Sunday, November 25, 2007

Same old Central?

It seems that somebody poked the Central division with a stick this year and has awakened a few teams...notably all of them not named "Detroit Red Wings." And while those teams have come to life, the teams named "Detroit Red Wings" sit atop the Western conference. So much for the theory that the Wings feast only on the poor sisters of the Central to rack up their playoff points. What's more, the Wings are currently the only team in the division with a losing record within the division.
TeamRecord v. Central
St. Louis6-5-0

"So what?" you say...well, against the rest of the West the teams in the Central are a collective 29-16-3, with 7 of those 16 losses belonging to Nashville. So, throw the Preds out, and the other four are 25-9-3 against the rest of the West.

Yeah, it's early, but we're almost to the quarter pole, and it's a noticeable trend. If it continues, there will be 3 or more teams from the Central playing in mid-April.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Something's rotten in Minny...

No big secret that I'm not a fan of the Wild. They being the sweethearts of the NHL's class of 2000 and all. (Jackets haven't helped their own cause much, though.) Ugly unis that everybody think look nice, the little run to the playoffs in thier third year, and the never ending stream, "Jacques Lemaire's shit doesn't stink," articles that pour out of the media. The Jackets have had their successes against the Wild, but for every win there's a Wes Walz pants goal that makes you want to punch something wearing a Christmas colored hockey jersey.

Then came today's game...

The Jackets dominated. They out hit, out skated, out worked, out hustled, and out scored the Wild. The Jackets laid a full-on beat down on the cammo and Christmas colored clad warriors from southern Minnesota. Then when the going got tough and Minny tried to climb back into it, they didn't turn to their vaunted speed, or their big play guys, or even the Lemaire Plan we've heard so much about the last 7 years. Nope, the Wild did none of that, instead they attempted to turn the game into a World Cup soccer match. After a couple of the attempts at drawing a penalty, I half expected the stretcher bearer to come out just like FIFA requires.

Honestly, dropping that easy...Boogaard of all players went down like lawn chair in a stiff embarrassing to the sport. Sadly, the refs bought into a few of them, including the aforementioned Boogaard double gainer with a twist. Fedorov got to sit for tripping when Wild Player tripped over the net trying to crash between it and Feds. Yup, the Jackets were the beneficiaries of a quick whistle, but Karma's a funny thing...

But then came the ultimate in homerisms out of the good folks in St. Paul. Allow me to run down the three stars from today's game. Keep in mind while reading these that the final score was 4-0 in favor of Columbus.

1. Rick Nash
2. Pascal Leclaire
3. Brian Rolston

Ignoring for a moment that the goalie getting a shut-out isn't the first start...Brian Rolston?? For what?? Leading the Wild in ice time and shots? That's noble, but you GOT SHUT OUT!! It wasn't a 1-0 goaliefest, it was a 4-0 kick in the junk. Peca and Nash had two point afternoons in addition to the big fat goose egg Leclaire pinned on the Wild, and the media in St. Paul saw fit to reward not Peca, but Rolston with a star of the game.

The writers from the State of Hockey just turned the puck over in their defensive end...kind of like the Wild did this afternoon.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks

I'm sure that title won't be used anywhere on a blog today...

Yeah, last night sucked. The Jackets threw their biggest stinker of the season out there on Thanksgiving-eve to turn more stomachs than today's overeating will provide. They barely went through the motions. I hate to use the, "It's a long season," excuse here, but it is. However, recent trends are making you wonder if the hot start was the fluke rather than the current down time being the fluke. We'll have an answer to that by Christmas, probably.

But for today, there are a few things to be thankful for here in Jacketland.

Most importantly here I sit on Thanksgiving day and the Jackets aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoff race. The current string of bad play has bumped the Jackets to last in the Central, or tied for third depending on if your cup is half full or half empty. In the conference chart, the Jackets show up at 11th, tied with the same Preds and Blews that they are in the division, one point out of playoffs. For all intents and purposes, the Men of the Neon Bug are hanging in there. (Need to step up and take charge again, though.)

Next up on the thankful list is that Hitchcock has the guys believing in themselves and playing as a team. No more of guys taking themselves out of position and end up leaving gaping holes all over the defense. They believe in themselves, and that will carry them further than any Jacket team before them.

On the backend, Pascal Leclaire has given us plenty to be thankful for, too. Of late he's coming back to earth a bit, but,'s a long season. (Sorry.) Beyond his play, I'm pretty thankful that he's still healthy, as I'm sure he and his teammates are too.

Other random thankfulness things for Thanksgiving day:
  1. Rick Nash - [pick your own reason here, he's given a few hundred to choose from]
  2. The emergence of Zherdev.
  3. The fun of watching Jared Boll run into things.
  4. The pairing of Foote and Hejda shutting down most opponents.
But, still at the top of that list is that the Jackets are still in the thick of things, and ship off to Minny tomorrow night to see if they can take another step forward. Hopefully they do...and then the rest of Columbus takes notice and we can be thankful for a full barn again.

