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A funny thing happened on the way to the All-Star break

January 22, 2007

The Red Wings came to town this past Friday, and lost to the Jackets 3-1. 

Due to extreme laziness, I haven’t written anything about Friday, but I find it somewhat interesting that nobody else did either (okay, so in retrospect there was a blurb at The Jacket Times, but I didn’t see it until today).  Perhaps the Wings writers don’t think it’s much worth writing about (losing to an inferior team), and maybe the Blue Jackets writers all thought the All-Star break started after Thursday’s game?  Oh well… here goes.

I was hanging out with the guys after work on Friday, and one of my friends (the one who recorded the Blue Jackets’ Christmas album) came in asking if anyone wanted to go to the game that night.  My one friend, we’ll call him Cletus to preserve his anonymity, decided we’d go.  We arrived during the first intermission and sat down with our hot dogs (is there anything better than a mustard covered hot dog at a sporting event???) to watch the second period.

After watching and/or listening to most of the last few games, I was surprised to see the Jackets taking it to the Red Wings.  There were still issues with maintaining puck possession (Jason Chimera, please learn how to put the puck over the blueline so that your teammates aren’t offside… please!), but Columbus looked very composed in the second.  Alexander Svitov scored on a deflection in the second to put the team up 2-0.  As the lady next to me said during the intermission, “20 minutes is a lifetime against a team like Detroit.”  I had no doubt she was right.

Svitov Scores

(Columbus forward Alexander Svitov celebrates after putting the Jackets up 2-0.  AP Photo)

The Red Wings came out in the third determined to shoot, score, and win.  They put 22 pucks on net in the period, netted one, but it didn’t mean much in the end as Columbus held on to win 3-1.  The only two wins I’ve seen in Nationwide this year have come against the Red Wings, which pleases me greatly.  Now if we could just beat Nashville a time or two, we’d be cooking with gas.

shots on goal 1-19

Cletus and I were watching the game, and I remarked that Nikolai Zherdev wasn’t playing.  I didn’t recall hearing that he’d been injured the night before, and though I didn’t think to ask the people sitting next to me I had a strange suspicion that he had been scratched.  I talked about this a few weeks back, detailing what I would do with Zherdev.  According to Aaron Portzline in Saturday’s Sports section, Zherdev was a healthy scratch against the Wings.  Did Ken Hitchcock start reading the End of the Bench?

Zherdev has never been accused of being a two-way player.

“It’s about playing the game the right way,” Hitchcock said. “I expect everybody to adhere to that. … Everybody has a different (skill) level. But when the other team has the puck, we all need to look the same. All of us.”

As a co-worker of mine remarked today, “there’s something not right mentally with Zherdev.”  While I’m not sure I’d go that far, something is up.  After having a great stretch of games right around Thanksgiving, Zherdev seems to have abandoned the will to check and play defense and put all his energy into failed toe-drag moves.

EOB to Nikolai: You’ve been in the league three years now.  Your dipsy-doodle BS has worked about once each year,  it’s time for a new move.  Or maybe… just start playing defense.  Whatever.

Sarcasm aside, whatever efforts being made to reach out to Zherdev and create a sense of accountability do not seem to be working.  Whether it’s Fedorov, Svitov, or even another teammate/coach that doesn’t speak his language… it’s not happening.  With Zherdev’s new contract being signed prior to this season, I have no doubt that Doug MacLean will ride him at least another year before considering trading him.  Unfortunately, his on-ice value is so low compared to his contract value that we wouldn’t get much for him.  Potential is not very quantifiable in a trade.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.

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One comment

  1. The biggest msitake MacLean did this season was to sign Carter and then re-sign Zherdev. The team was so relieved to learn that Maclean had taught Nik a lesson by signing Carter and what does MacLean do? He stabs the team in the back and caves in on Zherdev. The dynamics in the Jackets dressing room were skewed totally sideways with the arrival of Nik from Russia. What’s MacLean’s response to this dilemna? Make it work Gerrard. Of course it didn’t work and it still doesn’t work. My prediction is that MacLean is not long for the GM’s job in Columbus. He can still be president,but the GM’s job has to go to a real hockey guy. Good for Hitch to finally do the right thing and sit poor,mute (for the English language), selfish Nik. Trust me, the whole team was cheering last Friday night when he was scratched. Let’s see if Nik has learned his lesson.



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