Category Archives: Penguins

Jackets 3, Pens 4 (SO)

In the grand scheme of soul-crushing Jackets’ defeats since 2000, or, hell, soul-crushing Jackets’ defeats in the past two weeks, I’m not sure this one should even register. But it does, big time. Yeah, they came away with the loser point, but I still left the game last night feeling eviscerated, and it wasn’t just the Chipotle burrito…

Part of it was of course the presence of large numbers of Penguins fans. I’d say anywhere from a third to half of the fans in attendance were cheering for the boys in baby blue. Hard to know how many of them actually made the drive out from Western PA or Eastern Ohio, and how many were locals, but it does stick in the craw to see your team’s home arena taken over by away fans. Shame on Columbus for not selling enough tickets to CBJ fans to prevent that. And honestly, seeing them all in their brand new Crosby and Malkin jerseys, wondering how many were supporting the Pens in the dark days earlier this decade and not just after a couple of generational talents essentially fell into their laps….yeah. Most all of the Pens fans I encountered were perfectly well-behaved and polite (although sounds like there were some jerks mixed in) and not even especially smug. But this was a group I still very much wanted to send back east to Pittsburgh Reynoldsburg on the losing end.

The Jackets did have some good fortune before the game in the form of Evgeni Malkin’s shoulder injury, which took out a big part of the Pens’ talent. And, once again, they found themselves facing a backup goalie, this time in the form of Brent Johnson.

For two periods, the Jackets played pretty well. They got off to a slightly tentative start, but went up 1-0 in the first on a Rick Nash goal. And in the second, they played a very strong period, limiting the Pens to five shots on goal, while they added two more goals, one from Nash, and a pretty one from Dorsett, of all people. Mason was looking like his old self in goal, stoning Crosby on a beautiful save. Unfortunately, the Pens grabbed a shorthanded goal after some confusion by the Jackets ended with Nash sitting in the net next to Mason. Still, the Jackets took a 3-1 lead into the third, the arena was buzzing with an almost playoff like atmosphere, and it felt good. All they had to do was hold down the fort for twenty more minutes.

They only managed about seventeen, though. And really from the start of the period, you could see the Pens taking control of the game. The Jackets were scrambling more and more, and not looking like the confident team from the second period. A Penguins goal seemed inevitable. And it came. And then another came in quick succession. Watching the highlights this morning on the NHL Network, it looked like Mason didn’t have much of a chance on either one. But the defense broke down.

The Jackets managed to hang on for the remaining minutes of regulation, and the five minute OT, to take it to the dreaded shootout. The only goal was scored by Sidney Crosby. It initially looked like Mason had made the stop, but he didn’t freeze the puck, and it slowly and agonizingly trickled over the line. And that was enough to keep the Pens unbeaten on the road. And send me home feeling like I’d just watched a 8-0 blowout, not a 4-3 shootout loss.

I’m not saying anything novel here, but the Jackets just need to figure out how to kill the game off when they have a lead. A couple years ago, they lost because they couldn’t score. Now they can score, but they can’t seem to hold a lead. Yes, getting Hejda back (sounds like next week) will help. But the whole team needs to figure this out. If they don’t figure it out soon, their playoff chances are going to slip away like a two goal lead. It’s just not good enough.

And it gets no easier tomorrow, when the Jackets face Washington on the road, before coming home to play Jody Shelley, Manny Malhotra, and the rest of the Sharks on Wednesday.

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Off-season hockey books and other Toronto tidbits

I was up in Toronto for a few days earlier this week. Mostly work, but I did fit in an awesome Tragically Hip concert at Massey Hall, some visiting of friends, and of course some shopping. Although Amazon and other on-line sources now make it possible to acquire pretty much any book from any place, I still enjoy going to bookstores in Canada to find new books on hockey that haven’t filtered down here yet. Most new hockey books come out to coincide with the beginning of the season, so this is an off time for them. Although I hadn’t been in Canada since my trip to Calgary last March, so the Fall 2008 titles are still new to me.

