What (else) to watch for
CBJ radio announcer George Matthews highlights his favorite games on the 2006-07 schedule
Friday, Oct. 6 - Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Vancouver Canucks:
“Vancouver has struggled with goaltending for quite a long time and last year it was unpredictable with Alexander Auld and Dan Cloutier. That goalie combination resulted in them not making the playoffs. So GM David Nonis made some sweeping changes within the organization, firing coach Marc Crawford and changed the whole attitude of the team to become a much more responsible defensive team.
“That starts in goal with Roberto Luongo. If you were to pick one goaltender to start a hockey game in the league right now, he might just be the guy you’d pick. He is the best goaltender in Vancouver in the last 15-20 years. He is a terrific goaltender and is now the face of the organization in Vancouver.
“Luongo, of course was obtained in an off-season trade with Florida, where he was mentored by new CBJ goaltending coach Clint Malarchuk.
“In addition, this is Opening Night and entering year six, expectations in Columbus are high, as most fans are expecting the Columbus NHL entry to make the playoffs for the first time. A win in this game will get the Jackets on the right track.”
Columbus went 1-3-0 vs. Vancouver in 2005-06, with the win being an exciting 6-5 victory on Jan. 24, dropping the team’s mark to 5-12-3 all-time vs. Vancouver.
Columbus will also play host to the Canucks on Friday, Dec. 22. Don’t forget to assure that you get tickets for this game by logging on to CBJ.com or visiting the Nationwide Arena Box office or one of the Chiller locations, starting at 10 a.m. on Sept. 9.
Monday, Oct. 23 - Columbus Blue Jackets vs. San Jose Sharks:
“The San Jose Sharks might be the best team in the Western Conference. Their forward combination might be the best in the NHL and might out-score even a team like Ottawa and score 300 plus goals. The Sharks probably have the most complete forward line in the NHL. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau might be the best one-two punch in the league.
“Thornton ended up with 92 points in 58 games with the Sharks last year and won the Hart Trophy. He has great chemistry with Jonathan Cheechoo, who led the NHL in goals. The team added Mark Bell to the roster from Chicago, and he might be blossoming into a very good NHL player. If he plays with Cheechoo and Thornton, that could be the best line in hockey. Marleau’s numbers should increase from last year as well, since he won’t be playing against the opposing team’s top defensive line any longer.
“Goaltending is not a concern here. It is not bad to have competition in goal for playing time. Evgeni Nabokov, with the big contract, is supposed to be the No. 1 guy, but Vesa Toskala played very well last season. There is probably not a team with a better combination of offense and goaltending in the league.”
The Jackets split four games with San Jose in 2005-06, winning by a 4-1 score at Nationwide Arena twice, and dropping both contests at San Jose. The two wins was the most that Columbus had ever had in a single season vs. San Jose and pushed the club’s record to 6-12-2 all-time vs. the Sharks.
San Jose will also come to town on Friday, Feb. 16. To order tickets for this game or any other game, log on to Bluejackets.com or visit the Nationwide Arena Box office or one of the Chillers. Single-game tickets go on sale on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 10 a.m.
Friday, Nov. 3 - Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Calgary Flames:
“This team might be the odds on favorite to go to the Western Conference Finals this season. Calgary’s system basically preaches a work ethic and a desire that is almost unmatched night in and night out in the National Hockey League. If you come to see the Flames play it is worth the price of admission because they never take a night off.
“In goal is as good a goaltender as there is in the league this year, in Mikka Kiprusoff, coming off a career year winning the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie while having the lowest GAA.
“Robyn Regehr, Rhett Warrener and Roman Hamrlik form the corps. of a great blue line, but second-year pro Dion Phaneuf is really something special. Phaneuf potentially has a chance to be one of the all-time greats and is one of the best defensemen to enter the league in the last two decades.
“Alex Tanguay could be dynamite playing with Jarome Iginla. Tanguay has jaw-dropping speed and can dazzle you with his one-on-one moves. Iginla is a terrific embassador for the NHL. He can do it all, shoot, skate score and play physical.”
Columbus went 2-2-0 in four match ups against the Flames in 2005-06, including a dramatic 2-1 shoot-out win on Feb 1 at Calgary. The .500 mark pushed the Jackets record to 11-8-1 all-time, including a dominant 7-2-1 at home.
The club will also play host to the Flames on Thursday, Feb. 8. Don’t forget to assure that you get tickets for this game by logging on to CBJ.com or visiting the Nationwide Arena Box office or one of the Chiller locations, starting at 10 a.m. on Sept. 9.
Wednesday, Nov. 15 - Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Nashville Predators:
“A great rivalry has developed between the two teams. The first two years, Columbus was the dominant one in the rivalry, while Nashville has gotten the best of Columbus the past few years.
“With the addition of Jason Arnott and the return of a healthy Tomas Vokoun, the team should be one of the better teams in the Western Conference this season. With Arnott, Paul Kariya, Scott Hartnell leading the offense and Martin Erat and David Legwand chipping in some offense here and there, Nashville's forwards should be very good.
“Look out for rookie of the year candidate Alexander Radulov, coming off a huge season in the QMJHL. Selected by Nashville in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft with (first pick, 15th overall) Radulov could be competing with Gilbert Brule and Evgeni Malkin for Rookie of the Year honors in 2006-07.”
The Jackets went 3-5-0 vs. Nashville last season, putting the club’s record vs. the Predators at 11-16-2 all-time. The most exciting of which was the 3-2 Jackets win on Oct. 26, in which Adam Foote scored the short-handed game-winning goal in overtime to earn the win.
The teams will also play Nov. 20, Jan. 13 and Feb. 25, as the two rivals meet a total of eight times in 2006-07, four at Nationwide Arena. Fans, if you are as excited as Matthews is about this up-coming season and some of these great match ups, single-game tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on Sept. 9, available at the Nationwide Arena box office, all Chiller locations, as well as here on CBJ.com.