With the season just over the half-way point, the Jackets sit at 21-18-4.
It’s been a roller-coaster season with lots of pleasant and not-so-pleasant surprises.
Let’s get right down to it and start handing out awards.
First we have some of the team awards:
Best Performance: January 2, 2009
I’m going to go with the 6-1 romp of the Colorado Avalanche on January 2 at the Pepsi Center. The Blue Jackets used to be dog meat in the Pepsi Center, so this win was especially nice: Nash had a four-pointer, including his first penalty-shot goal.
Worst Performances: December 6 and 23, 2008
The Jackets have been the prototypical mediocre team, playing their best against the best, and worst against the worst. The two goalless losses to the Kings in December stung the worst. On Dec 6 and 23 the Kings served up double helpings of 3-0 losses. How did we not score against—who is their goalie again?
Unexpected Performance: January 9, 2009
On January 9, the Jackets played the Capitals at the Verizon Center—and they did so with something like 11 regulars in the lineup. Out were the likes of Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, Kristian Huselius, Raffi Torres, Jason Chimera, and to top it all off, reports came out that Mason was questionable… ugh.
I remember calling my fiancée on my way home from refereeing that night and asking how bad it was. “Two to nothing,” she said. “Oh, well that’s not too bad…” I said. Then she continued, “Oh, and Boll just scored, so now it’s three-nothing.” “Wait…three…but—are we winning?!”
In the end, the Jackets earned the 3-0 shutout win in arguably one of the hardest places to play. Previously, the Caps were 18-1-1 at home this season. Wow. Mason stopped something like 43 shots and goals came from (Turnover) Tyutin and Jared Boll. Unexpected? Yeah.
Talk about some wild games—how about some player awards? The Jackets have certainly had an interesting time trying to build up team chemistry with what seems to be turnstile-like personnel movement.
With new players coming in via trade or free agency and the plague of injuries, I’m shocked the players don’t have to wear nametags.
Best Player Performance: Nikita Filatov, January 10, 2009
This is a tough call, as Mase has played unbelievable hockey. I’m going to go ahead and give it to Filatov for his Jan. 10 performance against the Wild though. It wasn’t that Niki got the first hat trick for a Jackets’ rookie—it was that he did so with only 9:59 minutes of playing time.
It’s no secret that Hitch has a difficult time trusting rookies, and Filatov is no exception—but to put away a goal for every three minutes you are on the ice is just spectacular.
Worst Player Performance: Pascal Leclaire
Sorry, Pazzy—you’ve been playing like a sieve back there. I won’t cite any specific games because there are just too many to mention.
The fact that Pascal has had five games (out of 12 played) where he has allowed five or more goals against is just…well, INCONCEIVABLE!!
Apparently he’s still not over his ankle injury and he’s now on the IR.
Good, But Not Great: RJ Umberger
The Jackets have been in search of a top-line center since October 7, 2000. After eight years, the game plan was to use the 19th-overall pick in the 2008 draft (thank you Foote) to secure one.
I remember sitting at the draft party when the announcement was made. But I don’t remember feeling much. Kinda thought we got the shaft, to be honest.
RJ hasn’t played like a top-line centerman, but he has played well for us this year. To date, he has 23 points (13 goals) in 43 games.
Maybe not worth a first-round pick, but at least he’s putting the puck in the net. If he picks up production a bit he should have set a personal season-high point total this year.
What the Deuce?!: Derick Brassard
On December 17, Derick Brassard had 25 points and was the favorite to win the Calder Trophy. He’d been playing fantastically and recently had been seeing significant time on the top line with Rick Nash.
On December 18, the Jackets faced off against the Stars. Late in the first period Stars forward James Neal nailed Fedor Tyutin with a clean, but hard hit. In a fit of sheer retardation, Brassard decided that he would take Neal on.
The fight lasted all of five seconds—after three good shots to the face you could clearly see Brassard saying, “STOP, STOP!” He left the ice and didn’t return to the game.
Turns out that Brassard suffered a season ending (?) dislocated shoulder, which required surgery. It would be a long-shot for Brassard to be back, even if it’s in (whispering) late April or May.
Straight lunacy. You could see where he was coming from on this—up and coming guy, wanting to stand up for a teammate… but for Pete’s sake! You could see how pissed off Hitch was, and at one point you could clearly see him say (presumably to Boll)—“THAT’S YOUR JOB, GODDAMNIT!”
MVP: Steve Mason
Mase will win the Calder, the Vezina—and, if the Jackets make the playoffs, he’ll win the Hart. I believe that to date, Mason is leading in GAA, save percentage, and shutouts—and that’s all done backstopping the Jackets!
Talk about a diamond in the rough, too, a third-rounder!
Iwill say that goalies are a crapshoot, though—how’s that second-overall pick from 2002 coming along for Atlanta?