The Weekly Reader Vol. 8: Michigan Still Sucks


Okay, Jacket fans (and Weekly Reader fans, if you’re out there), welcome to the third installment in my recent series to recount and re-live Columbus’ 2009 appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Or, as I could’ve more simply stated it, “Columbus’ appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs,” since we unfortunately have just the one.  Recently we’ve remembered the game in Chicago (link) that clinched the berth, and the two-game mini-skid (link) which followed to close the regular season.  Those two losses dropped the Jackets from sixth to seventh place, taking us to the place where the post-season adventure began:  Detroit, Michigan.

[Pause for raucous booing and hissing]

Part III:  It’s April, 2009, and Michigan still sucks

The first few months of 2009 contained some big days in the history of the Columbus Blue Jackets, but none bigger than when the team faced-off against Detroit for its first ever game in the NHL post-season.  It had taken eight years to get there — Columbus being the last active team who had yet to make it into the playoffs — and a fantastic run led by Captain Rick Nash and rookie goaltender (and eventual Calder Cup winner) Steve Mason, and it was time for some big-boy hockey.

Division and geographical rival Detroit was the reigning Stanley Cup champion from 2008…

[Pause for raucous booing and hissing]

…and not looking to be a good host to the new kids from Columbus.  The Red Wings were coming off one of their signature seasons — coasting and underachieving early, turning on the jets late in the year when they felt like winning (and their 100-year-old superstars had rested-up for a run) — and had earned the two-seed in the West.  Talk heading into the game was that Detroit had to be careful not to look past a young, hungry Columbus team.  It had, after all, been years since the defending champions had advanced into the second round.

Any doubt whether the Jackets belonged in the game was answered during the first half of the game.  They battled against the mighty Red Wings, getting some good scoring chances and playing a physical game.  After surrendering the lead in the second period, Columbus would strike back.  Does anyone remember who scored the franchise’s first-ever playoff goal?  If you said RJ Umberger, you’re a winner!  In a play that has since come to be recognized as ‘classic Umby’– That dude is tough as nails, am I right? — he raced down the left side on a break-out from the opposite end to battle for the puck in the corner.  RJ went to the front of the net, Jake Voracek found him with a quick pass from behind goaltender Chris Osgood, and Umby snapped a backhand shot into the net.  There is no Blue Jacket player before or since that I admire more than RJ Umberger, and I for one am thrilled he has the first entry in the team’s post-season scoring annuls.

Later in the second, a gaffe by Columbus center Manny Malhotra would result in Detroit’s second goal — Malhotra tried to catch a shot in front of Steve Mason, and instead directed it into the net — and the Wings wouldn’t look back.  The back-breaker would come at the beginning of the final period, and Detroit would claim a 4-1 victory (highlights | game summary).

If game one showed that Columbus could stand tall with Detroit, game two would demonstrate the Red Wings’ might in the series.  The Wings rolled to a win, thanks to three power play goals and the 14th playoff shutout of Osgood’s career.  It was 4-0 in the game (highlights | game summary) when the dust (er, snow) finally settled, and 2-0 in the series.

The Blue Jackets had to hope that a return to home ice and the home crowd in Columbus would bring them the spark they needed to climb back into it.

Conference Final Cupdates

If you still aren’t watching the Stanley Cup playoffs, then I have one question:  What in the hell is wrong with you?!?  This has been an amazing post-season, with excitement at every turn.  Currently in the East, Tampa Bay (5) and Boston (3) are knotted at one game apiece.  Tampa Bay roared out to a decisive 5-2 win in game one (highlights | game summary), before Boston would win the second track meet of a game 6-5 (highlights | game summary).

My playoff darling Vancouver Canucks (1) have not only advanced to face San Jose (2) in the Western Conference finals, they are now sitting on a 2-0 series lead after winning a pair of games at home.  First it was Henrik Sedin with the winner in a 3-2 game one affair (highlights | game summary); then the Canucks broke open a close game three in the final period, en route to a big 7-3 victory (highlights and game summary unavailable at publication time).

Both series will change venues later this week.  Game three in the East will be Thursday in Tampa Bay; the third game in the West occurs Friday night in San Jose.

NHL Mock Draft

If you’re not following it already, I highly recommend tuning into the mock draft being held on the NHL blog Too Many Men on the Site.  There are daily updates with the Fansided network’s writers — including Fire That Cannon’s own Mary O’Malley — providing their teams’ mock selections, and TMMOTS writers adding some outstanding commentary and analysis on each of the players.  It’s a good way to understand the teams’ needs in the draft from the perspective of some of their most dedicated, knowledgeable followers; and also to see what the top talent looks like coming into the NHL next season.