Stayin alive: Life in April for a Jackets fan

April 9, 2007

Okay, it’s been since March 29th since I’ve had a post containing much thought at all.  It’s as though the perfect storm has hit me.  I’ve been busy at work and home, and I haven’t made or had the time to get some good thoughts down on (virtual) paper.  Special thanks to Truth Serum for holding down the fort while I’ve been on a temporary hiatus.  As you’ve read either here or in the Columbus papers, our favorite GM Doug MacLean is a big topic around town lately.  Check out the last few Dose of Reality columns for Truth’s thoughts on the situation.  Me?  For the time being, I’m withholding comment on the situation.  Not because I have some great ideas I’m holding back or anything cool like that, I just don’t have a whole lot to add at this moment.

Mrs. EOB and I made the trip down to Nationwide last Saturday to take in the FANtastic FANale VI, and it was quite an interesting game we watched.  It was full of all the things that make hockey a great game: highlight reel goals and violence.  Despite all the “fun”, it was a difficult game for me to watch.  After competing (in the words of some Jackets players and staff) for five of six periods against Detroit in the last week and beating Dallas on Thursday I expected the Jackets to play out the season against Anaheim with class, dignity, and composure.  Through about ten minutes of the first period, I was watching my wish come true.

Rick Nash scored his 29th of the season 3:30 into the first, and the Jackets were applying steady pressure to Ducks’ goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov (45 shots faced this game), and were finishing their checks.  We were sitting up high, and in my bird’s-eye view I was taking special notice of the “play behind the play”, seeing what transpired after a good hit or a pass, etc.  It’s one of my favorite things to do at a live hockey game (and along with cost issues, is part of the reason I like to sit in the upper bowl more than the lower bowl).

Anaheim defenseman Sean O’Donnell in particular was getting a bit abused behind his net.  The Jacket forecheckers were quite tenacious in the opening moments, and it seemed that every time O’Donnell started the breakout from behind his net with a pass or went to retrieve a dump-in, he was soon thereafter solidly struck by one or more blue jerseys.  Alex Svitov laid a good hit, and another time I believe I remember Jason Chimera and Manny Malhotra coming together for a Sean O’Donnell sandwich.  It didn’t take a trained eye to see that old #21 was getting a bit pissed off from the extra attention.

If these hits were the matches that lit the fuse, Rick Nash proved to be the bomb exploding.  At around 17 minutes in, the Jackets dump the puck into the offensive zone.  For the life of me I can’t remember right now if it was O’Donnell or Scott Neidermeyer that went to chip the puck out from behind the net to a teammate, so I won’t assign a name and I’ll just call him “poor Ducks defenseman.”  Whoever it was got rid of the puck only to find a 215 pound freight train with a #61 on his back barrelling into him.  Nash absolutely destroyed the aforementioned poor Ducks defenseman, and the crowd began to express their displeasure when the referee raised his hand to indicate the delayed penalty.  When the Jackets finally touched up to stop play, the madness really got underway and in the end there were nine penalties dished out over the next 33 seconds of game play.  One charging major to Nash, two fighting majors to Hainsey and Rob Neidermeyer, a boarding minor to Rob, an instigating minor to Ron, and three 10 minute game misconducts to Scott, Manny, and Ron.

Apparently Manny Malhotra said something to Scott Neidermeyer that prompted Scott to skate over to the Jackets’ bench and do a little screaming.  I’d pay good money to know what was said (not really, but if anybody knows… either put it in the comments or shoot me a line).  This paragraph really has nothing to do with hockey, per se.  But it was one of the weirdest things I’ve seen at a hockey game.

At this point the referees must have decided that the game was not going to get (further) out of hand, and they called the game with a different eye on the action.  There were some ticky-tack fouls called, and there were some fouls that went uncalled.  Depending on which team you’re a fan of, you either enjoyed the job the stripes did the rest of the game or you thought it was a bit lacking.  If you watched the game, you have your thoughts.  I have mine, but I decided I’m not weighing in on this one.  I don’t think the officiating was the worst thing we saw that night.  (Take that for whatever it’s worth)

At the end of the first and the Ducks leading 2-1, the wheels officially transformed from the slow wobble of the last two weeks to completely falling off the bus.  The game ceased to be fun.  The competitiveness was absent for most of the rest of the game.  I was resigned to sitting back and enjoying the Ducks playing some pretty good hockey.  4-1 Ducks after two, and I was almost looking forward to the final buzzer so the wound of this hockey season could be cauterized for this fan.  (Yeah, I’m using pointless metaphors because I like to… you’re still reading.  Suck it up.  We’re almost done.)

Interesting note: Halfway through the second intermission Ducks’ strongman George Parros came up the aisle next to our section and promptly sat down two rows behind us.  He was there for at least half of the third period.  I’m not sure if it was his family he was sitting with or just friends, but you couldn’t miss the moustache as he walked up the aisle in his suit.  Good stuff.

George Parros

(Ducks forward George Parros.  You know, George… I had an open seat next to me, too)

8:06 into the third, Jacket rookie Gilbert Brule loosed a blistering slap shot to cut the lead to 4-2.  The crowd showed signs of life, and when Jason Chimera made it 4-3 at 12:27 the 17,391 in attendance voiced their appreciation.  For the rest of the game (mostly dominated by the Jackets), the fans were loud.  Louder than I’ve heard them in a long time.  It’s what I imagine playoff hockey would be like, only for sixty minutes instead of eight.  Oh well… until then.

Coming soon here at the End of the Bench, I’ll be doing the second installment of my Spotlight Series where I look through the roster as it stands right now.  This will come out in installments over the next month or so.  Also, the End of the Bench playoff predictions.  Maybe I can get Truth Serum involved.  Stay tuned.

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

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