The home opener has finally arrived and its the first chance of the year for the Jackets to gets some long awaited redemption against the Nashville Predators.
The Jackets come into this game 1-2 while the Preds are 2-2. After tonight's game both teams will travel back to Nashville for a rematch tomorrow night. Either team could come out of this weekend looking pretty good or with a nice big hole to dig themselves out of.
Reading some message boards and comments in the Dispatch blog one may think the Jackets aren't even playing the Predators tonight. All the talk has been on super-pest Jordan Tootoo. I've come to one conclusion about tonight's game - the Jackets and us fans need to start worrying about putting pucks in the back of the net instead of about who will beat up the self annoited one.
I've watched bits and pieces of a few of Nashville's games (thank you Center Ice!!) and you know what, not one team paid any attention to Tootoo's antics and he was basically invisible out there. They cared about one thing, and that was beating the Nashville Predators on the scoreboard.
Think about it - the Detroit Red Wings had the least amount of fights in hockey last year (21) and all they did was win the cup. They play tough hockey but not dumb hockey.
Look I'd like to see Tootoo's face plastered against John McConnell's nice new tribute logo (god rest his soul) as much as anyone but clearly that formula has gotten us nothing but 1 win the past 16 times we've played this team.
The Jackets need to play a good strong heavy (hat tip to the Hitchionary) game and concentrate on putting pucks in the back of the net.
If Tootoo lays a big hit....retaliate by scoring a goal. If Tootoo runs his mouth....score another goal. Pretty soon he'll be off the ice as Nashville tries to get back in this game because lets face it, he's a bottom six player.
KEYS TO LIGHTING EM UP
*Well I think I've pretty much covered Tootoo.
*Jackets have to take advantage of their first home game and come out executing and scoring.
*Don't be the first to blink. The Jackets made some horrendous mistakes in San Jose that cost them the game. The Predators are just as optimistic as the Sharks and will make you play if you get lazy and sloppy. Need a full 60 with everyone's head in this one.
*As they did in San Jose, limit the penalties. Control your emotions, keep the feet moving, finish checks and make them take the penalties.
*Big guns have to fire. Nash, Huselius, Umberger, Modin, Brass & Voracek must contribute on the score sheet.
*Take advantage of Nashville's misfortune. By that I'm referring to both Jason Arnott and Alexander Radulov being out the lineup.....of course they certainly can't take them lightly b/c they aren't in the lineup either.
*Leclaire has to be much sharper than he's been in his first 3 starts. He must outplay Dan Ellis at the other end as Nashville is a very defensively responsible squad.
*From an offensive standpoint the PP looked decent in San Jose. Need to continue that without the shorties of course.
*With Arnott & Radulov out the Jackets will need to key on shutting down Dumont and Erat as they lead the team in scoring. They are also strong on the backend with Suter and Weber who can bring the bombs from the points.
So much to choose from on opening night but I'm going to go with the rookie Filatov. He's had a whirlwind of a week and I'd like nothing more than to see this kid come of this game with a strong game. Hitch will use him carefully.
Of course its also a night of remembrance for the Jackets founding father John H. McConnell. Sure would be nice to get a win in his honor tonight.
Finally what will the new entrance song be?
I'm still going with the crowd salute to the National Anthem at its conclusion as well as the salute after every home team goal is scored.
As I mentioned earlier you hate to say any game is a "must win" this early in the season but I believe tonight is. Not only to get back to .500 but to get this annoying Nashville monkey off everyone's back and start building some momentum.
Remember the Garage Bar opens at 2 p.m. EST. They are running some nice home opener promotions. Also if anyone still needs tickets email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by noon as I do have a line on some last minute discounted seats which I can provide you information on.
Got to be honest - I'm nervous about this one tonight but LETS GO JACKETS!