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Rocky Mountain Madness

by Bill Davidge / Columbus Blue Jackets

Another big week in the NHL life of the CBJ hockey team and their fans has come to an end and the focus is on the triad of Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver moving forward.  Having played 6 games in 9 nights appeared on paper as a difficult task for sure, but the CBJ were able to squeak out 9 of a possible12 points.  As the plane makes its way to Calgary at 6pm on a Sunday night, the team is sitting 6th in the West with 66 points, 2 points behind Vancouver and a sole point ahead of Dallas.  Seven teams are jammed in the hunt the last 5 playoff berths with a cast of other hopefuls clamoring to stay in the race.  Columbus, Nashville, Vancouver, Edmonton, Minnesota, Dallas and Anaheim are the group looking in the mirror now.


Prior to the scheduling faux pas, the CBJ were in a state of flux.  Mason had been diagnosed with mono and it appeared that he may miss some quality time.  With Dubliewicz out with the flu, the only choice was to play Dan LaCosta and proceeded to steal the show, being voted first star of the night in wins over San Jose and Colorado….don’t think those 4 points were huge….and now the CBJ have 13 points out of a possible 16!!!!  Hind sight being 20/20, this series of games since the All Star break has allowed the team to be in the hunt.


It has been a total effort of good goaltending; great defensive play at both ends of the rink by the “D” and timely scoring by the top 2 forward lines.  The Huselius-Malhotra-Nash line has been on fire.  Huselius has 6-13 in the last 17, Manny is 5-15 in the last 26 and has moved up to 4th in the NHL in face-offs; and Nash is 11-17 in the past 22 games.  RJ Umberger has really stepped up to the plate, either as a center or a winger and has been a one man show some nights going 9-4 in the past 20 games.  Jason Williams has been a welcomed addition to the middle of the ice and has sparked a once defunct PP. He has gone 5-6 in 17 CBJ games has the PP going 19.6% since his arrival.


The defensive corps has been solid all year but lately has tipped the scales on the great side.  The pair of Hejda (+19) and Commodore(+9) have closed the kitchen door on every starving opponent. Fedor Tyutin leads the “D” in scoring with 8-20 and continues to impress at both ends of the rink.  Marc Methot has proven to be a capable support man (+9), as Rusty Klesla and OK Tollefsen are out on the IR.  The past couple of weeks have also been good for Christian Backman as he has played more minutes and has gained a boat load of confidence (+5).  The past few games the defense have stymied the opposition on scoring chances and even in the loss to Anaheim, limiting Mason to only 13 shots on goal, which now stands as a new franchise record!!


So what is it going to take to keep things rolling on the 3 game western swing?  The team will need the focus on what they are doing and not what is happening around the league.  The competitive juices must be channeled in the directness of the opponents net.  Hard work in the” want to check” category must take precedence against these teams.  Keep a simple focus each shift, and dictate an outcome from the physical.  There will be no “easy” games where a poor effort might still slide into a victory.  The team has used up their allotment in that category for now! …and finally…Steve Mason will be called upon to be his best each night, and then some. 

These are the CBJ playoffs from years past and now they are rooted in the same mindset of a team that actually has a chance to surprise some people.  The players are cheering for each other, the fans are cheering the players and together they have one goal in mind come early April..


This is one week one cannot afford to miss.  Calgary on Tuesday, Edmonton on Thursday and Vancouver on Sunday….and for the first time in a while, a day off between tilts!!

Stay tuned!!



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