There were some newer titles that struck my fancy a little, but they were all still hardcovers in the $30 range, so I decided to wait on these ones until they’re in paperback or remainders. Bruce Dowbiggin’s The Meaning of Puck was the most tempting, as I’ve enjoyed his other books and his journalism in general, but I deferred. I’ll probably pick it up on my next trip up. The Rocket by Benoit Melancon, a meaty looking cultural studies tome about Maurice Richard and his cultural impact in Quebec was similarly tempting, and is on the list for later. Not much else really struck my fancy this time.

The books I did end up buying were older titles. Chris Robinson’s Stole This from a Hockey Card about Doug Harvey caught my eye a couple years ago at Pages Books, but it was at the tail end of the trip when I’d already spent too much, so I didn’t get it. Made sure to pick it up this time. I’m a fan of Bill Gaston’s fiction, so his Midnight Hockey, which was on remainder at Book City, found its way into my ownership. I’d seen Mark Anthony Jarman’s hockey novel Salvage King, Ya! at the Kingston Chapters many eons ago, but I barely read fiction as a grad student, never mind paid $20 for a brand new novel, so I passed it up and it slipped my mind. Found it in a used bookstore this time, and I’m about halfway through reading it — takes some getting into, but I am quite enjoying it.

The Leafs have obviously been out of action even longer than the Jackets, so not a whole lot of buzz around them in Toronto these days. More people wearing Jays gear than I’ve seen in well over a decade, and lots of Toronto FC presence as well. And of course lots of Balsillie/Coyotes talk. Even a friend of mine in Waterloo who detests hockey was talking about that. She opined that since Toronto has the Leafs, the Niagara Peninsula has the Sabres, and “I suppose people in Windsor must like Detroit” that London would be the best home for the erstwhile Coyotes. Okay…

It was also nice that in Canada hockey is on channels that are actually available in hotel rooms, unlike Vs., which I think I’ve found in hotels twice. So I skipped a dinner with colleagues in favor of takeout shawarma and Game Six of Pens-Caps. What a fun series that was to watch, even as someone who is pretty much neutral on those two teams! Sounds like Game Seven was a bit of a dud, but I was en route back to Columbus and missed it. Tried to listen on XM, but they had the Pittsburgh feed, and I loathe Mike Lange with the white hot intensity of 1000 suns, so that was a no-go. Can’t say I have a lot of interest in the teams that are left — I’ll probably cheer for Carolina as the last remaining “non-traditional” team insofar as I cheer for anyone.

On that note of playoff ennui for those of us without a rooting interest left, I’ll leave you with a recommendation to check out this right-on Roy MacGregor column about the ever dragging hockey playoffs.

Sunday round-up

We’re drifting into summer now, so I expect to be updating less often, at least until the draft and the UFA madness that follows. I realize that the playoffs are just heating up, but I’m the sort who, once my team is out of it, I still watch, but don’t really get into it that much. And anyway, there are plenty of blogs out there written by fans of teams who are actually still playing, so I’ll let them cover the playoffs. I will say that Game One of the Pens-Caps series yesterday did live up to the hype as far as being an entertaining game to watch. Although who would have thought the most exciting moment would come courtesy of a goalie?

In the ECHL playoffs, the Cincinnati Cyclones progressed to the Conference Finals with a series win over Elmira. They have games Wednesday and Friday in Cincinnati. Those games would actually be next week, not this week. I’m going to Toronto that week and getting a little ahead of myself on the dates…

In other hockey goings on, the eminently forgettable 1986 film Touch and Go was on cable this morning. It stars pre-Batman Michael Keaton as a Chicago hockey star who falls for a single mother and her hoodlum son (who is played by Ajay Naidu, of Office Space fame!). Hockey is really pretty secondary, although there are a few action scenes, which are far from the best I’ve seen, but not utterly unbelievable. I’m pretty sure I watched this movie on cable way back when, although it was completely different from how I remembered it. I think I had it conflated in my head with V.I. Warshawski, another vaguely hockey connected film set in Chicago from the same era. And also with the Booker episode about hockey.

