Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ vs. MTL

Posted by The Coach on February 27, 2015
Columbus Blue Jackets / No Comments

The Jackets dropped a 5-2 decision to Montreal, although that maybe wasn’t even the biggest Jackets related news of the day. Shortly before puck drop they announced they had dealt Nathan Horton‘s back to the Toronto Maple Leafs for David “Wendel” Clarkson. I’ll address that trade a bit later. As for the game, the Jackets took on the powerhouse Canadiens, and it didn’t go super awesome. After falling behind quickly, the Jackets evened it up just as quickly, before falling behind again almost as quickly. That third goal was one of the rare NHL goals that are almost entirely on the goaltender. After a brutal turnover by Curtis McElhinney, he then struggled to get set for the shot, and then let the puck go right through him. Not great. The game was never really in doubt after that, until a brief period after Marko Dano made it a two goal game but before the Canadiens iced it with an empty netter.

3rd Star: Marko Dano

I was all prepared to write about Dano bailing out on the first Montreal goal (gotta get in that shooting lane, no excuses there), and compare it to Brandon Dubinsky going hard to the net, scoring, and getting hurt. Was going to be something about about the difference between needing to win and wanting to win. Well then Dano plays the rest of the game like his pants are on fire, scores the second goal to get them back in the game, and even had a play he didn’t score on that was quite similar to Dubi’s play earlier. So now I don’t know what to think. No excuse for his work on the Subban goal, so I guess kudos to either himself for getting his ass in gear, or whatever coach kicked his ass in gear.

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Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ vs LAK

Posted by The Coach on February 09, 2015
Columbus Blue Jackets / No Comments

If you only saw the opening and closing of the Jackets 4-3 loss to the Kings tonight, you might think they played a pretty good game. You’d be wrong. Despite a strong opening couple minutes, halfway through the third period this looked like one of the Jackets worst games of the season. Fortunately they picked it up, David Savard scored late, and they made an exciting game of it by the end. But man were those middle 48 minutes atrocious. Just embarassingly terrible. They were clearly not in the game tonight. They twice gave up a goal immediately after scoring one themselves. This isn’t a loss to be blamed on injuries, like many this year. This game was about one team clearly outworking the other. The scoreboard may look close, but the 44-26 shot differential tells a clearer tale, especially when you consider the Jackets picked up the final four shots of the game, and outshot the Kings 12-8 over the final ten minutes (in other words the shots were 36-14 with 10 minutes left).

3rd Star: Scott Hartnell

Many congratulations to Hartnell on his 1000th career game, and his goal was a beauty.

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Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ OTT

Posted by The Coach on February 07, 2015
Columbus Blue Jackets / No Comments

The ultimate deceiving score game. A glance at just the score makes it look like the Jackets won this one handily against the Ottawa Senators 4-1, but an empty net goal and a post ENG goal made a super tight game look more lopsided. Even though the game was deadlocked at zero through two periods, it was a superb back-and-forth affair with some serious ebbs and flows. After the Jackets took the lead in the third period, the Senators pressed like crazy until Nick Foligno‘s goal gave the Jackets a two goal lead. That Sens continued to buzz, and managed to bring the game to within a goal, but Curtis McElhinney and company were able to hold them off until Scott Hartnell could bury the empty netter and Mark Letestu could bring it home with a rare post-empty net goal.

3rd Star: Nick Foligno

I was watching the Ottawa feed of the game, and boy do they love them some Foligno. He was a monster though, and that goal, just wow. He was very good all game, but he deserves a star just for his effort that ended up as the game winner.

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Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ FLA

Posted by The Coach on January 30, 2015
Columbus Blue Jackets, Stars of the Night / No Comments

Technical difficulties led to this review not getting posted until later than planned. Wait, that sounds a lot like the Columbus Blue Jackets. Injuries are to people, as WiFi issues are to computers (more or less). This team has so many pieces I like, but just can’t seem to get them together at one time. Artem Anisimov  returned to the lineup in last nights 3-2 loss in Florida to the Panthers, but the only star from the Blue Jackets tells the story.

Third Star: Curtis McElhinney

I’ve written probably 10,000 words on him by this point, most of them not particularly flattering. He was a very good minor league goalie, but at the NHL level he just can’t quite cut it. He was the third star last night, after picking up 28 saves on 31 shot attempts. That isn’t terrible, but it equates to a .903 save percentage, slightly below his .906 for the season. This season 57 goalies have played at least 10 games. A .903 save percentage would rank 44th, with his .906 putting McElhinney at 38th. These are the numbers of an average backup goaltender. The kind of guy you are okay playing ten games a year while your workhorse plays the rest. McElhinney’s 38th place ranking is a little disingenious, as most of the guys behind him are also backup goalies, so while he may be near the median in terms of save percentage, he’s a long way off from the average. McElhinney’s played 17 games this year, and I would be shocked if he finishes with less than 30. If a backup goalie is going to play that many games, he needs to be better than an average backup. The difference between a 72-10 split and a 52-30 with a .930 starter and a .906 backup is 15 goals. That may not sound like a lot, but it probably turns six or seven wins into losses and a few regulation wins into shootout or OT wins. Removing ten regulation wins (and the 20 points that come with that) into ten points (say three shootout/OT wins, four shootout/OT losses, and three regulation losses) is a big difference.

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Goal Breakdown: A Look at the Blue Jackets’ Powerplay

Posted by The Coach on January 23, 2015
Columbus Blue Jackets / No Comments

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 JohansenJames WisniewskiJack Johnson, and the new member Scott Hartnell. It’s that last name that really opens up what the Jackets can do. Continue reading…

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Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ MIN

Posted by The Coach on January 20, 2015
Columbus Blue Jackets, Stars of the Night / No Comments

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.
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Goal Breakdown: Good and Bad Foligno, Quick Passes, and Tropp Goes Many Places

Posted by The Coach on January 14, 2015
Columbus Blue Jackets / No Comments

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.
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Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ COL

Posted by The Coach on January 05, 2015
Columbus Blue Jackets, Stars of the Night / No Comments

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.

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Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ vs. WSH

Posted by The Coach on December 19, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets, Stars of the Night / No Comments

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).
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Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ WSH

Posted by The Coach on December 11, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets / 1 Comment

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.

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