Archive for the ‘Columbus Blue Jackets’ Category

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All good things

December 4, 2008

Must come to an end.

It is with a certain degree of melancholy that I am announcing the end of the End of the Bench.  This decision has been brewing in some shape or form for almost 12 months now, and with a good deal of thought process behind me, the decision has been made to pull the plug.  I am enjoying myself much more on the couch these days, just sitting and rooting my favorite hockey team on to victories, losses, and all the minutes in between. 

My life has shifted from where it was when I started this site nearly three years ago, and while I love hockey and reading about hockey, I do not feel the burn to post regularly any longer.  To those who have made the End of the Bench a regular read; to those who took the time to comment and carry a dialogue with the authors; to those who joined the EOB team (Truth Serum); to those who linked to us; to those who put up with our real life rants and encouraged us to commit them to cyberspace: thank you.  It’s been a great ride.

The site will remain as is for now, so you can still go back and read all your old favorites.  But new posting will be non-existent.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  It’s been fun.

– Drew

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Phoenix Rising

November 13, 2008

The loss to Phoenix last night was a sign that even though the Blue Jackets didn’t play that badly, the Western Conference is better than it was last season and teams like much-improved Phoenix cannot be taken for granted.  The Jackets played OK, but the Coyotes played a lot better.  I’m not going to speculate on Rick Nash getting called out by Ken Hitchcock or his possible injury because I’m just a blogger without a press pass.  The shots were there for the home boys last night, but standing in front of the other net was Ilya Bryzgalov, who played very well.  It would be nice if Nash would start scoring and dominating like he has in the past, but he’s not and other than the Jason Chimera, Jake Voracek, and Derick Brassard, the offense is not effective yet.

The defense was another issue and I think that Scott Howson has to go shopping.  Half of the defensive corps is playing to expectations (the coaches’s, not the public’s) and the other half is braindead.  Howson should look for defensemen who will play their position and pass to players on the same team.  Steve Mason was competent once again and deserves to start the next game.  His effort on the Coyotes fourth goal was terrific, even though he couldn’t keep the puck out of the net.  He actually stopped Shane Doan’s shot, but his momentum carried the puck behind the goal line.  Instead of praising Steve Mason, I want to ask why Shane Doan had two breakaway goals.  Anyone out there have a clue?

The team needs Nash to get out of his funk, the defensemen to stay on the right side of the puck and pass to the guys wearing the same color uniforms, and other players to step up and generate offense other than the kids and Chimera.  It would be nice to see last weekend’s Blue Jackets show up in Buffalo and Minnesota.

-Truth Serum

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What was said at intermission?

November 3, 2008

If I hadn’t been absentmindedly watching it myself, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what I am right now: a different Columbus team took the ice in the third period than that which I saw in the first two periods tonight.  Battles are being won, passes are connecting, and the effort is there.

Three goals in around 8 minutes to match the three in 11 minutes the Islanders potted in the second.  The Jackets are presently killing a power play.  Which team will skate the last five minutes?

Update: The Islanders put in the game winner in overtime on a somewhat broken play.  Norrena was caught very far outside his crease and Chris Campoli netted his second of the night to close the game.  Still, kudos to the team for coming back from a three-goal deficit.  The next benchmark would be in not finding yourselves in that sort of situation.  Getting a point for the third consecutive game (4 of 6 available) is better than what has been done in the opening set of games, but more will be required to sniff the playoffs.

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

– Drew

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NHL out to get Columbus? Really?

October 31, 2008

OK, by now you know that Jared Boll was suspended one game and Ken Hitchcock was fined $10,000.  The reason:

The disciplinary action is pursuant to NHL Rule 47.22, which states “a player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five minutes of regulation time or at anytime in overtime, shall automatically be suspended for one game … in addition, the player’s coach shall be fined $10,000 – a fine that will double for each subsequent incident.”

I have to say that this is a real rule and it was applied appropriately in this situation.  I can’t wait to read the comments now.  But there are other things that need examined.

