Perhaps the quote from the Divine Comedy is a bit over used, but you can't help but think it sums up the team's experiences in Nashville just about perfectly.
As Tom Reed of the Dispatch pointed out, nearly every meeting between these teams in Nashville for the past three years, no matter how well the team is playing, triggers a losing streak. Something about the frustration and the injury triggers a loss of confidence so severe that it can take up to 9 games for the team to get back on their pins. It's beyond frightening, as a statistic, it's actually fatal - for all our dislike of Detroit or St. Louis, it basically means the team's inability to get to the post-season can be laid at Nashville's feet - without those huge "downers" after playing them, the team would be far more likely to have the points needed to challenge for a post-season berth. (Even a "normalization" of, say, two or three losses, followed by getting back into a .500 or better run would likely have given the Jackets 10 critical points this season, for example.)
Still, at this point in the season, it's not much that can be fixed, outside of Scott Arniel and his coaching staff realizing the pattern and working to combat it for next season, and Scott Howson taking note as he works to improve the team for next season.
Oh, and perhaps, just perhaps, the boys in Union Blue can surprise us all and give those sons of bitches one to remember them by.
Keys To The Game:
- Do More With Less - No Rick Nash, no Kris Russell. The Jackets need to step up, particularly in the absence of Nash, and find a way to get pucks past Pekka Rinne. The biggest thing is they need to step up their net presence with a passion - dirty, greasy goals are the best chance they have of beating the Preds.
- Blum-pkin - Another potential jewel of a d-man from a franchise that seems to develop them like no other, Jonathon Blum has stepped up and played well in his debut for the Preds, with 8 points (3G, 5A) in 21 games - and most importantly, all but one of those points has come at home. He's yet another threat the Jackets will have to be aware of for blue line offense - not that the Predators have any problems with generating that from Shea Weber and Ryan Suter
- Surprises - With so many players in Columbus auditioning for jobs next year, either with the team or on the UFA market, one has to hope that someone will step up and give us something unexpected - particularly guys like Kristian Huselius or Chris Clark, who will return to the lineup tonight. Grant Clitsome is also expected to play, as is Anton Stralman, who missed the game in Dallas with the flu.
I don't think the Predators are unbeatable (indeed, their post-season record says quite the opposite), but I think they're a very good team who have done an incredible job of getting inside the Blue Jackets' heads. There's every reason tonight to expect things to go badly. So I'm going to keep hoping that maybe, just maybe, the Jackets will do something so unexpected as to shock the world, and deliver a win.
Blue Jackets Information:
|R.J. Umberger||Derick Brassard||Jakub Voracek|
|Kristian Huselius||Antoine Vermette||Matt Calvert|
|Scottie Upshall||Samuel Pahlsson||Derek Dorsett|
|Chris Clark||Derek MacKenzie||Jared Boll|
|Grant Clitsome||Sami Lepisto|
|Fedor Tyutin||Marc Methot|
|Anton Stralman||Jan Hejda|
|Joel Ward||David Legwand||Martin Erat|
|Sergei Kostitsyn||Mike Fisher||Patric Hornqvist|
|Jordin Tootoo||Jerred Smithson||Matt Halischuk|
|Nick Spaling||Blake Geoffrion||Colin Wilson|
|Shea Weber||Ryan Suter|
|Cody Franson||Shane O'Brien|
|Kevin Klein||Jonathon Blum|