Saturday, November 19, 2011

Is Tonight's Predators Blue Jackets Game the Biggest Mismatch in Series History?

It is an understatement to say that the Nashville Predators have dominated the Columbus Blue Jackets in recent years, especially in Smashville at the Bridgestone Arena.

Nashville has the longest active home winning streak in the NHL against Columbus, with 17 straight wins. Columbus last tasted victory in the Music City on April 3, 2006 which was the only regulation win for the Jackets in Nashville since the start of the 2001-02 season, giving the Preds a 26-1-(1)-1 record during that period.

The Jackets have done slightly better in Columbus but the Predators still hold a 12-6-3 edge at Nationwide Arena since the lockout.

Even worse, this year's version of the Blue Jackets have had the worst start of any team in the NHL going 3-13-2 to this point. On Thursday, the Jackets gave journeyman goalie, Curtis Sanford (0-0-1, 0.72, .967) a start and he hung with the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins and carried Columbus to a shootout loss on the road in what seems to have been a real moral booster for the hapless BJ's.

With the OT point getter, it appears Sanford earned the start tonight. Sanford has been decent against the Preds in his career, going 3-3-0, 2.64, .888.

The Predators will start the hottest goalie in the NHL in Pekka Rinne (10-4-3, 2.12,.936), who appears to be taking a shot at besting his performance last season when he finished second in the Vezina voting.

Columbus made several offseason moves that they had hoped would send them back to the playoffs this season. They brought in defenseman James Wisniewski, Jeff Carter, and Vinny Prospal to add to their offense and only Prospal (5g, 9a) has made significant contributions. Carter missed ten games with an injury and Wisniewski was in the press box for the first eight games under suspension.

The biggest disaster has unquestionably been goalie Steve Mason, who the Jackets misjudged after he won the Calder Trophy in 2008-09 when he went 33-20-7. Since then, he has gone 47-59-17 and has hit rock bottom this season (3-12-1, 3.63, .875).

Compounding the Blue Jackets problems is the fact they they have spent within $1.4 million dollars of the salary cap for a team that is clearly the door mat of the Central Division NHL.

So that goes back to the initial question that was set fort. Is this the biggest mismatch in the history of this series? Consider these points...
  • Pekka Rinne vs Curtis Sanford, or even worse, Steve Mason.
  • Two best plus-minus players in the NHL in Shea Weber (+18) and Ryan Suter (+15) against a team with only two plus players on the roster.
  • Preds are 6-3-1 at home and the Jackets are 0-7-1 on the road.
  • Nashville has 11 points in November, Columbus has three (eight for the year).
  • Preds 2.8 goals for per game, 2.4 against while the BJs score 2.2 vs 3.6 against.
We could go on but there is not enough bandwidth.

So what does all this mean? The reality is, very little. The Jackets would like nothing more than to come into Nashville and break the losing streak and disrupt the streaking Predators. Aaron Portzine points out that eight of the starters for Columbus are new to this year's team and have no history with the 17 game losing streak.

I expect a typical Predators-Blue Jackets game that will be nip and tuck and a good possibility for overtime where anything can happen. There will be fights and bad blood as Columbus will try to incite Jordan Tootoo and probably cause Brian McGratten to bloody up his knuckles again.

Puck drop is 7 p.m. and special POTG discount tickets are available for Columbus as well as all remaining gamesGo here and use the offer code preds. The game will be only on the radio locally but the Blue Jackets feed will be on the NHL Center Ice package.

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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