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Klesla nets two as Jackets earn a win

November 10, 2006

The pessimist in me had been saying all week that I wouldn’t be watching the game last night.  The sloppy play of late from the Blue Jackets has not been fun to watch, and the mounting losses have been increasingly frustrating.

Anyone that knows me would have known that I would be planted in front of the television at 8 PM, ready for the puck drop.  And so there I was, affixed to the couch waiting for the Blue Jackets to break out of their funk.  The first period didn’t do a whole lot to raise or lower my expectations.  Play from both sides looked sluggish, with few scoring chances for either team.  The time clock was the only thing that moved quickly in the first period, which ended in a 0-0 deadlock.

The second period started out with David Vyborny taking a hooking penalty 0:43 in.  On the penalty kill, it looked to me like the forwards were collapsing down extremely low to help the defensemen.  Blues forward Bill Guerin found empty ice in the high slot and put home a one-timer to give his team a 1-0 lead early in.

Rick Nash had a couple of great chances on his next shift, culminating in his first goal in over nine games.  On a Jackets power-play, Sergei Fedorov broke his stick on a one-timer from the blueline, in which the puck went directly to David Vyborny who backhanded a pass to Nash for the slam dunk to tie the score.  A few minutes later, Keith Tkachuk tipped a Barret Jackman centering pass behind Pascal Leclaire to put the Blues up 2-1.  Tkachuck took a high stick from Rusty Klesla while scoring, and the Blues had the lead and an immediate man-advantage opportunity.

The Jackets’ penalty-kill resumed it’s great play and held the Blues off the scoresheet.  As time expired on the Klesla penalty, forward Dan Fritsche fired a blind clearing attempt up the near boards which happened to find Klesla waiting for the puck.  Rusty held on (and didn’t fall down) for the breakaway and put a wrister past Blues netminder Manny Legace to tie the score at 2.  Apparently, the goal helped Klesla find his legs, as he netted another one about five minutes later.  He loosed a rather soft wrist shot towards a screened Legace, who somehow let the puck go by.  The crowd (considerably less than the announced 9,631) and the team seemed shocked.  Kudos to the cameraman who captured the priceless shot of Legace stomping around in his crease after allowing that one.  

The Klesla goals sandwiched the first shorty of the season for the Jackets, which was scored by Dan Fritsche off of a blind centering pass from Sergei Fedorov.  In the third, there were a few fights (Goertzen got destroyed by Bryce Salvador, and Shelley lost to Matt Walker), a disallowed goal (goaltender interference), and not much else.

In all, it was good to see a few things.  First, the Jackets were able to get the puck out of their defensive zone last night.  The organized breakouts seemed to work better, and when turnovers were created good passes were made to the forwards leaving the zone.  Second, even though I’m sure many will say “it’s just the Blues, don’t get too excited,” this win was a big deal for the club.  You see, when you’re in 13th place in the Western Conference, every game is a big deal.  And in any event, hockey teams should look to win every game regardless of opponent.  A win is still two points in the bag, whether it is against the Blues or the Sabres.

That said, I have one question for the FSN broadcasting team.  Did you all have a team meeting yesterday and decide that there would be a quota for the number of times you must use the phrase “games in hand”?  It’s pretty common knowledge that as of this very moment, the Jackets have played the fewest number of games in the NHL (and thus have less available points to have earned).  In March and April, these types of things matter.  In November, not so much.  I must have heard that phrase used at least 10 times, and probably more, last night.  The announcers were going out of their way to make it sound like the Blue Jackets were still in the thick of things, all because of the mythical “games in hand”.  They did manage to mention one valid point, that these games don’t mean anything unless you win them.  But mostly, it was a message of “don’t count out the Blue Jackets just yet, they’ve got some GAMES IN HAND on the other teams in the conference.  Please keep watching… please.”

Game recaps

From the above article:

Legace came out for the start of the third period, only to see only to see Curtis Sanford skate onto the ice and replace him.

“Nobody told me anything,” Legace said. “I just figured I was going out (to play), and all of the sudden, I look up and Sandy is standing in front of me. I wish they would have said something before I started going back out there. … It was kind of embarrassing, actually.”

Kitchen said he assumed Sanford would notify Legace of the change.

“I told Sandy he was going in between periods,” Kitchen said. “You’d think the goalie would tell the other goalie that he’s going in. I guess there was a communication problem there. But it won’t happen again. I’ll make sure I tell them both. I took it for granted.”

Really?!?  You didn’t have the guts to tell your starting goaltender that he wasn’t going back out?!?  What the heck is going on in that locker room?  Holy crap this sounds bad.  There are many things that will need to be fixed before this team can crawl back into the playoffs.

Next game is tonight at home against the Edmonton Oilers.  I’ll try to have a preview up soon.  I’m looking forward to the guys at Battle of Alberta telling me how bad we’re going to get stomped tonight.  They could be right… who knows.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.

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