With three head-to-head matchups in the final eight games, this stretch is crucial for both Columbus and St. Louis. Columbus looks to solidify their playoff standing, while St. Louis is desparate to make a playoff run, currently sitting in tenth place—only one point out of eighth. Columbus is 7-1-1 in their last nine, and is coming off a 5-0 complete and utter destruction of Calgary at Nationwide on Thursday night; the Blues are hot as well, having won three straight and six of nine. And, if tonight’s game isn’t enough, these two teams turn around and play again tomorrow night at Nationwide. Familiarity breeds contempt, eh?
Columbus Blue Jackets:
|LW:||Kristian Huselius||R.J. Umberger||Raffi Torres||Andrew Murray|
|C:||Manny Malhotra||Antoine Vermette||Jason Williams||Michael Peca|
|RW:||Rick Nash||Jakub Voracek||Jared Boll||Derek Dorsett|
|D:||Jan Hejda||Fedor Tyutin||Kris Russell|
|D:||Mike Commodore||Rostislav Klesla||Marc Methot|
St. Louis Blues:
|LW:||Andy McDonald||David Perron||Alexander Steen||Brad Winchester|
|C:||David Backes||Patrik Berglund||Jay McClement||Keith Tkachuk|
|RW:||Brad Boyes||T.J. Oshie||B.J. Crombeen||Dan Hinote|
|D:||Barret Jackman||Carlo Colaiacovo||Jay McKee|
|D:||Roman Polak||Mike Weaver||Jeff Woywitka|
CBJ – 2.73 gpg (18th NHL)
STL – 2.70 gpg (21st NHL)
CBJ – 2.66 gapg (t7th NHL)
STL – 2.81 gapg (t14th NHL)
CBJ – 12.9% (30th NHL)
STL – 20.8% (8th NHL)
CBJ – 81.8% (t14th NHL)
STL – 83.0% (7th NHL)
Who To Root For
Thanks to the great people at Sports Club Stats, we can also look at what the rest of the league is doing, and who (as Jackets fans) we need to root for tonight to help them make the playoffs:
Columbus at St. Louis
Los Angeles at Nashville
Minnesota at Calgary
Since their last meeting, St. Louis has been just about as hot as Columbus has been. They are 11-4-2 (24 pts) in their last 17 games, and have quietly climbed into the playoff hunt themselves. With three more games head-to-head in the last eight, the Blues will be looking to make a move on the last playoff spot. These two teams have been a bit chippy with each other over the course of the previous three games this season, and one would expect that three matchups over the span of two weeks might add a little fuel to that fire—especially if the Blues have fallen out of the playoff hunt by the 4/10 matchup. There has been trouble brewing between Blues forward David Backes and the Jackets since their early-January matchup when he concussed Kristian Huselius, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see a lot of penalty minutes in this one.
That’s not really good news for the Jackets, as St. Louis has the decided edge on special teams, especially on the Power Play. And, in the last meeting between these two the special teams almost tipped the scales; after Columbus had built a 4-1 lead, the Blues came roaring back by scoring a PP goal and a short-handed goal while killing off a futile Jackets PP (“The third period is why I don’t like coaching,” coach Hitchcock said after that game). The Jackets have the statistical edge against the Blues when five-on-five, but St. Louis has a deadly PP unit, and Columbus simply HAS to stay out the box.
In goal, it’s another Mason-v-Mason matchup, and both Masons have been playing a ton of minutes over the stretch run. Chris Mason has made 30 consecutive appearances for St. Louis (and has carried them for much of their hot streak). Steve Mason’s game log has been well-documented here, as well: 19 starts in the Jackets’ last 20 games. Both goalies are vital to their team’s success: Chris Mason is sporting a 2.42 gaa with a .917 sv% and 5 SO. Mason is just a touch better at a 2.18 gaa, .920 sv% and 10 SO. Should be a low-scoring game tonight.
So, with that in mind, which team’s offense is going to step up? Columbus is better in the overall stats, but St. Louis has a decided edge on the PP and on special teams in general. It will be interesting to see if St. Louis comes out overly physical in an attempt to bait the Jackets into taking some stupid penalties. Discipline will be key for Columbus. They need to stick to their game of solid defense, reliable goal-tending, and an offense that’s predicated on a consistent forecheck, puck possession and cycling, and getting traffic in front off—and pucks on—the net. St. Louis theoretically needs this game much more than Columbus does, and is at home. Columbus needs to come out and establish their game early to keep the crowd out of it and to attempt to demoralize the Blues. St. Louis will never quit working, however, so Columbus needs to play solid for 60 full minutes. Well, 120 minutes, really, since these two will play that many over the next 28 hours or so.
Side game notes:
Next Game For The Jackets
Sunday, March 29, 2009
7:00 PM EDT
St. Louis Blues at Columbus Blue Jackets