For the Coyotes, it is time to start another winning streak. 11 wins, lose a tough game, then start another winning run. At 33-22-9 for 75 points and atop the Pacific Division, the boys in red need to capitalize in their 10 remaining home games. Points are so important this time of year, and you cannot let a Western Conference team take you to overtime and get a point. Unless it is Columbus. Looking at their schedule, they may not make 50 points. And when the Coyotes are winning, fans need to help keep the streak alive. Stop shaving, don’t wash your socks, sit in the same seat during the game and don’t switch with family. If Uncle Charlie is out of the room when Vrbata snipes a power play goal, get Uncle Charlie a nice chair in the garage. And if Tyson’s jacket delivers another win, offer to pay for it to be cleaned. Hockey Is Beautiful.
Sports Illustrated, in the Jack Jablonski issue, polled NHL players and asked who is the nicest player in the NHL. Tied at second behind Pavel Datsyuk were Shane Doan and Ray Whitney. If you have ever seen them off the ice, you would agree. If you see Shane on the ice, you may disagree as he is delivering straight right fists to your face and trying to pound you through the dasher board if you happen to touch the puck when he wants it. You want a long NHL career? Let the Wookie win. Pretend like you are making a play with the puck and turn it over. Your body will thank you the next day.
19 goals and 39 assists for the Wizard. The Captain at 20 goals (his team leading total LAST year with 17 more games to play). Sniper Verby leading with 30 goals. Looking at +/-, Ray is at 25, Vrbata is 21. Add Hanzal at 8 goals, 22 assists, 30 points and a rating of 13. The top defensive line for the Coyotes is also the top producing offensive line. The Prime Line draws the opposing team’s number one line while at home thanks to getting the last line change. They all pull penalty kill time. And they are deadly at five on five play. Tonight Hanzal gets the big and powerful Rich Nash and the task of keeping him off the scoreboard. This is what Hanzal was trained to do, and do it well he does. Vrbata is a sniper. A quiet killer of opposition dreams and hopes. After he goes top glove, he gives a little double handed arm pump, then starts looking for teammates to hug and thank. No skating halfway down the ice to showboat. You would never know he lit the lamp if he wouldn’t lead the bump line.
Antoine Vermette will get to see his old teammates thanks to the nifty trade pulled off by The Shepherd GMDM. Without giving up players in the lockerroom, he pried a top center away from a team that needs scoring. Last year it was Rusty Klesla, this year Vermette. You would think Columbus GM Scott Howson would not answer the phone when it is Don Maloney on the line. You know a fleecing is coming. Vermette is looking to get his first Coyote goal of the season. 2 goal posts and one quick whistle has been his nemesis. Tonight, that is over. Look for Vermette to get 2 goals.
Another player to look for is Gilbert Brule. Expected to be a game time decision, Brule was the sixth overall pick and first rounder of Columbus in 2005. Brule has chipped in 3 goals and 4 assists in his 17 games as a Coyote his year. What it doesn’t show is the grit and strength Brule shows on the forecheck and along the boards. He is strong and big enough to go into the dirty areas and keep a play alive. He can also give the top centers some rest on the penalty kill due to his active stick and skating. Never out of position, always looking to make a play. Keep him healthy and he’ll be a good energy line player the rest of the year.
Game plan is always the same:
- Score first and give the crowd something to root for
- Plenty of shots on goal and bodies in front of the net. The Columbus goalies give up 3 goals a game. Let’s keep that stat high.
- Stay of the box. Columbus has a decent power play. Don’t give Rick Nash the opportunity.
- Make Columbus chase and take a penalty. They have given up 50 power play goals. Let’s pad that stat as well.
- Pressure the puck. What is Columbus playing for? The chances the players are willing to put the body in front of the shot from the point is a linear decrease from their place in the standings.
For those going tonight, cheer loud and strong. If you see a Blue Jacket fan, take a picture of them. As scarce as a sober Lindsey Lohan in a nightclub.
Topics: Boyd Gordon, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dave Tippett, Daymond Langkow, Jason LaBarbera, Keith Yandle, Lauri Korpikoski, Martin Hanzal, Mike Smith, Mikkel Boedker, Paul Bissonnette, Ray Whitney, Shane Doan, Taylor Pyatt