Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ PIT – Game 2

Tonight, the Blue Jackets won their first ever playoff game against the mighty, storied Pittsburgh Penguins. We’ll get to the game recap in a second, but please indulge me a tiny bit of nostalgia. It’s truly a distinct pleasure and honor to reflect on tonight’s game. The woes of the Jackets team have been many and well chronicled. For many of us, the reality of tonight was a hope…a far off dream – something that might happen. That dream steeled our resolve when we took insults or pity from fans of other teams. That dream drove us to find one another and connect and find our strength as a group because no one knew what kind of a struggle being a Blue Jackets fan could be. That hope kept us coming back game after game, player after player…we wore our CBJ gear with pride and tried to share the gospel of a team that maybe someday would be considered a contender.

Friends, tonight dream became reality and “someday” is today – courtesy of Matt Calvert’s tenacious second whack at a puck against a scrambling Marc Andre Fleury.

I don’t know where each of you were when you watched the game go down but I am sure we came together one time more – struggling and fighting panic in TWO overtimes and then with the victory processing shared disbelief, followed by relief, followed by unbridled joy.

It’s a great time to be a Blue Jacket fan – this team is a group that believes and, perhaps sometimes more than we are able to, puts the past in the past and focuses on building a future to be proud of.

If there’s a better expression of pure joy I haven’t seen it

To put it simply, tonight was special. Really special. Let’s look at the three stars as named by NHL.com

Continue reading Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ PIT – Game 2

CHL Playoff 2nd Round Recap

Hello all – time to recap how our CHL prospects did last round. Overall we had five prospects playing in the conference semifinals with three moving on which will provide another prospect matchup in the OHL Western Conference Final.

Oscar Dansk didn’t play in any game of the Otters four game sweep of Sault Ste. Marie and, unless Devin Williams falters, I didn’t see Oscar making an appearance in the Western Conference Finals against Guelph (Editor’s note: Oscar did start the game last night with not so great results – we’ll have more on that in our next update)

Kerby Rychel-Guelph Storm (OHL Western Conference)-Won Series 4-1
Round Stats 5GP 1-5-6 +4 2PIM
Playoff Stats 10GP 2-11-13 +7 8PIM
Kerby and the Storm faced off against the London Knights and picked up a 4-1 series win. In game one Kerby put the icing on the cake of a 6-4 win when he scored an empty net goal with only 10 seconds remaining. The goal came when London’s mammoth Russian Nikita Zadorov played the puck and cleared it…right to Storm forward Jason Dickinson who skated in drawing the attention of two Knights. This allowed him to find a wide open Kerby who scored for his second of the playoffs. Kerby was held scoreless in game two – a 7-2 Storm loss. The Storm is 1-2 in the playoffs when Kerby is held off the scoresheet.

Continue reading CHL Playoff 2nd Round Recap

Goal Breakdowns: CBJ vs. Pit Game One

So a 4-3 game one loss is in the books. I guess you could call it a moral victory, although I would call it a missed opportunity. Marc-Andre Fleury was as shaky as advertised in the first half of the game, the game was more or less even at 5 on 5, but the Penguins powerplay and a few key mistakes brought down the upset attempt. I’m only going to breakdown two goals completely, as for the most part there wasn’t a whole lot of hidden elements in most of the goals. The Jackets opened the scoring with a huge individual effort from Brandon Dubinsky (although Jack Johnson scored the goal). The Penguins followed that up with a Jussi Jokinen goal that resulted from Sergei Bobrovsky misplaying the puck, Fedor Tyutin misplaying the puck, Derek MacKenzie letting his man go (probably thinking Tyutin was going to corral the puck), and Bob being a little out of position after scrambling back into the net. The Jackets grabbed the lead right back on a Mark Letestu powerplay goal. I like the puck movement on that goal, really spreading out the zone and forcing Fleury to move. The goal ultimately came off a scramble that saw Fleury needing to move across the net. They have to keep that up. MacKenzie made up for his earlier gaffe, with a great individual effort on the PK to take the puck from Kris Letang and beat Fleury on a breakaway. The Penguins made it 3-2 on a powerplay goal by their second unit, off a great tip by Beau Bennett. I would have maybe liked to see Dubinsky pick up Bennett as he comes across there, but no major mistakes on that goal.

