Rick Nash trade rumors abound, but for tonight's game the Blues are going to have to shut both him and Jeff Carter down.
Winning is easier said than done for this season's Blue Jackets squad. St. Louis has already defeated them once, a 6-4 game that got a bit out of hand due to defensive breakdowns and lapses of paying attention. That shouldn't be an issue for the Blues tonight. Jaroslav Halak, who leads the league's goaltenders with six shutouts, very well should be able to keep a marginal Columbus offense from getting on the scoreboard.
That's not to say that the Blue Jackets don't have dangerous players. Rick Nash, he of sudden availability to be traded rumors, is always a threat. Jeff Carter's back to being healthy, and Vaclav Prospal recently signed a contract extension. All of that firepower is rendered moot however when goaltender Steve Mason starts -- and tonight is his third start in a row. The Jackets allowed three power play goals en route to a 5-3 route by the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night. This is basically a shoot early, shoot often sign for the Blues. St. Louis' power play hasn't been the strongest, but recently David Perron has picked it up by its bootstraps. He's scored three power play goals in two games, and is on a seven points in four games streak. The only way that he could score more as of late is if the opposition's goaltender had a target painted on the back of the net -- and so far this season Mason might as well have one there. The former Calder Trophy winner has a .884 SV% (45th in the league) and a 3.49 GAA (also 45th in the league). Early goals are a kiss of death for him, and considering how many times the Blue Jackets allow goals very early on in the game, it should explain his whopping six wins. He has just one win in his last five games.
It's unfair to compare him to tonight's Blues starter, Jaroslav Halak. Halak, along with leading the league in shutouts with six, is 12th in SV% (.922) and 4th in GAA (1.97). In his last five games, Halak has two shutouts.
This entire season has been one that the Blue Jackets would love to write off, especially the distractions of bad trades and a poor case of roster cost management. The last thing the team needs right now is one more issue to worry about, but with talk that captain Rick Nash is on the trading block, the Jackets have seemingly written the entire season off as another loss -- albeit one that is worse than previous lost seasons. The only times that captains are traded are when they can't reach a deal to be re-signed (a la Ilya Kovalchuk in Atlanta) or when the team that he plays for is in drastic need of a re-build and do over. Nash has always been loyal to a fault when it comes to the Blue Jackets franchise, but it's hard to tell if that loyalty will be able to ease the team's concerns about his being dealt.