Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Rory Boylen of the Hockey News,
Here are two tilts I always get up for because the potential for them to grow into something more than just another game is teetering on the edge of all-out war.
Detroit vs. Columbus
These are the culprits from the Friday game I alluded to earlier (and if you haven’t seen Steve Mason’s stacked-pads save on Henrik Zetterberg, two words come to mind: Dear Lord). The Red Wings, so dominant for so long in the barren Central Division, finally have a foe similar to that itch you can’t reach in the middle of your back. The Blue Jackets aren’t deep, they aren’t overly talented and they definitely don’t have much experience past the first 82 games of a season, but they have a hard-working team, a Ken Hitchcock system and this special kid named Mason.
more and a look at Philadelphia/Washington too…
from Rob Oller of the Columbus Dispatch,
Hitchcock, like Holland, would begin his ideal team with a goaltender. In Dallas, he saw the before/after effect of Ed Balfour, whose work in net helped the Stars win the 1998-99 Stanley Cup.
“You don’t realize how important a goalie is until you have one,” he said. Which is why the Blue Jackets are so better positioned for a deep run into the playoffs, once they finally get there, than many teams.
Would Mason, who appears fully recovered from mononucleosis that kept him out of the previous three games, be able to hold up under playoff pressure? Impossible to know for sure, but the best goaltenders—the ones left standing, as Hitchcock likes to say—are the most competitive ones. And Mason burns with a bristly passion to win.
“There couldn’t have been a better team to come back against,” he said.
COLUMBUS, OHIO – The Columbus Blue Jackets have placed rookie goaltender Steve Mason on injured reserve retroactive to February 4, club General Manager Scott Howson announced today. Mason was diagnosed with mononucleosis on January 29.
Mason, 20, has posted a 19-12-2 record with a 2.09 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and seven shutouts in 34 games with the Blue Jackets this season. He leads the NHL in shutouts, while ranking second in goals-against average, seventh in save percentage and is tied for 10th in wins.
from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch,
If the Blue Jackets are solidly among the Western Conference’s top eight clubs, and the No. 1 pick can be used to acquire a player whom Howson believes can carry them deep into the playoffs, he might budge.
“Those (first-round picks) are very difficult for me to give up,” Howson said. “But if the deal is right”
The Blue Jackets won’t take on any long term, big-money contracts such as Ottawa’s Jason Spezza, Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lacavalier or the New York Rangers’ Scott Gomez.
They’re willing to spend the money, Howson said, but they must keep payroll space available to keep their cadre of future stars. Steve Mason, Derick Brassard, Jake Voracek, Kris Russell, Nikita Filatov, etc., will need new contracts within the next few seasons.
from Tom Reed of Puck-rakers,
The Jackets are as healthy as they have been in weeks – Steve Mason’s bout with mono aside—but they can’t seem to get their game back.
Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock was steamed and with good reason.
“It’s gonna have to change,” he said. “It’s going to change, immediately. We’re going to go back and play the way we did before, which was very successful. We have to get back to that. It’s going to be a drag for us to get it back to that. It’s the only way we can have success. If the players don’t recognize it now, they’ll recognize it by the time we go to Pittsburgh.”
Forward R.J. Umberger, who scored a power-play goal, and was the Jackets most noticeable player, had a similar take.
“We definitely waited,” he said.” We’re just not playing the style we were – aggressive, getting the puck in deep, just using our size and our speed to outwork them. We’re trying to play a skill game. In the third period we did everything right; we got it in deep, we got pucks to the net, we played hard, but sometimes you come up short when you just play one good period.”
from Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch,
General manager Scott Howson confirmed late last night to The Dispatch that Mason has been suffering from mononucleosis for three to four weeks.
The rookie-of-the-year candidate made his 18th consecutive start last night but allowed three goals in the first 11 minutes of a 7-3 loss to the Dallas Stars and was pulled for the first time in his NHL career.
Howson said doctors did not diagnose Mason’s infection until Thursday, and he defended the team’s decision to play him in back-to-back starts this weekend.
“Our doctors feel he’s had it for a while and they feel he’s on the other side of the virus,” Howson said. “The worst of it is probably over.”
Mason’s spleen is not enlarged, one of the complications sometimes associated with mono, Howson said.
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
The Jackets a year ago had a similar record, and it was a mirage. This year, the reek of legitimacy is not necessarily measured on the ice, or in the standings. Really, it is in the stands. Everyone in the building last night knew the Jackets were merely adequate but, save for a few scary moments in the third period, nobody thought they were going to lose….
Jackets fans understand mirages because that is all they have seen since they picked up the damned flag. So it is they who know what is real.
“The lesson I’ve learned here,” Hitchcock said, “is you can go around in circles asking if Columbus is a hockey town. What this is is a blue-collar sports city. Look at all the favorites over the years—Tyler Wright, Kevin Dineen, Jody Shelley. It’s a blue-collar town. These folks know the difference between what is and is not real effort. We work hard, we hear it. We don’t work hard, we hear it. Loud and clear.”
from Rob Oller of the Columbus Dispatch,
Ken Hitchcock hopes his creditors don’t remember this column come May. Or if they do, that they extend him grace. Because if all goes well, the Blue Jackets coach will be too immersed in the playoffs this spring to concern himself with payoffs.
Or much of anything else, for that matter.
“Your life goes on hold. Your friends go on hold. Your family goes on hold. Everything outside of hockey goes on hold,” Hitchcock said. “The bills don’t get paid.”
from a Q & A fan chat at the Columbus Dispatch,
Aaron, you’ve been very clear that the Jackets will not enter the Spezza or Lecavilier sweepstakes. Give us a few names that we Blue Jackets fans may not have considered as possible acquisitions.
[Aaron Portzline] This is all guesswork, of course. But it’s players who fit the following criteria: a young player with upside, and a reasonable contract that extends beyond this season, or a veteran player who’s contract is up at the end of the season. Again, Antoine Vermette is a name that keeps popping up, but the asking price—Kris Russell and a pick—is way too high. The Leafs want too much for Nik Atropov, too. Well, more than the Blue Jackets are willing to part with. This is a strange science. All the talk of the last few weeks, and Jason Williams’ name never came up. I make calls around the league all the time. You do what you can do.
more about the Blue Jackets…
“We can see that we’re not just looking at, if we get lucky we might squeak in (the playoffs). We’re looking up and seeing that people are catch-able. We’re not pretending we’re in a race; we’re in a race, a battle and the players recognize (the situation). Games matter, every point is important and he’d be the first to recognize the complete change over in the fans. There’s a different atmosphere in the building and they have a sense of urgency, just as we do.”
-Columbus coach Ken Htichcock after defeating the Red Wings last night. More post-game quotes at ColumbusBlueJackets.com.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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