Monday, February 23, 2009

Crunch Time! (Not the Syracuse Flavor)

With every good home stand, there looms a road trip.  The Jackets have travelled to the other side of the continent to play three teams that have just as much to lose as they do.  Games against Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver (respectively) will really show the Jackets faithful where this team stands in the 'likely to' or 'likely NOT to' fight for a strong playoff spot.

They will be spirited games, and the last thing you will want to do is miss them.  While Edmonton has had their way with Leclaire this season, they are young and streaky, and can easily be beaten if the true Jackets team shows up.  Calgary is not unbeatable, and the Jackets proved that earlier this season with a big win at Calgary.  Vancouver has strong scorers, but have been known to throw in the towel early in games that seem out of reach.

These are the keys to the road trip for me:

1 - Strong goaltending.. I did not think I would have to write this at any point this year after Mason took to the net, but he needs to be competitive.  During the game against Anaheim, he looked beaten down and confused, saving only 9 of the 14 shots he faced.  They are likely to face at least two teams who will put around thirty shots on net, and he will need to stop close to all of them if they want to win games.

2 - Powerplay.. The only thing more demoralizing than a weak goal scored on a team, is not capitalizing on powerplay opportunities.  They need to stay competitive on each powerplay, keep the pressure deep, and bury their chances.  Playoff teams score on the powerplay, and the Jackets should be no exception, especially considering some of the fire power they have.

3 - Focus..  At times during the last couple games, the players looked unfocused and unprepared for certain rushes.  At least three of the goals scored in the Anaheim game could have been avoided if the trailing forward or defenseman had taken his man, and that mistake can not continue to happen.

4 - Competitive Edge..  There are players on this team that can flat out score goals, or make goals happen.  If the playoffs are meant to be, they need to be doing that naturally for the rest of the season.  If they chose to take nights off, well, I do not even want to say it.  Also, the players on the other end of the spectrum need to step it up.  Bubble players like Murrray, Novotny, Boll, and now Gratton need to step up and make big things happen.  Secondary scoring in the National Hockey League is a must.

So keep your chin up, and let's hope for the best on this road trip!  Carry the Flag!

1 comment:

  1. Good points! This is a huge trip, obviously. I thought Rome did a pretty good job last year when he was called up. Hopefully, he'll play every game on this trip and Backman can stay in the locker room (and for the rest of the season). Everybody who Backman is paired with has huge problems (Russell before, Tyutin now). Different issue - is Dubie on a one way contract? If not, why not send him down to Syracuse and bring up Lacosta Nostra?