Status Check: Zero Hour
Despite a bittersweet ending against Nashville, it was a great week for the Blue Jackets, taking 4 of 6 points before the trade deadline, and capping off one hell of a month. With a home and home split against the Predators and a big victory against the Phoenix Coyotes, the Jackets finished February with an 8-3-1 record, good for 17 out of 24 possible points, and putting them firmly into the "Buyer" column at the deadline.
The Jackets also grabbed veteran d-man Craig Rivet off waivers, and appear to be poised to make a move at today's trade deadline.
So, let's look at the week that was, shall we?
Matt Calvert: Even without his first NHL hat trick, Calvert had a pretty solid week...but the hat trick sure helps. The Cavalry delivered 5 goals and an assist. (Total for Feb: 8G, 3A, +2, 4PIM)
R.J. Umberger: Even with Kristian Huselius hurt and the lines shuffled, he's Umby, dammit. R.J. had a goal and three assists on the week. (3G, 12A, 8 PIM, +8)
Kris Russell: Despite falling to Nashville, Russell was an impact player this week, with a goal and three assists. (2G, 6A, 8PIM, +5)
Rick Nash: It's a strange week when Nash isn't in the team's top scorers for a week, but it's probably good for the team's sustainability. Nash had two goals and an assist in 3 games. (6G, 7A, 4PIM, +5)
Grant Clitsome: Though his defense hasn't been perfect, Clitsome's puck moving ability has revived the power play. Three more assists this week for the Clitter. (1G, 7A, 8PIM, +2)
Antoine Vermette: Another player to benefit from shifting lines, Vermette had a goal and two assists on the top line this week. (4G, 4A, 4PIM, +2)
Derek MacKenzie: D-Mac mostly saw time with Calvert and Umberger this week, and delivered a pair of assists. (2G, 6A, 2PIM, +7)
Jakub Voracek: Jake had the tying goal against Phoenix and an assist in the first game vs. the Preds this week. (3G, 5A, 8 PIM, +4)
Fedor Tyutin: A pair of assists vs. Nashville this week. (0g, 5A, -1)
Jan Hejda: One assist for the Jackets...and unfortunately, one assist on a Shea Weber goal due to the puck redirecting off his face. Ouch. (5A, 4 PIM, +3)
Players earning 0 points this week had the following results for the month of February:
Kristian Huselius (INJ) - 3G, 3A, 2PIM, -2
Derick Brassard (INJ) - 2G, 3A, 21 PIM, +1
Anton Stralman: 1G, 3A, 4PIM, +/- 0
Samuel Pahlsson - 2G, 1A, 0 PIM, -3
Andrew Murray - 1G, 1A, 0 PIM, -1
Derek Dorsett - 1G, 1A, 18PIM, -1
Jared Boll - 1G, 22PIM, +/- 0
Marc Methot - 7PIM, +/- 0
John Moore (Returned to SPR) - 0 PIM, +/- 0
Chris Clark - 5PIM, -3
Ethan Moreau - 2PIM, -2
Rostislav Klesla (INJ) - On IR through the month of February.
Steve Mason: With a shutout vs the Preds on Tuesday, Mason held the crease in a wild game vs. Phoenix and ended the week with a 1.5 GAA and .947 save percentage (2.25 GAA for February, .940 SV%)
Mathieu Garon: With a 3 goal loss to Nashville and a .893 save percentage, Garon wasn't necessarily bad, but we needed him to be better. (2.5 GAA, .885 SV%)
When you look at the month, R.J. Umberger and Rick Nash were the MVPs with pure points, but I think Matt Calvert's exceptional efforts and clutch play have raised him into the MVP slot for the month, simply for how he has risen to the demands of the occasion.
The real question now is how Scott Howson will look to (hopefully) improve the team. With a .708 winning percentage for February, the team stepped up and made themselves a player in the Western Conference race. With 16 games in March, they'll basically be playing every other day, and it'll be a lot of wear and tear as they battle for the finish. Players like Rusty Klesla and Derick Brassard will return from injury and provide a much needed boost, but the team will only be able to make 4 more callups from Springfield until the end of the regular season.
The Jackets will need each and every player to step up over the next 6 weeks. The road trip that starts the season will be demanding, and the team needs to take at least 6 points in four games to keep on the pace. They'll get to balance that with four home games in the next five, but will then turn around and start jumping back onto the road before making more trips to the Pacific and Northwest divisions, then finally ending in DC before they start the final homestand.
To borrow a phrase from a few years ago, it's time for the March to the Playoffs. Let's see what kind of ammunition Scott Howson can arm the boys with.