The View from 223 – Warm Fuzzies and Professionalism on the Ice


From about half way up section 223, I was part of the party at Nationwide last night. No question, this was a fun night. I’m sorry that not more fans were there to enjoy it, but there were so many things to enjoy.   Oh and BTY, the Columbus Blue Jackets won, and they won in a professional and convincing way. But, I digress, let’s start the enjoyment and recount the pleasures of the night.
My son & I attended the game. Prior to the game, we went to a local microbrewery and had ½ price hamburger like sandwiches, which were great,  and a happy hour brew. Then to the R Bar for a little atmosphere [and another brew] and then on to the game. My son had never sat on the end of the arena and he observed during warm up that there really is not a bad seat in Nationwide, and that is also a fact. We are luckey to have a great facility.
Very early on, I noted noise coming from section 227. Quickly the presence of “The Arch City Army” was noted. Honestly, I couldn’t understand some of their cheers, but their positive noise was appreciated. I can’t afford [time & money] to attend a lot of games, but being a TV watcher every game that I am not at Nationwide, I have never heard the announcers recognize “The Army”. Seems a shame they get so little recognition as they do provide positive vibes.
Jack Hanna [and friend] was briefly interviewed. It was noted that he “and half the Zoo” was on Letterman last night. Question– how could Columbus and the Zoo get any better publicity? Also note that I did catch a free Zoo Tee shirt [another + for the nite] With free gas cards being given away last nite I have to say that the entertainment around the game function did very well. They get my attaboy. In a tired season, they are definitely still trying.
Now to the party – er game. Obviously after it started, we the fans got warm and fuzzy quickly. To score 4 goals in the first period tends to do that. But being a Jacket fan is to have your heart broken, and visions of Nashville swam into my brain. My son kept saying “they have a 4 goal lead, how could they lose”. But I kept holding my breath.
Sure enough, in the 2nd period, even though the Jackets didn’t come out in full prevent defensive mode, the Sharks showed they weren’t quitting. After 2 Shark goals, 3 things happened to right the ship. [a] Todd Richards called a time out to settle the boys down. If you recall this is the second time he has done that and it was a good use of his time out. [2] The 3rd Shark goal was waved off for the high stick knocking the puck into the net. The referee got it right as everyone including Toronto saw the same thing on replay. And [c] the Shark penalty took the wind out of their sails, killing their momentum and giving the Jackets a PP opportunity which they cashed in.
No question the fans were in the game. When Jeff Carter’s 3rd goal went it, the puck had barely stopped before hats started floating down from the stands. Not so many people wear hats as they used to, but still a respectable number arrived. Now, ladies and gentlemen, that was Carters 2nd hat trick this year. Just who is it that wants to trade him? I am so nervous that the “off ice issues” listed as the vague cause of any trade references are a fabrication of the Dispatch. But in any case, he is a professional player and he showed us 3 scores using 3different  shots and I love that quick release. I feel like when he is on the ice, he takes charge. He commands respect from his teammates and the opposition. In times when the Jackets are having a hard time bringing the puck into the offensive zone, it’s like “give me the puck and I’ll take it in” and he does. I also love the professional play of him and Vinny Prospal. Their passing and knowing where the other is supposed to be surely looks like a hockey team is supposed to look. I for one would like to keep Jeff Carter.
In a win like last night, there are plenty of plaudits to go around. But my 3 stars are:
#1 Todd Richards, for calling the time out and managing the CBJ so they didn’t implode
`#2 Steve Mason for a job well done as a NHL goalie [Steve where do you go]
#3 Jeff Carter/RJ Umburger- You cannot omit hat tricks in the 3 stars. To me, Carter and RJ both played well and I’m going to tie them together. But they are but the front men for most of the team. Vinny was all over the ice. Brass continued his fine play. Etc. Etc.
When you play a good team, even on their “off nite” and win with a lot of offense it is a little less obvious who stands out, because everyone looks pretty good. We have 2 rookie defensemen [Moore and Savard] contributing in all situations, including the PP and the PK. Sure they have been “pressed into service” but they have responded. It is obvious that Todd Richards trusts them.
I would love to see Johansen at center. He seems tentative even when going to the boards on hits. He skates fast enough when he gets going, but his first steps need to be quicker. I wonder if he would be more comfortable if he was in his center position.
I’m going to give Todd Richards some more credit. He is controlling who takes face offs, and has increased the chances of Columbus winning them. Many times last night, I noted that there were 2 or more centers on the ice for almost every face off.  On one PP, Carter got tossed from the face off. But Brassard, who was on the ice did not take the face off, Mark Letestu [another who plays center sometimes] did and Brassard stayed in his position for whatever play they were trying to run. I do not have the stats as to where the Blue jackets ranked in face offs when Richards took over as head coach, but I’m betting the Jackets are moving up in those rankings.

The progress on the PP efficiency has been lauded by many, Last night the PP was almost the same kind of anomaly as the Nashville game. {In which Carter also had a hat trick}  But last nite Wisniewski was out and we still had cannon shots from the defense during the power play. And Savard got a goal.Yes the PP is starting to look like we hoped it would last summer, and it’s not all coming from expected places.

Yes, I am filled with warm fuzzies. Yes I know the Jackets do not seem to have consistency.  but dammit, I saw a good hockey game!!!