I love these Eastern Conference games.
Many a Jacket fan has wondered over the years why the decision was made to put Atlanta in the Eastern Conference and Columbus in the West. There's the North-South argument, the fact that in '98 Nashville was placed in the Western Conference and the league didn't want two back to back expansion teams in the same conference...etc.
Whatever the case may be, the Jackets should be in the East. Historically, the Jackets have always played well against those teams, and of the 15 Western Conference squads, they are the second-furthest East. The only team geographically further East is Detroit, but they likely enjoy their position in the Central division of the West, as it contains historical Norris division rivals Chicago and St. Louis.
Rather than continue down this realignment path, let's focus on the game.
Last month I attended my first game at Madison Square Garden, where I saw the Rangers defeat the Blackhawks. In the victory, the team fought hard and showed good team speed. I unfortunately wasn't able to see Gaborik, Drury or Prospal play, as they were all out with injury, but guys like Ryan Callahan and Michael Sauer stood out to me. Callahan is a hell of a player. The Rangers are 7-3-0 in their last ten games, and Marian Gaborik is healthy and back in the lineup, scoring seven points in his last five games.
The Jackets on the other hand, are 4-5-1 in their last ten games. The special teams are not faring well, and the team has looked lost at various times over that stretch. Nikita Filatov was sent to minor-league Springfield yesterday, with winger Tom Sestito being called up in his place. The team has been practicing with Sestito on the powerplay, parking him in front of the goaltender a la Tomas Holmstrom in Detroit. Sestito is big enough and has the hands to be a premier blue-paint shit disturber.
The goaltending matchup is expected to be Steve Mason vs. Henrik Lundqvist.
The Jackets need this one, and if history against the East is any indication they have a good shot of sending the fans home happy.
Easy one- who wins tonight?
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