Previewing the Blue Jackets' matchup with the Sharks.
Feb 3, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets left wing RJ Umberger (18) celebrates with Columbus Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu (55) and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski (21) and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson (7) after scoring a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
A perennial contender during the regular season, the San Jose Sharks are at it again. Second in the dominant Pacific Division and stocked with incredible talent, the Sharks are poised to make yet another Stanley Cup playoff appearance. The question inevitably arises: Will they do anything when they're there this time around?
I have no malice in my query. The Sharks are a great team. They have four bona fide Olympians on their roster (and at least one more, Joe Thornton, who was a bit of a surprising omission). They have All-Stars beyond that - Logan Couture comes to mind. They have an up-and-coming rookie, Tomas Hertl, who made quite a splash with his goal scoring proclivities early in the season. They have a coach, Todd McClellan, who knows how to win. What can I say, the Sharks are really good.
Top scorers in Silicon Valley are:
- Forward Joe Thornton (8 goals, 48 assists, 56 points)
- Forward Joe Pavelski (29 G, 25 A, 54 pts.)
- Forward Patrick Marleau (22 G, 27 A, 49 pts.)
- Forward Logan Couture (14 G, 21 A, 35 pts.)
- Forward Brent Burns (14 G, 16 A, 30 pts.)
I think we can again presume that despite his status as an Olympian, the Sharks will start Antti Niemi in net tonight. In 47 games played, Niemi is 28-12-6 with a .912 save percentage.
A solid team, filled with scorers and - if you look at the team stats - incredible defense. It won't be an easy one in the Shark Tank tonight.
WHY THIS GAME IS IMPORTANT:
This is it - the last Columbus Blue Jackets for three weeks or so while the NHL shuts down to let its players participate in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The CBJ are in 4th in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers and two points behind the New York Rangers.
A win tonight against the Sharks would, in itself, be impressive. It also would position the Blue Jackets perfectly for the post-Olympic stretch run.
WHO I'LL BE WATCHING:
After last night's overtime loss against the Los Angeles Kings (don't get me started), I can't help but be enthused by the NON-Olympians. Brandon Dubinsky was a Man on Fire last night, breaking out into short-handed scoring opportunities time and again. Jack Johnson scored the team's only goal. Boone Jenner and Ryan Johansen each had their looks.
These guys aren't going to Sochi. They don't get to go play for their countries. They are playing solely to get the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Stanley Cup playoffs. And they've been doing pretty well thus far.