Continue reading Goal Breakdowns: CBJ vs. Pit Game One

Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ @ PIT Game 1

The Blue Jackets marched into Pittsburgh last night and for 23 minutes of play looked like world beaters. They were skating hard, they were checking brutally, they were very clearly matching and over matching the Penguins’ efforts. A beautiful finish by Jack Johnson from an even more beautiful pass by Brandon Dubinsky. A powerplay that was eager to respond to the Penguins’ own notch just under a minute earlier. The Jackets finished their scoring on the night with an amazing effort by Derek MacKenzie who made Kris Letang look like a fool and potted a SHG in his first career playoff game. Somewhere past that though, the Penguins either adjusted or the Blue Jackets let off the gas; via mental mistakes or physical limitations; and managed to walk out of Consol with a 4-3 victory and a 1-0 series lead.

This was my first ever NHL playoff game. I wasn’t here for 2009’s quick and embarrassing exit, but I can tell you that this had me pacing, watching something else out of nerves for a few moments…and then coming right back to it. One of the saddest things in the world is seeing your team score a SHG to go up 2 goals in a playoff game and not having someone to high five. I won’t lie, when I saw the scoreboard and the “Eastern Conference Quarterfinals” graphic below it I started tearing up. It’s a beautiful thing.

3rd Star: Jack Johnson

Jack scored the first goal and he did it looking pretty suave but he took a penalty that led to a Penguins goal and that wasn’t a good move on his part. But if we were going to give a single star to the Blue Jackets, I would probably have given that star to Derek MacKenzie. His short-handed goal let the air out of the arena and put a smile on an entire state’s face.

Continue reading Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ @ PIT Game 1

Drink Up! The Glass is Full!

The glass is now full. Raise it, take a hearty swig and savor the taste. It is the taste of hard work, perseverance and success.

“People waited for us to falter this year…and this team never did.”  ~Todd Richards

cbj-metropolitan-cocktailThey could have faltered when Bob went down for six weeks. But they never did. They could have faltered when Gaborik went down and it became clear that he wouldn’t be much of a factor this year. But they never did. They could have faltered when Horton went down and they faced a brutal stretch of games with the season on the line. But they never did.  Consistently, throughout this remarkable season, the Blue Jackets faced stern challenges that many did not expect them to meet. Consistently they stood and delivered.

It is the taste of pride, anticipation and hope. No matter what happens next, the Blue Jackets and their fans can take great pride in what has already taken place. But we know that with this team, we can anticipate more. There is youth. There is talent. There is an undeniable chemistry. There is hope.

The glass is full, but it’s OK to keep pouring. Let it spill over the sides. There’s more where it came from. Catch the runoff with your tongue and have a taste. It tastes great, and it is more filling. It is the taste of playoff hockey.

Playoff Preview: CBJ vs. Pittsburgh

It’s pretty crazy to think about how much has changed since the Jackets last playoff appearance. Steve Mason was the savior. Rick Nash was the franchise. Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek were the future. RJ Umberger looked like a steal. Mike Commodore and Jan Hejda were a beloved shutdown pair. Ken Hitchcock was coaching them up. Scott Howson looked like a genius. Well Mason is the savior in Philadelphia. Nash is the franchise in New York. Jakub Voracek and Derick Brassard are the present in New York and Philadelphia. Mike Commodore is somewhere. Jan Hejda is a beloved shutdown defender in Colorado. Ken Hitchcock is coaching up St. Lous. And if you are paying attention, Scott Howson actually still looks like a pretty good GM. Make no mistake, this is Howson’s team. He brought nearly every single player on this roster into the organization. The most prominent player expected to play in this series that was a Jarmo/JD pickup is probably Blake Comeau. Both goaltenders were Howson pickups. Seven of the eight defensemen who might see time were Howson pickups (Nick Schultz being the exception). Comeau, Jack Skille and Corey Tropp are the only Jarmo pickups at forward (plus the injured Nathan Horton). I’ve already dwelled on this more than I planned on, I just wanted to make sure it was out there that this team was built by Howson. Moving on.

The Pittsburgh Penguins. Funny how the Jackets first two playoff opponents have been Detroit and Pittsburgh. I know some fans are concerned about Pens fans taking over the building. Think back on that last playoff series, and remember the atmosphere. Nationwide was rocking with CBJ fans, and I expect the same this time around. If Detroit fans couldn’t overtake the rink, I don’t see how it should be much different this time. As for the on-ice product, I expect this to be a very close series. At even strength at least. The two teams are actually very close when it comes to 5v5 play. In shots for percentage, they rank 13th (Pittsburgh) and 14th (Columbus). In Fenwick Close, they rank 12th (Columbus) and 16th (Pittsburgh). In Corsi Close, they rank 13th (CBJ) and 16th (Pit). In goals for percentage, they rank 8th (Pit) and 12th (CBJ). On other words, the Jackets are slightly better at controlling the play, while the Penguins score a tiny bit more. Which makes sense, considering the talent they have, as Crosby, Malkin, and others have shown they (and their linemates) can consistently score on more of their shots than league average. But then again, the Jackets have Bobrovsky. Like I said, this should be a very close series at even strength. Pittsburgh has been quite a bit better on special teams than Columbus. So on the surface, the edge lies with the Penguins. Let’s look deeper, comparing the forwards, defense, goaltending, and special teams. And maybe we’ll see how the Jackets might be able to pull of the upset.
Continue reading Playoff Preview: CBJ vs. Pittsburgh

March 31st-April 13 AHL/European Prospect Review

Greetings all! Back again with the week in review for the Blue Jackets prospects, ok two weeks but the CBJ were so busy last week and it would have been a light update from me so my superiors said I could take some time off.

