Game 53 Recap: John Wayne Ate Steak

If you are of a certain generation, you got a lot of cultural programming about how to be a "real man" from your father, and your father got it from movies and TV.

In my case, that means Dad is a big James Bond and John Wayne fan. To say this occasionally causes....confusion...is a given.

Tonight, the Blue Jackets returned home and showed they were most certainly having John Wayne kind of night, and the spirit of The Duke seemed to inspire the entire bench.

With the Jackets looking to put on a good showing for both interim coach Todd Richards and recent addition Colton Gillies against their former team, the team came out flying hard, and only some impressive saves by Niklas Backstrom kept the Wild in the game, while Curtis Sanford was able to read the better part of a book down at the other end of the ice.

After a penalty to Nick Schultz for interfering with R.J. Umberger, the Jackets seemed close to scoring a few times, but the best chance came on an open-net look for David Savard...and the rookie d-man's stick shattered as he attempted to fire his slapper.

As the penalty came to an end, Nate Prosser challenged Derek Dorsett to a fight, and the result was brutal. Dorsett hurled himself at the Minnesota d-man, throwing punches with terrifying speed. Prosser was quickly overwhelmed and dropped to the ice, only to have Dorsett bring him back to his feet just to knock him back down again. With the small but vocal crowd on their feet, the Jackets continued to carry the momentum, earning another delayed call. Even better, Backstrom lost his goal stick making a save, putting the Wild at a serious disadvantage.

With six skaters on the ice and Curtis Sanford on the bench, Vinny Prospal sent a perfect feed to Savard at the blue line, and he did not waste his second chance. Unloading a bullet through traffic, the puck was in the back of the net and the Jackets had their first goal of the evening, while Savard had a nice story to tell about his first NHL goal.

Despite outshooting the Wild 14-7, Minnesota would get one back in the last 90 seconds of the period, with (ironically) a blast from the point by Prosser that hit a Jacket (possibly Fedor Tyutin) in front of the crease and took a bad hop past Sanford.

The Wild would work on balancing the ice back in their direction in the second period, but penalty trouble gave the Jackets an advantage that finally played in their favor. With Schultz in the box again (this time for a hook), Rick Nash would take the puck off the wall and send it to Antoine Vermette, who waltzed in before launching a beautiful backhander to put the home team back in front.

Though the Wild attempted to get back into the game, the Jackets took a page out of quite a few opponents' books, pushing them to the perimeter and denying opportunities to get in front of the net, while also receiving notable contributions on both sides of the puck from John Moore, Derick Brassard, and Derek Dorsett.

Jeff Carter also appeared notably more engaged as part of a line with Vinny Prospal and Gillies, and the combination would pay off just under six minutes into the final period. With Carter and Gillies hovering around the Minnesota net, Vinny Prospal would grab the loose puck and put it back to the blue line. David Savard would take the pass, find a lane and unload another shot from the point that hit Backstrom in the leg. The shot set up a juicy rebound that Gillies would get across the crease to Carter, and #7 would pound it home through Backstrom's legs, prompting the first "CHILI" chant in almost a month.

The Wild would take no less than three more minor penalties in the third period (two of them by Schultz - a hook on Rick Nash, and a delay of game later on), but the Jackets' power play never quite seemed able to convert, while individual efforts by Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger turned into frustrating passes to linemates who could not capitalize instead taking their own shots.

On some nights, perhaps that would have come back to bite them, but on this occasion the lead would stand, and even a "just wide" attempt on the empty net by Vermette was more of a "Oh, that would have been nice" moment than a nail biting "please don't let that turn out to screw us" situation.

The win would be just the second time the Jackets have put together back to back wins, but more than that, it's an encouraging sign that the level of effort from the Los Angeles and Anaheim games can be mustered at home, and not just on the road.

If the Jackets can continue to play like this, there may be no hope for the post-season, but it will at least give fans in Columbus a feeling that they've gotten their money's worth for going down to the arena.

Final Score: Jackets 3 - Wild 1

Standard Bearers:

  • David Savard - First NHL goal, first multi-point NHL game? Not a bad day at the office. Savard also is starting to look noticeably more confident in his decisions with the puck, and had some excellent plays to keep cycles alive both on the power play and at even strength.
  • John Moore - Another youngster who may not have scored, but certainly made some plays to keep goals OFF the sheet, if you get what I mean. His defensive play was a big difference tonight, and his chemistry with Marc Methot continues to grow.
  • Jeff Carter - Trade rumors, attitude questions, whatever else may be going on, Carter put in an excellent game tonight, and deserved the goal he scored. Whatever he's being told right now, please keep it up!
  • Power Play - Yes, it would have been nice to score an extra insurance goal or two, but cashing in for two goals with the man advantage was an excellent change from recent performances.
  • Fans - Yes, ~11,200 isn't a great crowd, but considering this was a Tuesday night against the Wild, what did you really expect? Full credit for the building getting surprisingly loud at times, particularly late in the third as the Jackets stood their ground with the lead.
  • CBJ DJ - Dude, I don't know who told you that 99 Luftballons was a good idea late in the third period, but that person has my kind of brain-damaged musical taste. Nice work.
  • Jeni's Ice Cream - Always good, but an excellent post-victory treat...and did I mention a Trio at Jeni's costs $2 less than a UDF soft-serve cone at the arena?

Bottom Of The Barrel:

  • Passing Off - The team needs some more breakway drills. If you're on a 2 on 1 or solo rush and you can get the goalie to look off to the trailing skater, don't pass back or risk a poke-check, FIRE THE DAMN PUCK!
  • Aaron Johnson - Paired with Tyutin, Johnson didn't seem comfortable, and made several bad decisions with the puck while on the first PP unit. Here's hoping Nikitin and Wiz will be good to go within the next week or so.
  • Arena Concessions - Why was I not told we could get chicken and waffles? OK, fine, I have to go to club level or the lower bowl. I can deal with that. Why have I been paying $8 for a bottle of water and a hot pretzel when I could spend $10 and get CHICKEN and freaking WAFFLES instead?

So maybe a win like this puts me in a bit of a good mood. Seriously, this was pretty much a whole team, 60 minute effort in the best possible way, and gave one hell of a nice change from some of the games this team has subjected us to this season.

The Jackets will be back in action on Thursday against the Stars, then travel to Minnesota on Saturday for their final meeting with the Wild this season. Also, don't forget that Sunday is the "CBJ Tweetup" game vs. the Ducks - looks like the team is putting a lot into promoting it, and it seems like it'll be a fun night for those who attend,

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