Blue-on-blue = A costly three points

Discussion in 'HFNHL Talk' started by Ohio Jones, Feb 14, 2007.

  1. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets took three points away from a home-and-home series with their division rivals, the Western conference-leading St. Louis Blues. But the win didn't come cheap, as the Jackets lost Steve Bernier, Mark Bell, Joni Pitkanen and Aaron Ward to injuries throughout the series.

    Game 1, in St. Louis, was pretty much what observers expected from the league's top two defences, namely a close-checking, low-scoring game - so close, in fact, it ended in a 1-1 tie. But that only tells half the story. Aggressive, almost reckless play from both teams culminated in the Blues' Jarkko Ruutu taking a run at Bernier from behind, delivering a fierce elbow to the head. Bernier managed to avoid concussion from the hit, but he struck the boards awkwardly going down, and he will remain on the shelf with a seperated shoulder for upwards of three weeks. Ruutu was suspended for 5 games by the league for the hit.

    Mark Bell also received minor injuries from a Milan Michalek high stick that was not called. Mattias Norstrom came to defend his teammate and got served a roughing penalty for his trouble. The other penalties called during the game included four for high sticking and one for kicking, demonstrating just how intense and, at times, vicious this rivalry has become.

    Game 2 saw the Jackets' injury woes continue, as the Jackets' top defence pairing of Ward and Pitkanen were both knocked out of the lineup early in the game due to rough play. Pitkanen was the first to go down. Shortly after the Blues opened the scoring in the first, the young blueliner was boarded by Brian Sutherby in a chase for an iced puck. No penalty was called, and when Jackets Captain Brendan Shanahan offered the on-ice officials a few choice words about the oversight, he was assessed a misconduct penalty.

    The home crowd's mood turned decidedly ugly, and it translated to the ice where Jackets Steve Begin and Adrian Aucoin each served penalties for taking out frustrations on their opponents over the course of the period. The Blues returned the favour in the second, when Aaron Ward was taken down by what appeared to be a knee-on-knee collision with Peter Schaefer, but this time the Jackets elected not to cause a ruckus when no call was made - apparently Head Coach Mike Babcock had reminded his team about the importance of discipline during the intermission. It paid off - with Brendan Witt in the box for boarding later in the period, the Jackets tied the game on Shanahan's league-leading seventh powerplay goal.

    The Blues stepped it up again in the third, when Langenbrunner beat Brodeur with St. Louis' Chris Pronger and new Jacket Arron Asham serving offsetting crosschecking penalties. From that point on, however, the game was all Jackets, as they scored three unanswered goals to take the game 4-2, giving Columbus 31 points on the season, just 4 points behind the Blues for the conference lead (shared with Anaheim). The Sharks are currently third with 33 points.

    The Jackets and Blues play again this season - not to mention the possibility of meeting in the playoffs - so fans will want to keep an eye on this rivalry. At the same time, the teams' General Managers, Doug Emerson and Nick Quain, will need to ensure that bad blood between the teams doesn't cost them in the long run with more players lost at critical times due to suspension or injury.

    * * *

    Of note in tonight's game, Slava Kozlov scored the insurance goal late in the third to give him three points on the night (1g 2a). It seems that moving him up to the top line with Henrik Sedin and Shanahan has woken up the Russian vet, who had been slumping significantly since the season began. The question remains, however, can the Jackets - one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league - get two scoring lines to contribute regularly?


    Milo Minderbinder
    Columbus Discoverer
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2007

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