One more time, Rick. For old times' sake. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Where to start? I guess the best place to begin is the end. This is it, folks.
The end of a miserable, miserable season. A season that began with lofty expectations--even if not necessarily realistic--and then fell into an abyss so deep, we were left twitching like Ed Harris. A season that saw the face of the franchise ask to be traded, and that left an awkward feeling all around when he wasn't dealt at the deadline.
And, to that end, tonight marks another end: most likely, the end to the Rick Nash era in Columbus. It is expected that Nash will be traded some time this off-season. And, what's even worse is that, due to a lower back injury sustained in Thursday night's game in Colorado, Nash may not even play tonight. Maksim Mayorov has been recalled, just in case.
It would be terribly ironic if Nash isn't able to go tonight--he's played in all 81 games to this point--and it would be an almost completely not surprising final sucker punch to the gut for a fanbase that has absorbed more than their share this season were they not able to properly say good-bye to #61.
One hopes Nash gets enough treatment to get that one last chance to play for the fans that have supported him (and, frankly, that he's supported in return) for so long. One more goal would net him 30 for the season, a nice feat considering how badly things went from the start of the year.
I'm going to offer a bold prediction, however. While April 7, 2012 will most likely be the last game of Rick Nash's tenure in Columbus for now, I don't think we'll have seen the last of him in a Blue Jackets' sweater. At the end of it all, somewhere way down the road, Rick Nash will be a Blue Jacket again, and when he's done his #61 will go up into the rafters next to Mr. Mac before it's all said and done. But then again, I'm a hopeless nostalgic optimist.
Wait, no I'm not. Sheesh, now I'm confused.
Finally, It is also fan appreciation night, and to that end Cannon-ites, if you're going to the game, come find Mr. Wagner and I during the first intermission. We'll be taking up residence in the concourse just outside of the Cannon. Stop by and say hello, and let us thank you for sticking with us through this year.
Columbus Blue Jackets
(28-46-7, 63 Points; 5th division, 15th conference)
|R.J. Umberger||Derick Brassard||Cam Atkinson|
|Vinny Prospal||Mark Letestu||Maksim Mayorov*|
|Ryan Russell||Ryan Johansen||Derek Dorsett|
|Colton Gillies||Darryl Boyce||Jared Boll|
|Jack Johnson||James Wisniewski|
|Brett Lebda||Nikita Nikitin|
|Aaron Johnson||Dalton Prout|
*Call this the reverse-Rick-Nash-jinx, if you will
New York Islanders
(34-36-11, 79 Points; 5th Division, 14th Conference)
|Matt Moulson||John Tavares||Kyle Okposo|
|Josh Bailey||Frans Nielsen||Michael Grabner|
|David Ullstrom||Marty Reasoner||Nino Niederreiter|
|Micheal Haley||Jay Pandolfo||Matt Martin|
|Mark Streit||Milan Jurcina|
|Travis Hamonic||Andrew MacDonald|
|Matt Donovan||Steve Staios|
04/07/12 - NY Islanders at Columbus
Head to Head
NY Islanders Columbus 2.38 (27) GPG 2.36 (28) 3.01 (27) GAPG 3.14 (28) 18.7% (8) PP% 15.0% (27) 81.1% (22) PK% 76.5% (30) Matt Moulson, 36 G leader Rick Nash, 29 John Tavares, 50 A leader Vinny Prospal, 37 John Tavares, 81 Pts leader Rick Nash, 58 Matt Martin, 111 PIM leader Derek Dorsett, 223 17-18-5 Road/Home 16-21-3 4/5 vs Winnipeg, W 5-4 Last Game 4/5 @ Colorado, W 5-2 6-4-0 Last 10 6-4-0
- Top-Heavy Trio - The Islanders struggle to score almost as much as the Blue Jackets do. However, their problem is a much different animal. Whereas Columbus really scores (if you can call it that) by committee, the Islanders do it with one deadly top line. On the season, the Isles as a team have scored 193 goals. Their top line of Matt Moulson, John Tavares, and Kyle Okposo, have combined for 90 of those goals, or almost 47% of the team's total. The Jackets will need to be especially sound defensively against this combo. It also is one of the reasons the Isles have such a good Power Play unit, despite their otherwise pedestrian stat lines.
- Cammy Cam - The Jackets haven't had much to get excited about, but one thing that should have fans looking forward to next year is the steady blossoming of rookie winger Cam Atkinson as he gets more minutes down the stretch. The numbers overall are skewed a bit by Thursday's hat trick, but Cam now has 11 points in his 26 NHL games (5G, 6A). In his last five games, however, he's been especially effective, with the three goals to go with four assists. In other words, seven of his 11 points have come in the last five games. Definitely a positive step going into next season.
- 30 for 61 - If he can go, a goal for Rick Nash would net him his fifth straight 30-goal season, and seventh in the last eight. If he doesn't play, he will leave the Jackets (assuming, of course, he is traded) with a team-record 288 goals, 258 assists, and 546 points. No one else will get close to those numbers anytime soon. It's been a real pleasure, Rick.
What a long, strange trip it's been. I have a weird feeling in my stomach that I'm never going to see Rick Nash in a Blue Jackets sweater again. My old Rick Nash third (the old tie-up ones from which the current logo was patterned) will remain in my closet, but it won't ever be the same wearing it after tonight.
Again, we here at the Cannon can't thank you all enough for reading all season long. Here's to better times to come!