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Just when it appeared over, Blue Jackets’ goal deluge continues

By Peter D. McAlister

After positive signs seemed to be appearing on the horizon in Monday and Tuesday back to back games against St. Louis and Chicago, the Columbus Blue Jackets had another meltdown Thursday night at Nationwide Arena against the Toronto Maple Leafs. After defeating the Blues 5-2 at home in a solid all around effort and losing 4-3 in a franchise tying eleven round shootout at the United Center against the Blackhawks, the Blue Jackets lost 6-3 to the Leafs leaving most in attendance, aside from a decent contingent from north of the border, asking themselves when the National Hockey League’s version of the movie Groundhog Day will end.

In the film actor Bill Murray awakes each morning in a small Pennsylvania town praying the previous boring day he experienced and loathed is finally over. Unfortunately for his narcissistic character, he relives that day’s events over and over again until he finally puts the saga to rest by realizing that it is his responsibility to make a change in life and become a more thoughtful and caring person. Perhaps it has come time for every Columbus Blue Jacket from the front office down to look in the mirror and assess their responsibility, both on and off the ice, or this season could end in ugly fashion. After making it to last year’s post season introspection should not be construed as a blind indictment of the franchise but rather a much needed wake up call.

As an observer you cannot but be perplexed by the Jackets’ recent rollercoaster ride. With one third of the 2009-2010 schedule in the rearview mirror the team looks like a Stanley Cup Playoff contender one evening and train wreck the next. In thirteen of twenty eight games Columbus has given up four or more goals in regulation and in seven contests six or more. On November 11th against the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide a staggering nine goals eluded both Steve Mason and Mathieu Garon. Goaltending continues to be an issue after the Toronto blow-out but an even bigger focus obviously has to be on a consistent and solid effort in front of the net minder. Head coach Ken Hitchcock must be beside himself with the increasing number of missed assignments, turnovers in the offensive and neutral zones, and irresponsible play by the very same players that he is relying on to help both Mason and Garon build their confidence and reassert themselves as standout goaltenders.

Injuries to the likes of Fredrik Modin, Jan Hejda and Rostislav Klesla aside, it is obvious that the Blue Jackets have the talent to turn things around and by the conclusion of this regular season represent the Western Conference as a four or five seed in playoffs. The question is whether Captain Rick Nash and a host of skilled veterans and youngsters can successfully strive to once again mesh as they did late during the 2008-2009 campaign.

Stay tuned Jacket fans.


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