“They’re a team that works hard; they finish every check,” according to Rick Nash. “We’ve got to capitalize on our special teams and dig deep — we’re a desperate team right now that needs a win.”
The talismanic captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets was quoted as saying the above after our Dallas Stars brought it home 4-2 this past Saturday at the American Airlines Center. The two teams thrash it out again tonight in Columbus with the hosts something of a wounded animal right now. Goal-scoring pivot Jeff Carter leads the list of Blue Jackets expected to sit out tonight but there is an awful lot to be said for a team playing desperate hockey. If it comes off, the players and coaching staff are instant heroes. Fail, and Columbus find themselves in one heck of a hole.
Winless so far this season and – on recent evidence – with a depleted stock of confidence, the Blue Jackets run quite a risk on their own ice tonight. Do they play open hockey and just go for it, bombard the Dallas net and hope a whole bunch go in or, alternatively do you encourage your players to be patient and use the puck to build up a solid attack?
Either of these leaves the team wide open for exploitation from some very intelligent and hard-working players amongst the Dallas Stars roster. Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro in particular can cut teams down like rapiers. Quickly and accurately, either of them are capable of dismantling defences and are at their best on breakaways. Brenden Morrow, Steve Ott, Vernon Fiddler and Sheldon Souray are never afraid to get their noses dirty and wouldn’t think twice about breaking up a patient build-up play.
Add to those names the likes of Alex Goligoski who can fire bullets all game long, Trevor Daley who is finally learning why it’s not the best idea to screen your own goalie and debutant (for the Stars at least) Eric Nystrom who is pretty handy at either end of the ice and that’s quite a force to be up against when you’re a team playing desperate hockey. All of this though – as we all know only too well – stands for nothing if we end up with a lucky bounce against us and an opposing goalie who takes his chance.
Either way, we have the makings of a pretty good game of hockey to watch tonight for both sets of fans and one in which – despite Columbus’ best efforts I’m sure – I just can’t see past another Stars win. That’s my take folks.
What say you?