The frustrating start to March for the Blue Jackets has continued this week. With 16 games left and a good bit of ground to make up, the Jackets have let two goal leads slip away in their last two contests - calling it frustrating doesn't even begin to cover it, and it's clear the the players and coaches are feeling it just as much as the fans.
One comment I thought was particularly telling was that the Jackets were facing teams that were more desperate than they were.
With the clock ticking, we have to hope the Jackets can find some desperation of their own.
|Game Time: 7:00 pm EST
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
|Radio: 97.1 WFAN
|Kings vs Blue Jackets coverage|
Opponent's Blog: Jewels From The Crown
The Kings have been on a roll lately, boosted by the addition of Dustin Penner, but they've also gotten an interesting lift from rookie Kyle Clifford, a winger with skill, grit, and just a bit of a scoring touch.
He's not been quite as explosive as Matt Calvert, but he's a player the Jackets need to be mindful of tonight.
The biggest area the Jackets need to find their focus in is the penalty kill - despite returning to success on the Power Play of late, the PK has been a big part of why their opponents have been able to get themselves back into games, and though St. Louis mostly scored 5 on 5 Wednesday night, one of their biggest goals came right on the heels of a PK - close enough that I'd count it for government work. If the Jackets can keep up their current scoring (let's not forget that they've unloaded 3+ goals in four of the last five games!), but tighten up their own doors, it might just be enough.
At this point, Derick Brassard, Scottie Upshall, and Kris Russell are all question marks - each was given a maintenance day yesterday, and Brassard reported some ankle trouble following his return to the lineup on Wednesday. While I remain hopeful, it wouldn't surprise me if we see Kyle Wilson back in the lineup and Derek MacKenzie elevated to fill Brassard's spot. If Upshall and Russell are unable to go, expect to see Chris Clark and Craig Rivet, but I don't see any other changes on the horizon.
Keys To The Game:
- Leaky Umbrellas - The Kings' power play has been a major fizzle of late, and head coach Terry Murray has decided to start getting away from the "umbrella" style that they and the Oilers have been using for the last few seasons. That means the Jackets' PK is likely to see a lot more movement and shots down low, and they need to be prepared for it.
- Clean The Porch - If you watched LA's last game against Detroit, the game winner was a Dustin Brown redirection right in front of the crease. With guys like Alec Martinez and Drew Doughty on the blue line, it's not surprising that the Kings are trying to find ways to capitalize on their shooting ability, but the Jackets have to be prepared for it, and do a better job of clearing away both opposing players and rebounds.
- Mixed Results - With no clear answer to the starting goaltender for tonight, I'm assuming we'll see Steve Mason tonight vs. Jonathan Quick. As much as Mason has struggled lately, Quick has been on fire. We have to hope that things will balance out a bit tonight, but the Jackets have to get their offense going early - a 40 shot effort is a lot more likely to lead to a win than a 22 shot slump.
A lot of people have been talking about why they're still in the van with the team at this point. Some because of love. Some because of hope. And some people just because they love the feeling of their backs against the wall.
I'm a bit of all three. I love this team, I have fun writing about them, and I truly believe that if they can find that earthshaking confidence that carried them for so much of the early season (and again in February), they can find a way to make noise. But I am willing to admit that the time is growing short. Cinderella needs to find her slippers before midnight, or we'll be on the outside looking in when the ball truly begins.
Blue Jackets Information:
|Rick Nash||Jakub Voracek|
|R.J. Umberger||Antoine Vermette||Matt Calvert|
|Scottie Upshall||Samuel Pahlsson||Derek Dorsett|
|Ethan Moreau||Jared Boll|
|Jan Hejda||Sami Lepisto|
|Fedor Tyutin||Marc Methot|
|Grant Clitsome||Kris Russell|
|Dustin Penner||Anze Kopitar||Justin Williams|
|Ryan Smyth||Jarret Stoll||Dustin Brown|
|Alexei Ponikarovsky||Michal Handzus||Wayne Simmonds|
|Kyle Clifford||Trevor Lewis||Brad Richardson|
|Willie Mitchell||Drew Doughty|
|Jack Johnson||Rob Scuderi|
|Alec Martinez||Matt Greene|
Tidbit: If you do feel like you need a break from the stress of being a Blue Jackets' fan tonight, and just want to go out and have a nice evening to forget it all, you could do a lot worse than checking out Dine Originals Week.