Jonathan Toews to score Chicago’s only power play goal. Just a minute later, Columbus Captain Rick Nash scored the tying goal, a hard angle shot that just dribbled in. The rest of the period was spent as the teams took turns getting breakaways and shots off, which the goalies easily handled. Very rarely during the period were both teams at full strength at the same time, as there were seven penalties dolled out in total.

The third, much like the second, was a period of missed opportunities and good saves. Both teams had good chances, and both goalies did very well. Columbus got lucky several times, as Goalie Steve Mason would get an initial block, and then the defense would get in to keep the puck out of the net. Mase just didn’t seem able to hold on to the puck. The refs were not really liked by the crowd during this period, as they called diving on Columbus’ Jared Boll (who clearly was tripped) and boarding on Rostislav Klesla. The crowd let them know their displeasure, as the refs endured about three minutes of solid booing. The period ended with neither team converting on their opportunities, and both of them grabbing that needed point in the race to the playoffs.

As the Jackets and Blackhawks faced-off at the start of the "five minute overtime" period, all of Nationwide were on their feet. With the crowd roaring, and the noises reverberating, the Jackets took control of the overtime. Needing the point more than the Blackhawks did, they played with passion and skill. Halfway through the overtime, Umberger got a break away and headed down the right wall. He passed it towards the slot, far ahead of the nearest Blue Jacket. Antoine Vermette, who is one of the fastest players on the ice, was able to skate by the defenseman, grab the puck, and score. The arena erupted in cheers, as Columbus continued to pad their franchise record for points and wins.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
The Good:
The Jackets played with passion and fire last night, and that is something that they need to do every game. Normally, when they are scored on quickly, the Jackets stop playing that hard. Against the Blackhawks, they kept on playing, and that is something that they need to keep doing. It is hard to come back against a team as good as Chicago, but the fact that Columbus was able to do so showed just how good they are. One of the main components of this ability is the crowd, and how into the game they are. Nationwide wanted the win, and the cheering horde fed the Jackets, and helped them come back. These two things, a desire to win, and the crowd, all led to the victory.

And what about Vermette? This man is absolutely gold; Vermette=Playoffs. He has never missed the playoffs in his carrier, and it doesn’t look like he is going to start. He scored the winning goal, made many amazing plays, and was playing exceptionally well. Vermette, who has been with Columbus for just six games, has easily become one of the team; you can see this when you watch how hard he will defend Mason. Oh, and he has six points in six games, and is enjoying his point a game average. I must admit, I have a bit of a man crush on Vermette (hey now, according to the Dictionary, a "man crush" is perfectly straight), and hope that he stays here for a long time; I just sent my jersey in to be updated to his name and number, don't want to waste the money.

The Bad:
Power-play conversions are a huge problem that has been facing the Blue Jackets all year. Most teams in the playoff race have good conversion ratios, but the Jackets are not doing very well at this. Though they were able to kill off a ton of power plays, when they had the man up, they really were not doing well. Columbus needs to improve on power plays, or they are going to be hurt during the playoffs. Maybe a power-play line of Williams, Vermette, Nash, and Umberger (with Klesla in the back) would be a good line; they can be taught to play different positions, as they would all compliment each other and it would be pure power.

The Ugly:
The Jackets need to work on lowering their penalty count. While they were able to kill off all but one penalty against the Blackhawks, teams like Detroit and several on the East coast would crush the Jackets on power plays. Though a few of the penalties, in my opinion, should not have been called, eight penalties, with a few being double minors, is not a good start to the playoff march. In fact, against a better team (and Chicago is pretty good), it should have resulted in far more goals against the Jackets. They need to work on this.

Looking Forward
On Thursday, March 26th, the Jackets will be playing host to the Calgary Flames. The Flames are an extremely good team, though they have been in a slump as of late. They are also currently eight points ahead of Columbus in the Western Conference, and the Jackets need to win this game. However, the Flames will be coming off a game the night before against a tough Pittsburgh team, and they should be tired. To win, the Jackets need to concentrate on simply keeping pressure in the offensive zone, and play like they have been. Also, they need to stay out of the sin bin as much as possible, as the Flames have a fairly good powerplay ranking. As long as Columbus plays like they have been recently, they should have a good multipoint win.

Know your Hockey
There are three zones in the game of hockey, and they are all respective of your team. The offensive zone is simply the area between the blue line and the end of the ice, where the other team’s goal is. The defensive zone is the area between the blue line and the end of the ice, where your goal is. That is right, your offensive zone is the other teams defensive zone, and vice-versa. The neutral zone (sometimes known as neutral ice) is the area in-between the two blue lines. It is here that the opening face-offs occur.

The Columbus Blue Jackets (37-28-6), who are currently 6th in the West with 80 points, will play host to the Calgary Flames (41-23-6), who are currently in the 3rd West with 88 points, on Thursday, the 26th of March. The series is currently led by Calgary, 2-1.

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About Robert M. Barga