Red vs. Blue - parity in action

Ohio Jones
05-11-2004, 07:42 AM
CD - Detroit

Most of the time, one expects a Round 1 series between the 4th and 5th seeds to be pretty even. Of course, it doesn't always work that way, as teams might match up differently, or have different momentum heading into the series.

The Blue Jackets and Red Wings, however, seem to have taken "balance" to a new level. For the second consecutive night, these two teams had to go to overtime to decide a winner in their tightly-contested series. Fortunately for our Blue Jackets, who were facing elimination, they came out the victors this time thanks to Phillippe Boucher, whose rocket from the high slot beat Olaf Kolzig to keep the Jackets alive for at least one more night.

The tale of the tape shows just how close this series really is: Wins: Detroit 3, Columbus 2; Shots: Detroit 147, Columbus 141; Powerplays: Detroit 2 for 15, Columbus 3 for 14. In games 1, 2 and 5, the teams were within 2 shots of each other. In game 3, Columbus outshot Detroit by 10; in game 4, Detroit outshot Columbus by 18 (accounting for the difference in shots on the series).

Game 4 was the hardest in the series to date for the Jackets: despite having been hugely outshot, they carried a 2-0 lead into the third period thanks to simply spectacular play by Martin Broduer. But the bubble burst at 12:15 of the third as Niklas Lidstrom woke up, earning his first of three consecutive assists (the final one came at 2:26 of the extra frame) to put the Jackets into their current must-win position. Clearly rattled, the Jackets were no match for the surging Wings in the extra frame.

Which brings us to game 5. Once again saw the Jackets worked up a 2-goal lead only to watch it evapourate, forcing overtime. After the disappointment of the previous game, one could perhaps have understood if the Jackets were gripping their sticks a little tight, and had the Wings put the last nail in the Jackets' coffin last night, few would have been surprised. Instead, strong work down low from the tandem of Mike York and Brendan Shanahan, who had been hot all night, set up the juicy rebound in the slot that Boucher hammered home to bring the series back to the Nationwide Arena.

Shanahan, who had a goal and three points in game 5 and leads the Jackets with 3 goals and 7 points in the series, explained the Jackets' recovery.

"We were pretty down after Game 4, no question. I mean, (the Wings) were taking it to us pretty heavily throughout that game, and yet we were winning by two goals late in the third, and then the floodgates opened. Marty was amazing, and we just didn't give him any help. So we had to come away from that, and say 'All right, that was one game, but next game is a different story'.

"But then when we came into last night's game, it was the same thing: we had a two goal lead, then we forgot our jobs, and found ourselves back facing overtime. (Head Coach) Mike (Babcock) just walked in and said 'OK, we were here last night, and we couldn't take it. Now our season is on the line. Are we gonna roll over again, or are we gonna show these guys that we deserve to be here?'

"Well, we hadn't been outplayed all game like the one before, so we had a little more confidence, and once again Marty was there for us making a couple of incredible saves, and then we got the puck low. There was no way we wanted to end our season like that, with our tail between our legs, so we made it happen. We got the bounce, and we jumped on it.

"Hopefully that gives us a little more momentum heading into tonight at home."

Mike York, Shahan's centre through most of hte last three months, offered this: "The fans have been great, coming out and supporting the team all through our run in the second half and really being excited. This is their first taste of playoff hockey, and we don't want it to end here. We win tonight and it's down to a one-game series. And we've already proved last night we can win at the Joe (Joe Louis Arena in Detroit). Our fans deserve the best we can give them, and we have every reason to believe that our best should be able to beat the Wings. Hoefully tonight won't be the last home game of the year."

Tonight's game is a 7:00 PM start. Round 1 tickets sold out almost instantly, but a pair can be had from scalpers if you don't mind parting with $1,000. Each.

Sounds like the hockey bug has bitten Ohio. And it wears a blue jacket.

Milo Minderbinder
Columbus Discoverer

Atlanta GM
05-11-2004, 02:34 PM
Hey Doug,

Good article.... and good luck to the both of you.

btw, your red vs blue comment... Have you seen the series based on Halo of red vs blue. It damn funny...

Ohio Jones
05-11-2004, 09:31 PM
Hey Doug,
btw, your red vs blue comment... Have you seen the series based on Halo of red vs blue. It damn funny...

Yeah, that's what inspired the headline. Wicked stuff!

Ohio Jones
05-13-2004, 07:13 AM
CD - Columbus

For the third game in a row, the Columbus Blue Jackets got off to a strong start - this time posting a two goal lead in the first 6 minutes - only to watch that lead diappear at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings. For the second game in a row, however, it was the Jackets who dug deep to find one more goal.

This time, however, they didn't have to wait until overtime to decide it. In fact, it only took 28 seconds for Jeremy Roenick to recapture the lead for the home side after Todd White's second period goal tied things up at 2. It was a regulation lead the Jackets would not relinquish as Marty Brodeur blanking Detroit on 13 shots in the last 25 minutes, and it keeps this series alive for a seventh and deciding game tomorrow night in Motown.

Roenick and his linemates Geoff Sanderson and Mike Leclerc were instrumental in the victory, factoring in all three Jackets tallies: Leclerc at 4:15 of the first (his third, from Roenick and Brisebois), Sanderson at 6:53 of the first (his first, from Roenick and Brisebois), and finally Roenick's deciding marker at 16:15 of the second(his second, from Carney and Sanderson).

