ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 08: Ryan Russell #25 of the Columbus Blue Jackets trips up Sheldon Brookbank #21 of the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center on January 8, 2012 in Anaheim, California. The Ducks defeated the Blue Jackets 7-4. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Columbus Blue Jackets are 16-33-6. 16 wins in 55 games. Three of those wins--or almost 19%--have come in the past four games. Two of those wins have come against the Anaheim Ducks. So ends their season series tonight in Columbus, with the Jackets having a realistic chance of finishing a four-game series, in this nightmarish season, with a winning record.
The Jackets won the only other meeting in Columbus, way way back in October, and of course won the thrilling overtime affair just nine days ago out west. The Jackets are coming off of an odd win last night in which they were all but dominated in the third period of a one-goal game, but managed to sneak in a freak empty-netter off the stick of James Wisniewski to seal it at 3-1 over Minnesota. You would have thought with this team's luck that the "shot" by Wiz would have bounced wide at the last second to be touched up for icing, which would then have led to a late tying goal for the Wild. Hooray for small victories!
At any rate, Steve Mason was brilliant last night in the win, making several spectacular saves to keep the Wild at bay, including a save on an empty net in which he used his blocker hand to snatch the puck just before it crossed the line. Whither THAT Steve Mason all season, I wonder? At any rate, unless Curtis Sanford's back is all of a sudden completely healed, it's hard to see Todd Richards not giving Mason another go tonight.
And speaking of Wiz, it was nice to have him back in the lineup, even if he looked a bit rusty at times. The team has sent Dalton Prout back to Springfield in response.
And finally in the Jackets' lineup department, it was not lost on me the Ryan Johansen took Colton Gillies' spot on the second line midway through last night's game. I expect to see Joey there again tonight.
Columbus Blue Jackets
(16-33-6, 38 Points; 5th division, 15th conference)
|R.J. Umberger||Derick Brassard||Rick Nash|
|Vinny Prospal||Jeff Carter||Ryan Johansen|
|Derek Dorsett||Samuel Pahlsson||Antoine Vermette|
|Ryan Russell||Derek MacKenzie||Colton Gillies|
|Fedor Tyutin||John Moore|
|Aaron Johnson||James Wisniewski|
|Grant Clitsome||David Savard|
(21-24-9, 51 Points; 5th Division, 13th Conference)
|Bobby Ryan||Ryan Getzlaf||Corey Perry|
|Matt Beleskey||Saku Koivu||Teemu Selanne|
|Jason Blake||Nick Bonino||Andrew Cogliano|
|Niklas Hagman||Rod Pelley||George Parros|
|Francois Beauchemin||Cam Fowler|
|Luca Sbisa||Lubomir Visnovsky|
|Toni Lydman||Sheldon Brookbank|
Head to Head
Anaheim Columbus 2.54 (19) GPG 2.27 (28) 2.87 (22) GAPG 3.18 (29) 16.6% (20) PP% 15.5% (21) 84.3% (9) PK% 76.2% (30) Corey Perry, 23 G leader Rick Nash, 18 Teemu Selanne, 32 A leader Vinny Prospal, 24 Teemu Selanne, 50 Pts leader Rick Nash, 38 Corey Perry, 71 PIM leader Derek Dorsett, 137 6-11-7 Road/Home 9-14-3 2/10 @ Detroit, L 2-1 (SO) Last Game 2/11 @ Minnesota, W 3-1 6-2-2 Last 10 3-6-1
- Powering Up - The Jackets' man advantage is 5-for-18 (27.8%) in its last four games, dating back to their last tilt with these Ducks. Getting Wisniewski back should help, but the biggest addition has been moving Derick Brassard to the point. The PP looked sluggish at times last night in Minnesota, but still managed to pot a goal in four chances. It would be nice to see some consistency and continued improvement from this unit.
- Joey on the Ice - Replacing the oft-used-of-late "Joey on the Shelf" heading, Ryan Johansen made his return to the ice last night. He began the night on the fourth line, but had plenty of chances and managed to work his way up to the second line with Jeff Carter and Vinny Prospal. I feel that Joey did enough to again merit time on that line, hence my placing him there in the lineup.
- Number Crunchin' - So, to expound on the leading stat above, let's look at some numbers to give you a sense of how BAD the Jackets were to begin this season, and to perhaps (whether fairly or unfairly) indict the coaching of Scott Arniel. The Jackets now sit at 16-33-6 through 55 games, good for 38 points. Scott Arniel was fired on January 8th, after a 7-4 pasting at the hands of these Ducks. Since Todd Richards took over, in 14 games the club is 5-8-1. Certainly not awe-inspiring, but 11 points in 14 games certainly makes 27 points in 41 games look a bit paltry. Richards is, of course, auditioning for the job full-time next year. It remains to be seen whether the Jackets will "blow it all up" at the trading deadline, but Richards is doing his best to make a case that this roster can be competitive with some tweaks this off-season. All of that said, we'll see how it goes when the difficulty of the schedule picks back up this week with contests against St. Louis, Chicago, and the New York Rangers, all of whom are in very solid playoff position (STL and CHI are 4 and 6 in the West respectively, while the NYR lead the East).
The Jackets won last night without their best effort, which is a shock and not something we've seen at all this season. It would be nice to see them pick it up a bit more tonight at home, but even still they're making some progress in a few areas, bit by bit. A win tonight would make three wins in four tries against the Ducks, and would mean that the Jackets would actually win a season series against another team in their conference; no small feat amidst this Season of Torment.