Saturday night for me started out at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. It was there that I was treated to one of the most dominant Springfield victories that I can recall dating back to the Indians' last Calder Cup Championship, nearly twenty years ago. The Falcons came out strong, played hard, skated fast and ran up a 5-0 lead against the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes), one of the AHL's best road teams. If you're so inclined, you can check out the recap and goal highlights on the Falcons website. Nikita Filatov had a great night and the Falcons won 7-3.
What bigger buzzkill than driving home over an hour through a snowstorm and making it home safely only to tune in to the telecast of the Blue Jackets taking on the Los Angeles Kings? The first half of the Blue Jackets' season has been a complete Jekyll and Hyde, with a smooth first quarter, followed by an unmitigated disaster over the past six weeks. Remember the start of this week's four game road trip? Many observers were hoping to wrest four of a possible eight points. Nonetheless, I tuned in.
Similar to Friday's fiasco in Anaheim, the Jackets once again managed to dig themselves an early hole. I like to subscribe to the thought of "anybody can beat anybody on any given day", but spotting the Kings a three goal margin after one, on their home ice, can in no way inspire the troops.
Jarret Stoll's eleventh marker of the season turned it into a four goal lead for the Kings. Stoll's shorthanded goal once again showed just how dire the Jackets' power play has become. For die hard Jackets followers, there was nothing new or sadly, unexpected given the club's recent freefall, to differentiate these from any other of the team's current problems.
This morning, most of the adjectives used to describe Matt Calvert's first NHL goal revolve around "fluke" "strange" or "weird". While his first, of hopefully many NHL goals, wasn't a one timer that went top shelf, what it was was Matt Calvert playing Matt Calvert's game. Calvert, in the Kings' defensive zone was doing his job...forechecking, trying to break up the Kings setting up to clear the zone. Calvert's poke check broke up the pass, surprising Kings netminder (and University of Massachusetts alumni) Jonathan Quick. By the time Quick reacted to the deflected pass, the puck had just barely crossed the goal line to get the Jackets on the board.
The goal, regardless of how unusual it was, seemed to invigorate the Jackets. The remainder of the second period
were stable, if unspectacular, and the Kings led 4-1 after two.
Was Calvert's goal a topic of discussion in the room between the second and third periods? We don't know. I can say that after having had the pleasure of watching Matt Calvert play for half a season, that he is one of the most passionate guys I see playing this game at any level. Maybe, just maybe, the rest of the team picked up on this when they took the ice for the third period.
At the 6:47 mark, Captain Rick Nash circled behind the cage and beat Quick to cut the lead to 4-2. Jake Voracek and Anton Stralman got the helpers on the Nash goal. Stralman, far from anybody's favorite player lately played a pretty reasonable game and ended the night a +2.
Just over four minutes later, Fedor Tyutin found the back of the net for his third goal of the season. I felt that at this point, Quick was not having his best night and if the Jackets could continue to mount an offensive threat, suddenly this game was up for grabs.
Ryan Smyth temporarily deflated the Jackets' comeback attempt when he scored his seventeenth of the season. Nash stepped up once again just a minute later to once again make this a one goal game. The Kings' Justin Williams found the empty net with 31 seconds left on the clock to seal the Kings' victory 6-4.
The negatives continue for the Blue Jackets. Over the last ten games, the Jackets stand 4-6-0 and are 13th in the Western Conference. The power play seems non existent, the defense weak and the goaltending shaky. Somehow through all that, we're just beyond the halfway point of the season and based on current standings, the Jackets are only four points out of a playoff spot.
There has been much speculation about player movements. There was also a report that as many as eight or nine other clubs had scouts at the game in Los Angeles. Maybe for the last period and a half on Saturday night, they saw something that may have been of interest to them.
Due to the fact that it was a late game, and I was still on something of a Falcons high, I'm going to skip the "Standard Bearers" and "Bottom of the Barrel" nominations for the game. I suspect that some of you may have an opinion in that area however.