Monday, November 12, 2007

4 game skid

I'm not exactly ready to throw in the towel on the season after watching the Jackets drop four straight and earn one point out of the current run through the Central. However, I can't help but share a little concern with how they're going about it...

In Chicago: No fire at all, Blackhawks controlled the play for most of the game.

In Detroit: Detroit threw the classroom doors open and laid a beatdown on the Jackets.

In Nashville: Salvaged a point, but were lucky to get that point.

Home v. Nashville: "We secretly replaced the 07-08 Jackets with the 03-04 model...let's see if they notice."

The total lack of energy in all these games is what's disturbing. And it's not even the opponent getting the first goal and taking the wind out of our sails...there's no breeze available when the puck drops.

Early on, the Jackets were all over whoever the opponent was right away. The forecheck would be all over the place, turnovers were created, and scoring chances and goals resulted.

The last four games have been the opposite. The forecheck is coming from a few guys - notably Glencross and Chimera - but not everybody. There's no backcheck to speak of when just a few days ago we had guys streaking through the middle to get back in the play. Now we're seeing a lot of, "One of those guys will pick him up," type play.

Tonight against the Preds, however, an oldie but goodie reared its ugly head again...the no-look, "Oh, I hope somebody is there," chip pass. Usually, no, nobody was there...well, nobody with a Jackets jersey on, at least. The Preds and the occasional linesman were there, though. Biggest offenders were on the blue line, and Kris Russell reminded us all he was a rookie tonight with the no-look passes.

Special mention to Rusty Klesla on the evening for "Best impersonation of a turnstile by an NHL defenseman in a leading role."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Better on ice expansion...

As with the NHL, we saw fit to expand here at Better on Ice. I'm sure the debate will rage on if we expanded too much and diluted the talent, or if we expanded to poor markets. I think we can address those issues now.

Talent, well, probably not. I'd like to think I had talent to dilute, but I think the first two additions to the blog will add a little something. Zukes has already made himself known, and Sea should follow soon.

It is possible we expanded to the wrong markets...afterall I'm adding a Flames fan who lives in London and a Canucks fan who lives in Calgary. So, clearly we have some market identification issues.

But, the reasoning behind the expansion was to get some more voices on here. Some non-Blue Jacket voices at that. Get a little more overall hockey going, and I'm sure some good natured ribbing about the Flames and Canucks looking up the standings at the Jackets.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Welcome to me!

Tim has invited me, his Canadian, beer swilling, hockey-loving, Calgary Flame fan buddy to contribute to his blog. I'm sure there will be more of an introduction and a little more about myself in future posts, but let's get right to the meat.

The Flames play their biggest rival this Thursday, and no it is not the Edmonton Oilers, that would be Saturday. No, their biggest rival these days is the Vancouver Canucks. They have had epic playoffs series' (Flames have a 4-2 advantage in all-time playoff series) in the past and their regular season games these days are about as intense as they get in the NHL. This intensity carries over to the fans as you will see when another new blogger joins this site.

The reason for this carry over to the fans, in my opinion, is that Vancouver fans have an inferiority complex when it comes to the Calgary Flames. A brief history: Vancouver was the first of the two to make the Stanley Cup finals in 1982 but they were easily dispatched by the mighty New York Islanders. The Flames made it in 1986 and similarly were taken out my the Montreal Canadiens. The Flames, however, didn't fade away afterwards, they were 3rd overall the following season, behind the Stanley Cup finalists Edmontona and Philly and then 1st overall the following season. They did lose in the first and second round respectively but 1988-1989 brought another first overall, a first round thrilling win over the Canucks (likely still a sore spot for many Lotusland fans) and then the only Stanley Cup championship in either teams' history. (They won in 6 games over Montreal and are the only visiting team to ever win the Stanley Cup on Montreal Forum ice). Vancouver made it again in 1994 but lost to the Messier-led Rangers.

Fast forward through some down years for both teams and in 2004, the Flames had a solid defensive team that nobody wanted to play in the playoffs. All we heard from Canucks fans was how boring Calgary was and that they would be no match for the offensive minded Canucks. Once again, they met in the first round, and once again, the Flames prevailed in 7 thrilling games, going all the way to the Stanley Cup finals and winning.... had there been a video review in Game 6 against the Lightning. Alas, there wasn't and the Flames lost Game 7.

Anyway, Vancouver must have liked what they saw as they moved to the exact same style that Calgary employed, getting Roberto Luongo and adding defensive defenseman (credit where credit is due, they did a good job) at the expense of offense.

All this adds up to a constant back and forth between Flames and Canucks fans that is heated and at times downright nasty, but it makes for a great rivalry. As you will no doubt see in the next day or two when another blogger joins here, it is a friendly rivalry as well, however neither of us will pull punches or pass up a chance to rub the other guys' face in a loss, a bad play or anything else that we think will raise the blood pressure of each other.