Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Keys to the Game: Detroit at Columbus 10/25/2011

Before each Blue Jackets game I'll identify what strategic elements the Blue Jackets should focus on based on their opponent, the likely match-ups, injuries, goaltenders and recent play. This will be broken down into both offensive and defensive keys, with the occasional look at the keys for the Jackets netminder.

Offensive Keys: Point Shots with a Net-Front Presence

Ty Conklin is getting the start tonight for the Red Wings. The Capitals scored seven times on Conklin Saturday night and the Blue Jackets would be wise follow the same blueprint. Four of the Capitals goals came front point shots (or long distance shots), with players crashing the net hard. The Caps also managed to pick up another goal off a redirect in close. Fortunately, Columbus is well suited personnel-wise to mimic this style. Due to injuries, the Blue Jackets will be dressing six defensemen who are more offensively inclined. They should be focusing on getting Wisniewski, Clitsome, Savard, Russell, Johnson and Tyutin plenty of shots, with forwards crashing the net for tips and rebounds. Conklin has trouble tracking the puck through traffic, so the big bodies such as Nash and Umberger need to park themselves at the front of the crease. Brassard and Prospal have been getting to the front of the net and having success, now the players who better fit that role need to follow suit.

Defensive Keys: Play the Right Man, and Quickly
The flip-side to the offensive heavy defense for the Jackets has been trouble with rotations in the defensive end. The second and fourth goals against Ottawa were the direct result of a defenseman being late to identify his man off a rotation. Against a puck control team like the Red Wings, the defense needs to identify and move instantly. If Ottawa can take advantage of sloppy rotations, Detroit will eat them alive. Further, the Jackets defense needs to pick up a forward at the front of the net. The third goal against Ottawa was a prime example of defensemen not putting a body or stick on a player at the front of the net. Similar play against Holmstrom, Franzen, Bertuzzi, Cleary et al will lead to a tough night for Steve Mason.

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