Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mase Notified by Team Canada..

Looks like Mason found his groove just in time. Team Canada has contacted Mase and let him know that he will be the 'first alternative' should any one of Canada's top three goalies get injured before or during the Olympics.

Not a bad call considering how Mason was probably feeling not two weeks ago, sitting on some of the worst numbers of his career. At least Yzerman can notice that if Mase has solid defense, he's a monster in net!

Carry the Flag! Oddly enough, a Mason blurb to follow!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Make it 3

The idea of tanking this season has been completely removed from my mind. A new coach, a new lease on the year, and a 3-0-0 start. It would be hard to ask more of the Jackets, who have beaten Dallas, Buffalo, and San Jose to bring their record to 25-27-9. With each strong win, they edge closer to the playoff spot, which now sits 8 points ahead of them.

Tonight was a breath of fresh air for me. I attended with an open mind, as Dany Heatley has always been my favourite NHLer. He also plays for one of the more potent offenses in the league, who have been known to dismantle defenses on a nightly basis.

The first period started with a bit of a chess game. It seemed like neither team wanted to make too much of a splash in the offensive one in fear of allowing an odd man rush the other way. That being said, a neat pass by Huselius (who was otherwise worthless tonight) to Nash for a quick tip brought the Jackets ahead 1-0. I would argue that period two was Columbus' best of the night, although there was no question they were more potent at even strength as opposed to the powerplay. A tremendous pass by Brassard to Voracek, who snuck the puck through the five hole to raise the lead to 2-0.

After that, it seemed as though the Jackets were satisfied and not hungry for more. It was all San Jose for the rest of the second period and most of the third, however, Steve Mason was tremendous, making two or three ridiculous glove saves to preserve the shutout. A hard working goal for Vermette sealed the victory, and got a pretty solid crowd on their feet for the final minute.

While most will talk about beating San Jose tomorrow, I am going to be talking about beating the monkeys. There have been players who are noticeably better without Hitchcock in the dressing room, including Mason (.989 save percentage, 0.33 gaa) and Brassard (0g 2a +3). It has been exciting to watch them play, with the upside I have been shouting for over a year now.

I will be in attendance again on Friday. The Jackets will have yet another heavy test on their hands against Vancouver, and I expect a strong effort from all. I am curious as to whether Garon gets the start considering the game Sunday against Chicago, but time will tell.

Carry the Flag!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Not So Breaking News... Hitchcock

There has never been any question that my tendencies have leaned towards removing Ken Hitchcock as the coach of this team. With the lack of quality coming from the players, and the excuses piling up, even if Hitch were deemed ' the right man for the job', something had to give.

In removing him at this point of the year, it says a couple things about the organization. First, Mike Priest is eating his words. After praising Hitch and saying that he had absolute confidence in him, removing him is definitely a shot in the leg of an otherwise unwavering attitude towards the veteran coach. While I believe it was the right decision to make 3 months ago, I do have to respect Priest for eating his words and accepting the idea that maybe, just maybe, this team could be better without Hitch.

Secondly, it all but removed Columbus from playoff contention. I was already knee deep in draft lottery details. I have been tracking the standings daily and not necessarily rooting against the Jackets, but smirking a bit each time they dropped a contest. It was never a sense of abandonment, but an absolution that having a top three pick would do worlds for the future of this franchise. By removing the coach now, it gives fans hope of an incredible run to the playoffs, and the ideology that the blanket of abysmal play has been lifted.

Thirdly, it readdresses the issue of Filatov. His value went up with the removal of Hitch, and with it, the likelihood of his return to North America. I am not suggesting that he is going to be successful when he returns, but he remains one of the highest sought after prospects in the game of hockey, and if it does happen that Hitch was simply the wrong coach for him, Columbus has quite a few more poker chips when considering what to do with the budding Russian.

So let us not exaggerate what has happened here. Claude Noel is a fine coach, but not someone I would like to see take over full time for the Jackets. My expectations for the current year went up, solely because I think Noel is going to let them play their own game. I am looking forward to seeing a young, offensive minded coach come in during the summer, and with him, the aspiration of a quality playoff team in 2011. The Jackets still have a hole to dig themselves out of, but it suddenly seems a lot less muddy with a major piece of their team 'retooled'.

Carry the Flag!