It was a dominating performance for the line, reunited mid-way through this series by Head Coach Mike Babcock after being a consistent threat through much of the regular season. Babcock had started the series with deadline acquisition Mikael Renberg on the starboard wing while Leclerc skated on the third line with Henrik Sedin and Kirk Maltby, but when the Jackets found themselves down 2-0 and receiving no production from that line, Babcock reinserted Leclerc. The Jackets are now 3-1 in the series with Leclerc on the top unit.

Renberg, meanwhile, was replaced on the third line by gritty youngster Mark Bell for games 5 and 6 - both Jackets wins. Renberg saw 10 minutes last night as an extra skater.

"I just felt we weren't playing tough enough in the corners, weren't as hard on the forecheck as we needed to be to keep the play in (Detroit's) end", Babcock said of the shuffling. "Mikael's a smart player, and he's been very valuable in this series - he skates hard and he's scored a couple of points for us. But he hasn't been with us as long, and so there wasn't the same chemistry - that awareness of where the other guy is going to be - that JR (Roenick) has with Geoff (Sanderson) and Mike (Lclerc).

"But it's helped us, I think, giving Bob (Francis, Detroit's head coach and Babcock's predecessor behind the Columbus bench) some different looks to deal with. He knows a lot of these players well, the ones who were here when he was coaching, so by having some new faces in each combination, and by mixing them up from time to time, he has to keep adjusting. We have the advantage at home, though, where we have last change. Tomorrow, in Detroit, it's going to be easier for him to get the matchups he wants, so we're going to need all our lines contributing - forechecking, backchecking, driving the net. The only way to break down the line-matching is for everyone to play with the same high level of intensity.

"Fortunately, it's a game seven - a game that seemed pretty far away when we were down 3-1 - so I know our guys will have intensity in spades."

Fans have been eating this series up, with every single game between these two evenly-matched teams a sell-out. TV numbers have been increasing as the series has gone on, so these two teams can expect a huge audience for tomorrow night's deciding game. It may be tough on the players, but there's nothing like a seventh-game showdown for the fans, and this game promises not to disappoint.

* * *

Around the league:

The Montreal Canadiens joined the Jackets in coming back from a 3-1 deficit to force a seventh game against the Washignton Capitals. Montreal poured in 8 unanswered goals through the first two periods, chasing starter Patrick Lalime on the way to a 9-2 crushing of the Caps at the Bell Centre. The Habs go into game seventh without exciting young pivot David Legwand, who was taken down by a Sean Hill cross-check in the second period. Legwand won't be available until later in the second round, if the Habs can prevail in Washington tomorrow night. Hill earned a game misconduct, and the play is under review by the league.

The Bruins put an end to the surprising Buffalo Sabres run with a 6-3 win last night. The Burins capitalized on the Sabres' lack of discipline, scoring once in five chances with the man advantage while never giving up a power play. Sabres Coach Craig McTavish was visibly fuming behind the bench at several calls, and very nearly got himself thrown out of the game for heaping invective on the officials. Call us crazy, Craig, but maybe your boys weren't as disciplined as your opponents because of the example you set... Mats Sundin led the way for the visitors with 2 goals and three points.

The Flyers put an end to the mighty New York Islanders' season with a 2-1 win in overtime last night at the Wachovia Centre. The close game put the wraps on a very close series, as the team stook turns dominating each other physically and emotionally. Dominik Hasek was the first star, stopping 29 of 30 Isles shots en route to the victory, but Simon Gagne was the hero with the overtime marker - scored in the last seconds of a powerplay with the Isles's Doug Weight in the box for hooking. The Flyers now have to wait to see the outcome of tomorrow's game between Montreal and Washington to determine who they will face in the second round.

The heavily-favoured Blues continued their recovery from a 3-1 deficit by coming out on top of a shootout at (what is apparently still called the Skyreach Centre in HFNHL-land), 7-5. The game saw both Nikolai Khabibulin and Evgeny Nabokov (the start of the series so far for Edmonton) get chased, and also say both teams dominate with the man advantage, as the Blues were a perfect 2 for 2, and the Oilers also scored two power play goals on three chances. It was firewagon hockey for the first time in what had been a close-checking series, leading us to wonder what kind of hockey we'll see when the series returns to St. Louis for tomorrow's finale.

The Blackhawks put the finishing touch on their upset of the Kings last night with a 4-3 win in overtime on a goal from young sniper Alex Tanguay. Deadline additions Mariusz Czerkawski and Alexei Kovalev also tallied for the 'Hawks, who had kept hte Kings off the board through two periods only to have LA pour in three goals in the first 6 minutes of the third period to force the extra frame. It was not to be for the Kings, however, who have to be disappointed with the outcome of their season after having such a strong second half. Jocelyn Thibault made 34 saves on 37 shots for the win.

Another shootout that saw both starters chased, and another game that needed overtime to determine a winner. Anaheim's Tony Amonte scored at 3:52 of the extra frame to keep the Mighty Ducks alive against the San Jose Sharks with a 6-5 victory, bringing the series back home to the Pond for a seventh game. After watcing their early lead blown away by the surging Sharks, who scored four unanswered goals in the second, the Ducks' veterans cranked it up to keep their season alive, with Eric Lindros, Zigmund Palffy and Amonte leading the way. Note: Sharks goalie Ed Belfour was incorrectly assigned the loss - Garth Snow was in net for the winning goal in overtime.

Milo Minderbinder
Columbus Discoverer