As far as the Jackets go, Jan Hejda and Alex Picard had surgery on their respective left wrists. And the team’s radio and TV broadcasters remain in limbo waiting to see if their contracts will be renewed. If it were up to me, I’d keep the radio guys — who have their quirks, but are beloved by the fans — and look for a new TV crew. But it’s not up to me, so we will see.

And of course, on Friday we heard the sad news of the passing of Ryan Salmons. If you’re not familiar with the Salmons story, read this, and keep a box of tissues handy. It was nice to read that Manny Malhotra and Jason Chimera went to visit Ryan towards the very end. Those are a couple of players I am often very frustrated with on the ice, but they have shown themselves to be class guys off of it. Kudos to them, and condolences to Ryan’s family.

Jackets 4, Pens 3 (SO)

Two more points…two more points…two more points.

Just keep repeating that to drown out what was ugly about that game!

The Jackets played a so-so first period, a strong second, and then the wheels fell off in the third. Playing back on your heels against a team with the offensive talent of Pittsburgh is a sure way to give up goals, and the Jackets let the Pens come back from 3-0 to tie it. They hung on to win it in the shootout, but damn! Gotta close these ones down!

I will give props to Jason Williams, for scoring a nice goal on a backhand shot. It’s amazing how many players even at the NHL level can’t get off a good backhander and will try to move the puck around to their forehand. So always nice to see a player scoring on the backhand.

The crowd was a record for a Blue Jackets game at Nationwide, an SRO 19,167. Wa-a-a-a-y too many of them were Pens fans, though. Wonder how many made the trip from Pittsburgh vs. live in Central Ohio? The Steelers fans always seem to crawl out of the woodwork around here, so I suppose there are lots of Penguins fans among us as well. At least they were generally less obnoxious than the Buffalo fans who have graced us with their presence in the past. Still, I can’t wait ’til these games against the Pens and Wings are 90%+ Jackets fans in the house.

No rest for the wicked — the Jackets are right back at it tomorrow night against the Hawks in Chicago. No TV in Columbus, so you’ll have to listen on the radio like we did in the olden days (while simultaneously walking ten miles uphill in a blizzard to school…)

Jackets 2, Bruins 0

After a veritable offensive explosion against the Wings, the Jackets scored a lot less and a lot later against Boston, but it was enough to come away with the win. Granted, they had to break Tim Thomas’ mask and force him to use Manny Fernandez’ mask before they scored that one…LOL. Seriously, good game against a good team (albeit a team that’s been in a bit of a funk), and two more points closer to clinching a playoff spot. Another tough test tomorrow night against the resurgent Pens. Should be a pretty full house to see Crosby and Malkin. I’ll be at this one, and I look forward to a good atmosphere and two more points.

Congratulations to some team from up north…

Okay, not exactly the outcome I was looking for from the 2007-08 NHL season, or from this playoff series, but Detroit certainly earned it. They were strong all year, and Pittsburgh put up a valiant fight, but was ultimately just outplayed.

And at least they’ve put a couple of annoying memes to rest:

  • Detroit only does well in the regular season because they’re in the Central and play horrible teams like Columbus so much, but they fail in the playoffs because they’re untested
  • European captains can’t lead their team to the Stanley Cup.

I can drink to that!

I’m too old for this

Three OTs…I didn’t even stay awake for most of it. Fell asleep during the second OT and woke up to Petr Sykora’s post-game interview.

But shootouts in the playoffs? From my cold, dead hands, or something to that effect…

I’m just glad I decided against attending last night’s game after the cheapest ticket I could find on-line was $260. Because as drowsy as I am today, that three hour drive home from Detroit at 3AM would have been a killer.

Someday I hope to be in the stands for an epic playoff game with multiple OTs, but I hope it’s in Columbus!