The Columbus Blue Jackets powerplay has been humming this season. They are currently sitting at 4th overall, scoring at a 24.3% clip. If they can keep that up, this would be the deadliest CBJ powerplay ever, as well as their top finish (records held by last years 11th place finish at 19.3%). So what has changed since last year? A lot. The personal hasn’t changed too much, but how they have been able to deploy that personnel has opened up more options, and allowed the powerplay to be more diverse. For all the things that RJ Umberger wasn’t good at, he was a pretty good net front presence on the powerplay. But that is Nick Foligno‘s job now, and he’s obviously flourished there. The other major components are Ryan Johansen, James Wisniewski, Jack Johnson, and the new member Scott Hartnell. It’s that last name that really opens up what the Jackets can do. Continue reading…
A slow first period for both teams lead into an interesting second period before the Jackets pulled away from the Minnesota Wild for a 3-1 win. It was a close game in every facet, from shots to faceoff wins, to blocked shots, and powerplay goals. A huge save by Sergei Bobrovsky on a penalty shot and a crucial kill on a four minute powerplay by the Jackets allowed them to maintain the 1-1 tie going into the third. From there, the Wiz-bomb took over, with a goal and tipped in shot providing the winning margin.
3rd Star: Zach Parise
Parise had a pretty solid game, doing everything for the Wild. He’s a very strangely rated player at this point in his career. I can’t decide if he is underrated or overrated. I feel like he doesn’t get discussed as much as he should when talking about the top two-way players in the game. But at the same time, he’s not the superstar he’s sometimes made out to be, and not the offensive force some seem to expect him to be. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an awesome player, but he was also on the losing side of the biggest play of the game tonight.
The last few games have provided plenty of goals for and (mostly) against which to look at in further detail (21 goals against and 15 goals for in only five January games). I’m only going to break down two goals though, one against the Blue Jackets during their 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders, and the game winning goal by the CBJ against the Dallas Stars. Now let’s get down to business.
The start of this game had me battling semantics. You could probably slice the “start” in three ways. In one way, it was pretty good. The Jackets got a good jump off the opening draw, forced the Avalanche back into their own end, who ended up icing it. That’s a pretty solid way to start off the first faceoff of the game. Another way you can slice it, is to look at the first period. That first period is probably the most dominant period the Jackets have put together this season. It was a master work of Blue Jackets hockey, keeping Colorado in their own ice nearly the entire frame. The Avs took their second shot of the game 1:07 in, yet didn’t pick up their third until their was only 2:29 left in the period. That is astounding. Now there is also a third way you can slice it, and that incorporates the first thirty seconds or so, and one of the worst passes you will ever see a professional hockey player make. David Savard clearly just didn’t see Jarome Iginla until it was too late. But it’s not like he was hiding or anything, he was right there, just above the spot where Savard was planning on passing the puck, with nothing but empty ice before the Jackets net. That was a bad bad bad bad bad play. Fortunately, that play (and a later Savard miscue) didn’t bury the Jackets, and Savard was able to play the hero, scoring the go-ahead 58:59 into the game. This gave the Jackets a 4-3 win, and brought them back up to .500 again after last night’s abysmal game against the Phoenizona Coyotes.
3rd Star: Brandon Dubinsky
There are many sounds to hockey that I love. The first cuts of a skate on a fresh sheet of ice ALWAYS brings a smile to my face. It’s tough to describe the feeling that sound generates. Sometimes, when I haven’t played in awhile, it can literally take my breath away. But it’s also like seeing an old friend, and knowing that nothing has really changed. That is the first sound I think of when I think of hockey. The second is the ping of the post. The post is like an instrument, and can generate multiple sounds depending on how you play it. You hit it dead on, you hear an almost ‘thongggg’ sound, as you hear the hollow of the post. Terrible sound. Makes me grit my teeth, like nails on a chalkboard. Hit it at a right angle and you get a deeper ‘ping’, like Ryan Johansen‘s shot with six minutes left in the game. I hate that sound too. It’s the sound of failure. Even though you beat the goalie, you know the puck is not going in when you hear that sound. Then there is the fainter ‘ping’ when you go bar-down (or post-in). It’s a glorious sound. It’s the purest goal you can score. It means you beat the goalie (obviously), but you put the puck in a spot where it almost didn’t go in either. It’s the Odell Beckham-style one-handed catch of hockey. Anything further the other direction, and you are hearing one of the other post sounds. Such a glorious sound. What does this have to do with Dubinsky? Well just go listen to his second goal again.
