Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald,
First, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat them 2-0. Then, on Thursday, the Columbus Blue Jackets blanked them 5-0.
“It’s frustrating to get embarrassed like that,” spat defenceman Adrian Aucoin. “Tonight in particular. We lost every battle. Power play. Penalty kill. Even strength.
“We just didn’t make the easy plays. We didn’t play as five-man units out there. They really exploited us for it.”
Fellow defenceman Robyn Regehr offered up a similar assessment.
“We got out played in every area tonight,” he said. “It comes down to work. They out-played us on the penalty kill. The power play. Even strength.
“We’re just losing way too many battles. One –on-ones. In front of the net. Everywhere.”
from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch,
With 10 games left in the franchise’s eighth NHL season, the Blue Jackets need simply to hold serve the rest of the way—a 6-4-0 or 4-4-2 record, for instance—to finally reach the Stanley Cup playoffs.
If that happens, don’t be surprised to see the Jackets mentioned by analysts as a sleeper pick to pull off a first-round upset, or go deeper into the playoffs than most expect.
Even at this stage of the season, the Blue Jackets are popping up on teams-that-nobody-wants-to-face lists as the playoff picture starts to come into focus.
Why? Two reasons.
First, rookie goaltender Steve Mason.
from Brian Biggane of the Palm Beach Post,
For the third time in six games, Florida carried a lead into the third period Saturday night and was unable to hold it, falling 3-1 to Columbus at the BankAtlantic Center.
What made this one even tougher is the Panthers still clung to their 1-0 lead with three minutes to play before the Blue Jackets’ Raffi Torres got the tying and winning goals 1:13 apart.
from Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch,
In 1986, Hitchcock and Burns met in the most intense of environments, the Memorial Cup, junior hockey’s version of the Final Four.
Hitchcock, who coached the Kamloops Blazers, was a former sporting goods salesman from Edmonton, Alberta. Burns, who ran the Hull Olympiques, was the police officer still walking the beat in Gatineau, Quebec.
Neither had played professionally. Both had belonged to a workforce bereft of pampering and privilege. The detail-oriented, demanding coaches formed an immediate bond.
“Coaching for a living was a goal; wherever it went, it went,” Hitchcock said. “We both could have stopped at junior and been happy.”
from Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch,
Back to this year’s Western Conference race for a moment. After last night’s late games, 12 points separated fourth-place Vancouver and 12th-place St. Louis. But maybe more to the point, there were only six points separating the sixth-place Blue Jackets and the Blues. Four teams that are currently out of the eight playoff spots are two wins from being in.
Hitchcock said basically said this tight playoff race may be pretty much the status quo from now on.
“This is the wave of the future,” he said. “This is it. When you look at the young teams, the young teams are going to be better next year and they’re right in the race now. So how many of those teams are going to be in the dog pile? I foresee a situation where you could have 15 teams going for eight spots and getting it down to seven or eight games, and all 15 teams are still in the mix. I see a day that’s gonna come.”
more from Hitchcock…
from Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch,
Isn’t this playoff-race stuff great?
“This stuff really affects your sleep pattern,” Hitchcock said. “Because you’re sitting there watching games until midnight and you’re mad that a couple of games are in shootouts, or you want to choke a couple of guys with Colorado because they let a goal in with 1:46 left. You want to phone somebody you know there to blast them for allowing the goal.”
Hitchcock doesn’t stay up until every game is finished, but after he finally hits the sack, it’s the first thing on his mind when he wakes up.
“First thing I do is the Blackberry, 5:30 in the morning, scores,” he said. “You’re brushing your teeth and it’s (bleep!). Those three-point games, (darn) it. First place I go is on that TSN Web site and there’s that (darned) 2-1 score in Edmonton in a shootout, and you’re just cussing both teams. Every night you last as long as you can and then you’re up four or five hours later, watching again.”
from Jim Hughson of Blogs and Columns at CBC,
Here are four teams you might not want to face in the first round – that is, if they get in.
Okay, so it’s no revelation that a Stanley Cup finalist with two of the top three scorers in the league would be a tough match up for any team, but consider how bad the Penguins looked before the coaching change.///
Tomas Vokoun has one of the best save percentages in the league and is capable of winning games single handed. In front of him, the Panther defence is as good as any and better than most….
Columbus Blue Jackets
Hitchcock has a playoff-ready style, which means the Jackets don’t give their opponents many chances to score….
more on each team plus the Stars are mentioned too…
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
What is most surprising about the Columbus Blue Jackets’ pursuit of their first playoff berth?
Well, one of the most interesting components of the Blue Jackets’ surprising play in the second half is a move that received almost no attention. When the Thrashers unloaded veteran forward Jason Williams in mid-January, it was part salary dump and part getting rid of a guy who didn’t seem to fit. Well, the undrafted 28-year-old has fit like a glove in Columbus. He has eight goals and 11 assists since becoming a Blue Jacket and has chipped in on a power play that has languished at the very bottom of the NHL for the entire season.
“He’s been caught up in the atmosphere, that sense of urgency,” coach Ken Hitchcock told ESPN.com on Monday. “I think he’s responded properly to being in that atmosphere. He’s working hard. He’s playing the game honestly.”
more on the Flames, Sabres, Canes, Flames and fighting…
“I don’t care who plays Detroit, if (the Red Wings) decide they’re going to play that way, nobody’s going to beat them. Nobody’s going to beat them in a (playoff) series if they’re going to play that way. Teams are going to be lucky to win games against them.
“They played a deliberate game. They played with work ahead of skill, and when you have their skill level, it’s pretty devastating if you’re the opposition.”
-Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock after losing to the Wings 4-0 yesterday. More on the game from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch.
Elliotte Friedman of HNIC did a great feature on Columbus goalie Steve Mason last night.
I can’t point directly (no youtube either) to the 5 minute video, but start here, then look to the right for Top Stories then scroll to the Inside Hockey: Steve Mason feature.
Note to Steve- time to update the bedroom!
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.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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