Everyone (in Columbus) is talking about the penalty given to Derek Dorsett last night for holding the stick.  I watched the game and have it recorded and I don’t see any stick holding, although I’m sure it was off-camera.  What I did see, like everyone else with two eyes, is Milan Hejduk taking a free shot at Dorsett’s mouth with his stick AFTER the call was made.  This is a real problem in the NHL and the league better crack down.  In the current NHL, once a referee raises his arm to signal a delayed penalty call, a lot of players on the offending team think that they have the right to take a free shot before play is stopped.  We certainly saw that last night when Hejduk popped Dorsett in the mouth, but another example occurred on Wednesday.  Our good friend Chris Pronger decided to take a free shot at Pavel Datsyuk’s head on and got away with it.  Watch it here.  No calls on the secondary penalties in Denver or Anaheim; Can you tell me why, NHL?  Do you think calling one penalty is enough?  Is this another example of the old, comfortable way of doing things that you haven’t changed yet?  Will you form a committee to study it and come up with a recommendation?

But getting back to the original question, is the NHL out to get Columbus?  I don’t know, but the Jackets do lead the league in PIMs per game with 22.6, more than Anaheim, the role model for chippy and rough play.  The Jackets also have 74 penalties, a distant third to Anaheim’s 92, but the way things are going, they can catch up.  But is that the only criteria for evaluating a league screw job?

What about questionable goals?  First, there was the NY Ranger’s Brandon Dubinsky scoring a skate directed but not kicked in goal against the Jackets on October 24th.  You remember that one, those of you who watched it on TV.  (Those of you who went to the game didn’t get to see it due to the idiotic Blue Jacket policy of NO REPLAYS!!!)  Dubinsky clearly moved his skate into a postion to direct the puck.  As I watched the game, I figured this was an easy, no goal call against the visiting team.  So much for easy calls.  Toronto didn’t even blink, allowing the goal and telling everyone to get on with the game and shut up.

And of course there was last Saturday night, when the video officials decided they couldn’t overturn Rick Nash’s goal against Minnesota, so they let the on-ice crew overturn their own decision.  Here was the easy, no goal call against the visiting team.  One of those officals, Dan Marouelli, worked last night’s game, but was not involved in the Dorsett-Hejduk non call. He also didn’t see Ian Laperriere cross-check/interfere/elbow Jared Boll a minute before the two of them squared off, either.  But hey, you can’t see them all, right?  But you can see more of them if you make an effort to be consistant and not just mail it in, Dan!

It was great last night to see the Jackets play up to expectations and I hope they can build from this.  But the team has to wonder what they need to do to get a break from the officials.  Winning more games will give them more breaks, but overcoming pre-disposed officals is another battle.

-Truth Serum

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It was so bad …

October 28, 2008

It was so bad last night and the crowd was so small that Nationwide didn’t even open the large concession stand near section 119.  That’s right near the windows overlooking the Ice Haus. AEP complained about the loss of revenue from all the unplugged microwaves.  But what about the loss to the chemical food preservative industry?

It was so bad last night because the Ducks were very undisciplined throughout the first two periods, taking enough penalties to hand the game over to the Blue Jackets, but we still couldn’t win.  Coach Randy Carlyle had to tear up the post-game tirade he was all set to deliver to his players.  But he did think about texting it to Ken Hitchcock.

It was so bad last night that Syracuse called Scott Howson after the game and begged him not send any more players back to the minors.  The Crunch management said that Columbus was hurting hockey by assigning so many players who could not produce in the NHL to their team.

It was so bad last night that many Red Wing fans are selling the tickets that they purchased for the upcoming game in January.  Many asked if they could trade them for Mite House games at the Dublin Chiller.

It was so bad last night that Ken Hitchcock tried to unplug the game clock shortly after the third period started.

It was so bad last night that Adam Foote is thinking about dressing for the Aves game in Columbus.

It was so bad last night that the comments at Puck-rakers made sense.

-Truth Serum

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Boll on IR, Filatov to make his NHL debut

October 16, 2008

As reported in the Dispatch this morning, Jared Boll has been placed on the IR with head/neck issues and 18-year old Nikita Filatov will make his NHL debut in the Jackets’ home opener.  Mrs. EOB and I will be in attendance for the home opener (one of two games we get to almost every year), and look forward to seeing the kid on the ice.

The Predators are a rough and tumble bunch, especially when it comes to #22, Mr. Tootoo.  The Dispatch writers are speculating how the Jackets will counter the nastiness in terms of personnel packaging.  With Boll out, there isn’t a time-tested fighter/enforcer.  Perhaps OKT will get the nod tonight, as he’s already with the club.  Derek Dorsett has a reckless streak to him, Alex Picard hits anything that moves, and Mike Commodore has dished out a bit of physical punishment in his limited time with the club.  With management saying no other moves are likely, I’d think that Filatov skates for Boll, and all the defensive pairings remain as is.  I like OKT’s spirit, but I’m not sure he brings more to the table than any of the current six d-men.

