It has been an enjoyable four days and two games into the lengthy 6 game road trip. Sitting aboard "Rankin Air" (Jim Rankin team services manager) and on our way to Denver for a clash with the Avs, there are plenty of smiles to go around. There were the traditional Happy New Year gestures between players and staff as we all boarded the plane. It becomes a wish for all to continue what was finished in the "Old Year" and ring in the "New Year" with this improved play.
Looking at the highlights of the two games so far, it leaves every CBJ fan with some hope. The level of success is crucial as the season begins to close in on the halfway mark. A pair of 2-0 shutouts in LA and Anaheim has set the stage for this to occur. One single point out of the final playoff spot keeps the juices running into the veins for some mid season excitement. Hitch refers the team right now as "DUG IN," and with his "Benevolent Dictatorship" (Springsteen) at the helm they are producing with winning results.
It has been a great ride for the past three games for this hockey team. Losing a real "stinker" on the 23rd of December to LA at home, set a few minds a wondering… but… whatever the boys got for Xmas, bottle it and be sure to have more of that potion on hand. The team has finally climbed over .500 for the first time since December 4th.
This team is experiencing something it has never felt before in franchise history. Having a 3 game winning streak is one thing, but to have 3 shutouts in a row is movie like. Steve "the Stone" Mason has set a rookie record with the three back to back to back blankers (5 on the year) for the franchise, and something that has not been done since Glenn Hall did it as a rookie in 1955 with the Detroit Red Wings. Consider this as well, as the injuries to Derrick Brassard, Jason Chimera, Raffi Torres and OK Tollefsen are nagging a healthy lineup.
With the first back to back winning months in club history, the team now has shown the depth of the organization. This was all discussed and bantered about this past summer and training camp and finally it comes to fruition. Filter into the lineup a cast of players that have defined their respective roles with consistent, hard and "heavy" play, it shows that buying into the system really does work. Normally a healthy scratch, Jiri Novotny has been playing with added enthusiasm. Even though Jared Boll is not scoring he continues to trudge along the wall with hits and puck protection. Throw in the Murray's, the Peca's, the Modin's the Dorsett's and the Craig MacDonald's (GWG @Anaheim), it becomes more of a team effort. (outside the heroics of the "Stone Mason").
Manny Malhotra has emerged as the energizer and controller for the Nash and Huselius line. Winning 58.9% of his draws and ranking 5th in the NHL, attributes for the success of time and space for the other two players. Murray with Umberger and Voracek has been a steadying influence in the offensive end using their size and speed. The line of Modin, Peca and Boll has been a tight threesome and has contributed some timely scoring.
The defense of the team is the best it has ever been in franchise history. (still need a right handed PP specialist) With the steady tandem of Hejda and Commodore and the calming play of Klesla/Methot and Tyutin, these guys are really doing a yeoman's effort each and every night. Throw in the development and confidence of Kris Russell to the core as well, as he continues to move the puck with speed and purpose. The troops are battling and winning the little wars in the defensive corners… they are "hunkered down"… nice!!
The New Year is upon us and questions continue to rise about this hockey team… but… for this day as we are flying high above the Rocky Mountains, let us sit back and savor the reassuring results of the past week!!... and still fly high!!
*Throughout the season, AAA will bring you the Broadcaster's Blogs - "Davidge Dishes" and "Rimer Ramblings." The Columbus Blue Jackets radio and television analysts will try to keep you updated on all the season action through their blogs, especially when the Blue Jackets are on the road.