So I was planning on being positive tonight. My last few recaps have been super negative. I also seem to get saddled with the CBJ’s worst games. So the first period happens. Probably their worst period of the season. I come to the conclusion the team has the Union Blue recap schedule posted in the dressing room and choose to crap the bed when I have to write about it. I’m not going to say anything more about the first period other than it sucked and Sergei Bobrovsky kept them in it. Then the second period happened, and it was fantastic. One of the better periods of hockey the Jackets have played all season. They dominated the play, but they did it in the physical, “Blue Jackets hockey” way that we had all come to know and love. The third period wasn’t a dominant performance by any means, but it was damn entertaining. The Capitals outshot the Jackets in the third, but that felt more like a team down for a good chunk of the period pressing to tie it up. Which the Caps managed to do twice. Unfortunately, the Jackets couldn’t pull out the overtime victory, falling 5-4 and bringing the wining streak to an end. The Jackets now sit at 7-0-1 in the month of December. That is pretty good. Less good is the Jackets now sitting in no-man’s land in the standings. They are seven points back of the Caps and the Florida Panthers for the final playoff spots. They were 10 points back at the end of November. It’s just that hard to make up points in the standings, especially when giving out points to the opposition in overtime or the shootout. The Jackets have also pulled too far ahead of the bottom feeding Edmonton Oilers. So screw it. Let’s keep this thing going. Who cares if the Jackets only have a 1.6% chance of making the playoffs (per SportsClubStats). This team to too good to tank without sitting Bob (who is in a contract year), and a handful of other players. The odds may be stacked against making the playoffs, but they are equally stacked against ending up with McDavid or Eichel. So I’ve flipped back again, and am now pulling for the historic comeback.
Third Star: Karl Alzner
Any time a defensive defenseman has a multi-point night in a victory, he’s probably gettting a star. Even if his goal was Charmin soft (Bob really should have had that one). Alzner was fine, never really standing out in his 18:09 of ice time. Which I guess is good considering his role (think a less monstrous Dalton Prout).
So that makes five straight wins for the Blue Jackets. I’d love to be excited about that, but once again the Jackets were grossly outplayed by the opposition, only to see Sergei Bobrovsky stand on his head again. I wish I could be positive about this team, but it’s just so hard. They looked like they were shorthanded for most of the game, and while they were a man or two down for much of it, they could easily have spent more time on the penalty kill. There were a few calls they got away with late in the game that could have swung the game back in the Capitals favor. I don’t know what more to say about this team right now. They aren’t playing well. They really truly aren’t. The Capitals were the much better team in my eyes tonight, their best players were more dominant, with the obvious exception of Bobrovsky. Making things even murkier, the Jackets again give up a loser point to a team they are chasing in the standings (making it three of the five wins). Considering the massive amount of ground they have to pick up, they need to start beating teams ahead of them in regulation. Otherwise they are headed towards the 12th overall pick while never really sniffing the playoffs.
3rd Star: John Carlson
The star pickers in Washington are very different than most other teams it appears. Carlson is a very good all around defenseman, who played a very solid 25:07 for the Caps tonight, logging serious minutes on both the PP and the PK. But with only one shot on net, and a single assist, he didn’t have the kind of numbers you would expect. This is especially true considering the dominance of the Capitals in this game, and the nine shots fired on goal by Alexander Ovechkin.
Worst. Game. Ever. I will get to this in the Stud/Dud section a little more, but I really hated this game. A 4-3 shootout win, after blowing a 3-0 lead. Ugly to watch in every way, the Jackets were outshot by about a million, outshot attempted by about a billion, and just generally outplayed by about a trillion. Actually, just 55 to 20 in shots, and 99 to 35 in shot attempts (I stand by my outplayed by a trillion statement). Yet they somehow came out of the game with two points. Two points that probably do more harm than good, with the Jackets needing to play at “Best team in Hockey” pace to even sniff the playoffs.