Starting off in Springfield, two weeks ago the AHL decided to make it “lets screw with the Falcons normal routine” week as the team opened with an 11AM game followed by a trip into THE FUTURE… or St John’s Newfoundland where it’s an hour and a half ahead of Eastern Standard Time. We begin in Bridgeport, CT for a game against the Sound Tigers. Anton Forsberg made his North American debut in net. In the first, the Tigers’ goalie tried to play the puck but he fired it right into Dana Tyrell who found Jake Hansen who beat Poulin back to the crease to make it 1-0. Three minutes later, Marko Dano struck for his first North American goal when he took a pass from Cody Goloubef and snapped off a shot to give the Falcons a 2-0 lead. Late in the third, the Sound Tigers spoiled Anton’s shutout bid before Cody Bass scored an empty netter. In the 3-1 win Anton Forsberg made 25 saves and was named second star with Dano being named first star.

Continue reading March 31st-April 13 AHL/European Prospect Review

Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ @ Florida

Well there it is, game number 82 in the books. The final score was maybe a little closer than I would have liked to see, and Bob saw a little too much rubber, but all things considered, throwing up almost 80 shots on net in (basically) meaningless games is not too shabby. With the win, a match-up in the first round with the Penguins is now set, the Jackets will have a little time to heal/rest up, and the best season in franchise history continues on.

Third Star: Mark Letestu

Not much creativity by the star pickers tonight. Letestu scored, so he gets a star. Personally, I would have gone with Boone Jenner. Tied with a game high six shots on goal (with Fedor Tyutin), and paired up with Ryan Johansen for a dominating performance by that line. James Wisniewski was also quite good tonight. And hey, both of them picked up assists.  Continue reading Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ @ Florida

Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ @ TBL

I’m going to make this one quick. One: I’m a little drunk. Two: I don’t have too much to say about that game. I felt the Jackets were the better team, and controlled the play. But they didn’t do a good enough job forcing things offensively, settling too often for outside shots. More importantly, they allowed too many weak goals. I really dislike “blaming” the goalie, but this is the NHL. If the puck hits you, stop it. Really, that is all it takes to not drive me crazy. All three of those pucks were stoppable.

Third Star: Ryan Callahan

No points. No shots. But hey, he blocked some shots and hit some people. Know what that tells me? It tells me the Lightning barely touched the puck while Cally was on the ice. The advanced stats back this up, as he had 83.3% offensive zone starts and only 43% corsi. Easy zone starts, negative results. Congrats. Not giving this spot to Boone Jenner was a joke. A goal, an assist, hits, shots, dominance both in play and physically. Boone deserved better. Lets hope he scores a couple tomorrow and knocks Rick Na$h off the top spot of the CBJ rookie goal scoring leaderboard.
Continue reading Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ @ TBL

Announcing the Twitter #beardbrigade Challenge!

OK everyone, we’re in the playoffs. You know what that means, right? Playoff beard time! Just to make things interesting, here at the Union Blue we’re going to offer up an autographed puck to two lucky fans who participates in this time-honored playoff tradition! The rules are simple:

  • Once the regular season ends, no shaving. It’s bad luck. If you want to start from clean shaven, get that last shave in now because hopefully you won’t be using that razor and Barbasol for a while!
  • You must submit a before and an after picture. Before picture can be submitted any time before puck drop of the 1st playoff game. Copy @TheUnionBlue and apply a hashtag of #beardbrigade. After pictures can be submitted within one day of our elimination or hoisting the cup.
  • I understand that some of the members of the community may have challenges in growing a playoff beard for reasons of gender or age. Don’t worry, you’re not left out! Submit a before and after as well and get creative with what you make your beard out of! Cotton balls? Sharpies? $1 cotton candy? Anything goes!
  • Winners will be chosen by resident Union Blue beard experts based upon sheer beard volume, beard styling, originality with bonus points going to those who show the most pride in their work in progress!

Also, let’s see progress pics along the way! Any time you want to show off your finely quaffed face fur, let’s see it! Best of luck everyone, can’t wait to see your submissions!