Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Oh That It Were Friday

Blue Jackets Preview

On days that aren't Friday, the Columbus Blue Jackets are an 6-1-0 team, probably leading the league. Their spanner in the works has been Friday, where they have lost three of three to date.

As a team, the Blue Jackets are not great rivals of the Canadiens. In fact, if you were to rank the rivals of the Habs, I'd put good money on them coming bottom three. Yet, if the Habs franchise is on a resurgence, the Jackets may be a team to think about. Here's why.


Key match-ups

Good Corsi vs. Bad Corsi
Last playoffs Gabriel Desjardins had nightly aneurysms as Montreal played through what should have been impossible shot balance to progress in the playoffs. Today (in what probably is no coincidence from an many-time Habs downer) he evokes the wonders of the Columbus Blue Jackets:
"If we re-played the last three seasons a million times and put the Blue Jackets in any other division, we’d be talking about a successful franchise today."

It's good Corsi vs. bad Corsi folks. While the proof is usually in the pudding (whoever wins is better). That will not necessarily be an acceptable outcome. After all, if they played a million times, what would the overall record be?


Subban and Russell
This is a case of a once under-touted young defenceman coming up against a once over-touted offensive defenceman. Watch Kris Russell and PK Subban tonight and see which you'd prefer to have on your team.


Picard and Columbus LWs
We let our position on Spacek's possible demotion be known. Tonight we may get to see Picard put his abilities to the test. Columbus happens to have one of the most consistent LWs in the league in Rick Nash.


Price and Mason
Carey Price has been making hay with the Canadiens recent eye for defence, turning away all standard shots like a true starter does for wins. Mason has been making a hash of his efforts so far and stands at 0.890 in Save %. This despite his team allowing fewer than 30 shots a game in front of him. It's an interesting match up for more reasons than that, of course. Mason is the Price follow-on. Junior stand out, Team Canada goalie, instant NHL success and NHL struggle to follow.


Momentum

Both teams come off a loss. Montreal lost a game they might have won on other nights (with the real Gionta). Columbus just got thrashed by the Avalanche in a game where their coach called them defatist. I think the inevitable impact of Andrei Markov gives the away team the momentum here, but never underestimate the effects that a bad loss can have on re-focus potential. And it's not Friday....


lue Jackets the Habs covet

Rick Nash
Of course, they can't afford his contract, but if the Habs could, this is a player they'd pursue. He's big and lives up to his first round pick billing with Rocket Richard trophies. Plus we have centres who can pass.

Tom Sestito
The Blue Jackets were the subject of a Gare Joyce book I read over the summer. A good read, with a lot of insight into the Blue Jackets players. The book drove me to draft Derrick Brassard in my hockey pool (we'll se how that goes) and it drives me to write about Sestito.

Tom Sestito was ear-marked by the Blue Jackets scouts in that book as a player they wanted all along. He was an enormous junior, and is still big for an AHLer at 6'5". The gamble on him was that he would be a scorer. Not, perhaps like Nash, but maybe like Tim Kerr or something. Well, he may finally be coming into his own in the AHL with 5 goals and 7 assists in 10 games. He's halfway to his all-time best. All-time best or not, the Habs wouldn't suffer from a project like this guy who could give Markov and Subban the screen they need on the PP for years to come.


Habs the Blue Jackets covet

Scott Gomez
Rick Nash has scored a lot of goals with some very middling centres. Love him or hate him, not many will begrudge Scott Gomez the nod of excellent passer. What, and with his harmless shots that give rebounds by the bushel, Nash could soar to new heights with him at centre.

Mike Cammalleri
Columbus have always seemed a bit one-trick pony up front. Nash has always been there and Nash it was. And while, I like Nash as an option, another option wouldn't have hurt their chances along the way. Cammalleri is the Habs best natural goalscorer and Columbus have been starved for a second one for a decade now.


Impact of this result
Some people are setting this game up as the beginning of a new and much more challenging month for the Canadiens. While I don't entirely buy into it myself, the media sensitive Jacques Martin (see Picard, Spacek) just might.

Usually a loss to the Blue Jackets wouldn't send one reeling, but on this occasion, we don't want the Habs to start dismissing all their reasons for early succes (like defence, poise, patience) as luck and good scheduling like some in the media are starting to do. I think the Habs need a win or at least a close game to continue on their current path without a long soul-searching detour.

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