Lots of talk about the struggles of Blue Jackets these days and the soon-to-be-fired Ken Hitchcock. But, as Bob notes below, most of their problems are goaltender related. Great teams can overcome terrible netminding, but not just okay ones - especially when the pucks aren't going in that much at the other end either. Nash et al are in the black in terms of possession metrics, but not a single BJ skater has an on-ice SH% above 10. By way of comparison, the Flames have 6 skaters at 10% or higher...
Anyways, short story is most of the Flames advantage over Columbus comes in the way of netminding. That advantage pretty much goes away tonight with McElhinney dueling Garon, so this isn't a game we should all expect the Flames to run away with, despite these two clubs disparate point totals.
Other stuff to watch for:
- I think Lundmark's reappearance in the Flames top 6 is less an indictment of the that group of players as much as it is a recognition that the third line was getting it's head beat in every night. Evidently, Sutter felt that Boyd was the weak link having moved Dawes down and Nystrom into the middle. Somehow I doubt that, but we'll see what happens tonight.
- Related: expect Hitchcock to target the new Iginla line with Nash. Rick usually gets the hard match-ups anyways, but now he'll be eager to send his best player out a against a trio featuring an AHLer (albeit a good AHLer). As such, we may have to hope that the second unit of Glencross/Jokinen/Bourque can carry the load at ES tonight.
- The fall of Steve Mason is surprising to a lot of folks, but it really isn't news to those who read the Contrarian Goaltender. The kid road one spectacular month to the Calder last year and the truth is he's been mediocre (or worse) during the rest of his time in the bigs. That said, this is probably the very bottom end of his abilities, but that's probably cold comfort to him and Hitchcock right now.