What I’ll be watching for:

  • What happens after the “hockey is back in Columbus” glow in the arena wears off, and how long does it take?  If the Preds score early, I see the crowd being out of this game.  If the Jackets are sound defensively, are hitting all the right people in the right places (read: don’t take themselves out of position in attempts at retribution), and can put together some offense, the high could last all game (remember last year when Anaheim came to town?)
  • How do the defensemen and goaltender work the puck out on dump-ins and manage the Predator forecheck?  This was a glaring problem in San Jose, and with enough new faces on the blueline, it could be a bit more time before they make me feel comfortable.
  • How does Leclaire, assuming he gets the start, rebound from the Tuesday night debacle?  He allowed five goals in less than sixty minutes of action, including two shorties.  One of which prompted Pascal to break his stick across the goal post.  A strong goalie can put sub-par outings behind him and move on.  The Predators are not a super-skilled team like some the team will face, and a buckled down netminder should be able to handle the load.  If…
  • The team can handle the physicality of the Predators in their own zone.  The Jackets have showed a slight inability to manage big, puck-possession lines in the d-zone, and need to be strong positionally and ready to break out and clear the puck when necessary.  Shifts of 2:00 or more for the blueliners are unacceptable, even on the PK.  Find the puck, fire it down the ice, and change up.  And to the crowd, when they do this properly: show your appreciation.  It may seem like such a small thing, but you saw in the last few games what happens when those small plays don’t happen.  Bad things.  Goals against.  Hockey is a simple game.  Put the puck in their net and stop it from going across your own end line.  If the other five are fresher than yours, you’re running uphill.

Okay, that’s enough for now.  How does two posts in two days strike you?  Look for more tomorrow with my game preview, and maybe I’ll have a few pictures up after the game from our trip to see the team on home ice.

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

– Drew

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Dear coaching staff

October 15, 2008

Well that didn’t take long.  Three games into the season, and I’ve already had my first “turn off the TV, toss the remote and go to bed” meltdown.  Which, you know, means I still had one less meltdown than the Jackets did last night.

Short-handed goals will happen.  When they’re the result of lazy offensive-zone passing that results in a breakaway, it’s understandable if still irritating.  When they’re the result of miscommunication between goaltender and defensemen retreiving a cleared puck from behind the goal line, it’s really not good for my blood pressure.  And when the same type of miscommunication happens twice in the same game, I want to put a remote control through the screen of my Panasonic.

There are new faces on the team, I get it.  But you’ve been together on the ice for practice and games for over a month now.  Learn your calls, talk to each other, and figure it out.  Giving the puck away below the goal line twice on a power play and then not having your backcheckers pick up the shooter who is wide open for target practice is unacceptable.  TWICE!!!

The first period last night, the team looked the best I’d seen them so far this year.  The passing was crisper (to sticks/skates, instead of to a general area the passer thought the recipient should be), puck possession was there, and the team was physical in each zone.  When the skates hit the ice for the second period, the wobble in the bicycle started before the wheels fell off in the third.

I missed watching almost all of Game 2 against Phoenix, but saw the entire opener against Dallas and all but the last ten minutes or so of the game late last night.  In each of the contests, I’ve coached the TV to calm down.  When things get away from the gameplan, the Jackets stop playing good positional hockey and start “freaking out”, chasing, and losing.  Playing cool, calm, collected hockey is not even close to a sixty minute affair at this point.

Against Dallas, lack of strong, sound play resulted in penalties and getting guys stuck out on the ice.  On the penalty kill, it is important to clear the puck from the offensive zone (even if only an inch), as this forces the offense out of the zone and gives a few seconds of repreive.  It’s also important to get the puck deep in the opponent’s defensive zone a few times, as this gives all four penalty killers a chance to change up.  Not having fresh legs on the ice hurts your penalty kill, and if you manage to survive the two minutes down a man, it can also hurt those critical seconds following the end of a penalty.  Not being able to get tired penalty killers off and put fresh legs on the ice can result in the team “not being at full strength while at full strength”.  Make sense?

So in closing, I’m hoping that a few minutes of work will be put in tomorrow on those lesser points of the power play.  Namely, getting the puck out from behind your own net.  If I see another short-handed goal as a result of the bad communication we all witnessed last night, I’m done with hockey.  You know, until the next game starts, anyway.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.  (Maybe I’ll even write more than once every two to three months, whaddya say?)

– Drew