Third Star: Sergei Bobrovsky
Bob was the sole reason the Jackets were in this game. He deserved a better effort from the team in front of him. On the bright side, he managed to notch a spot in the Jackets record books with a franchise record 52 save performance. He was the first star of this game, I don’t care what anyone else says.
Ahhhh the soothing feeling of watching an actual NHL hockey team play. I missed last nights win over Philly, so I can’t comment on it but this was the first game in a while that featured an actual NHL cast of characters wearing CBJ uniforms. This led to a strong effort, one of the more complete games the team has put together all season, against a pretty good San Jose Sharks team. Antti Niemi was solid in the loss for the Sharks, but the Jackets were able to beat him twice, and grind out a much needed back-to-back win. Those two points are huge, as they bring the Jackets only five points back of the Devils for third in the division (with a game in hand). That is probably their only road to the playoffs (the last wild card spot currently is seven points out of reach). I know it seems early to be looking that far ahead, but these wins really help in terms of digging out of the hole from the last month. On to the stars!
3rd Star: David Savard
With Fedor Tyutin on injured reserve, the Jackets leaned heavily on Savard on the penalty kill, as he led the Jackets defense with 3:10 shorthanded time on ice, as the CBJ blanked the Sharks potent powerplay. Of course, the reason he received a star was his goal in the opening frame, as he finished off some nice puck movement from Artem Anisimov‘s line, burying on the screened Niemi. The early goal gave the Jackets a lead they would never relinquish.
Well that game was basically a moral victory. The Jackets lost 3-2, and took zero points home, but they played hard, never gave up, and were in it right up until the last seconds. The Jackets ended up outshooting the Devils 34-29, and the possession stats can go either way, as the Devils had a slight edge in Corsi, while the Jackets had a slight edge in Fenwick (thanks to the CBJ blocking 15 Devil’s shots). Anton Forsberg was very solid in his first start, with two goals coming on screened shots, and one coming on a goal-mouth scramble. He gave them a chance to win, which is really all you can ask for from a rookie minor leaguer. In addition to Forsberg, I’d count another eight Jackets who could arguably be out of the lineup were the Jackets to actually be completely healthy. With all that considered, I’m pretty pleased with the effort the Jackets put forward tonight, the way they played the game (conservative, limit their own mistakes), and actually having a chance to win. Until they start getting some bodies back, I’m not expecting them to beat any decent team (and Jersey is decent), but would just like to see them make the games competitive..
3rd Star: Nick Foligno
What more can be said about Nick Foligno. I hate using words like manly and ballsy, as they are subtly ridiculously sexist. I’m having trouble coming up with a better way to describe Foligno’s performance tonight though. I was really not expecting him to play this game, and he took a shot off the head as well, and no one would have blamed him for not coming back. Instead, he not only barely missed any time, he played 18:17 of solid hockey (fourth among CBJ forwards). I thought the Ryan Johansen, Cam Atkinson, Scott Hartnell line was fantastic tonight (combined 15 shots on goal), but Foligno was easily the best player other than them. Continue reading…
Welcome to this week’s installment of Goal Breakdowns where I go over a couple of goals for and against from the last week of action for the Columfied Blue Falcons. Errrr Columbus Blue Jackets. Sorry, with all those Springfield Falcons in the lineup, I get confused sometimes. As it stands right now, the Jackets are looking to be without their starting goalie, their top scoring defenseman, and seven of their top ten forwards. The likely second line for next game is Marko Dano, Alexander Wennberg, and Jack Skille. That would probably be the Falcons top line should everyone somehow manage to get healthy. Let’s all hope guys start getting better, and that Scott Hartnell, Ryan Johansen, and Cam Atkinson (who could very easily have stayed out of the lineup after skatefacegate) keep up their torrid starts. This week I’m going to cover a few goals very quickly, both for and against, and go a little deeper into two others. Let’s get to it.