You stay classy, Zherdev

cbjlogonew.jpgSOMEone’s got to write a few positive words about the Jackets’ prodigal son, and how hard he played tonight.

With one coast to coast masterpiece (follow the link on the next page to launch), and a snappy shot on a breakaway that sent the goalie’s water bottle flying, Nik had a chance for a third goal. Skating toward the empty net in the final minute, the goal was his for the taking, but Zherdev shared the love – graciously giving up his hat trick – with an unselfish dish to Beech for the final goal.

Blue Jackets fans have a love/hate relationship with Nikolai. He’s taking a bit longer than most of us expected to develop into that major threat. Flashes of greatness have been mingled with stretches of underachievement. Last summer’s contract holdout left a sour taste in many mouths.

But aside from the goaltending, the 2007 season’s other surprise has been Zherdev. He’s clearly bought into Hitch’s scheme, and has tried leaving the comfort zone of the ol’ toe drag for a more aggressive, crash-the-net attitude, and it’s beginning to pay off.

Nik still has a long way to go, but he’s clearly headed down the right path, and tonight’s performance shows that he’s improving as a team player, to boot.

It’s very satisfying to see a player, for lack of a better word, “mature” in a Blue Jackets uniform.

Here’s Nik’s de facto hat trick; note how the crowd gave him a standing ovation at the beginning of his final shift.


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