TV: MSG Plus
Radio: WFAN 660 AM
Songs to Get You Pumped Up But Also Make You Think Deeply About Tonight's Game: Two new tunes from two local bands: The Hold Steady's "Hurricane J", and The Gaslight Anthem's "American Slang". Both exciting new prospects for both.
Join me and iFisch in the comments. Da' Rules: Tangents are acceptable and talking about the Jackets or Devils in general is OK. Keep it clean and relevant at all times. But please do not use this for other purposes and to debate TGA vs. THS again. Above all, go Devils! The bandages just don't do it in the end.
Editor's Note: After the jump, I have added some insight into the Jackets thanks to Mike MacLean of The Cannon. Big thanks to Mike for his answers. Take them as you will.
Question 1. Could you summarize how the Columbus Blue Jackets play on the road based on what you have seen this season?
MM: It's difficult to gauge how the Jackets play on the road because they are so inconsistent. They have an 11-20-5 record on the road, and some of those 11 wins have been impressive. On other occasions, there have been dreadful blowouts on the road. They have been playing better away from home of late, but every time they go on a streak of strong play away from Nationwide Arena they run into a good team and get embarrassed.
Question 2. Now, the offense isn't solely on Rick Nash (30 goals), as Antoine Vermette, Kristian Huselius, and R.J. Umberger all have at least 20 goals this season. However, the team has only averaged 2.57 goals per game this season. Is this it because the offense is based heavily on those four players; or are there other factors involved?
MM: The biggest reason for this is the fact that the defense provides very little offense, and the bottom six forwards are dedicated checkers. Kris Russell is coming into his own as an offensive blueliner, but he had a rough first half. Anton Stralman was piling up points upon his arrival from Calgary, but his offense has dried up over the past few weeks. As you say, the forwards are scoring, but offense from the back end and a bit from the bottom six are two areas GM Scott Howson needs to improve over the summer.
Question 3. A big reason why the Blue Jackets did as well as they did last season was because Chris Mason had an excellent rookie season. In his second season, he currently has a 89.8 save percentage and a goals against average of 3.12. Is this a case of the sophomore slump, or do you think parts of Mason's game have been exploited by opponents who now know exactly what he can do?
MM: I think you've hit the nail on the head- Steve Mason found things a bit too easy last season, he admitted as much. The book is out on him now, and at the beginning of the season he wasn't putting in the work to make changes to his game because he thought he had it all figured out last season. Since the firing of Hitch, he has played extremely well giving Jacket fans (and management) hope for the future.
Question 4. Defenseman Fedor Tyutin leads the Blue Jackets in average time on ice with 23:15 per game, leading me to believe that he's the team's #1 defenseman. What do you think of his play so far this season? Is he someone who can truly lead the defense for seasons to come in Columbus?
MM: Tyutin is an interesting case. Calling him the team's number one blueliner isn't a stretch- he's the most complete defenseman on the roster, puts up points and eats minutes. The biggest issue with Tyuts though is his tendency to turn over the puck. Often at the worst possible time. Going forward he is definitely in the team's top four, but hopefully 2009 first round pick John Moore will in a couple of years be the number one defenseman the Jackets have never had.
Question 5. Columbus is in the middle third of the NHL in penalty minutes per game at 13.3 (17th in the NHL), yet they have been shorthanded 291 times this season, the third highest total in the league. While the team's penalty kill isn't bad at 82.5%; has the team addressed the issue of being shorthanded so many times? If not, why?
MM: To be honest there isn't much to be said in terms of taking penalties. Guys like Dorsett and Boll have a job to do- agitate and drop the mitts if necessary. Mike Commodore was taking a lot of bad penalties earlier in the season because he was out of shape and was caught chasing a lot. Before his trade to Washington, Jason Chimera often took silly penalties, which at times cost the team.