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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Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ FLA

Posted by The Coach on December 05, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets / 1 Comment

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.

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Three Stars and Game in One Picture: SJS @ CBJ

Posted by The Coach on November 15, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets / No Comments

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

Posted by The Coach on November 01, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets, Stars of the Night / No Comments

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…

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Goal Breakdown: Rookie Mistakes, Hartnell Love, and a Powerplay Entry

Posted by The Coach on October 29, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets / 1 Comment

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 HartnellRyan 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.
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Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ SJ

Posted by The Coach on October 24, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets / No Comments

Well that was a game. Maybe not the prettiest win in the world, but a win is a win, and a nice way to start off a west coast road trip. The Jackets looked like they were going to get blown out, getting dominated by the Sharks in the first period, and looking like the weaker squad through the first half of the second. Strangely, once the Jackets took the lead, they also took control of the game for a while. Another slow start at the beginning of the third period setup a pretty wild final frame. Joe Pavelski tied it up, then Cody Goloubef committed one of the worst turnovers I’ve ever seen (how do you not take a look there) to Logan Couture who buried the go ahead goal. The Sharks seemed to take control of the game for the next few minutes until the Jackets managed to get some sustained pressure, drew a penalty, and then tied it up on the powerplay. Then the final minute and a half happened. Ryan Johansen scored a hat trick, let’s get that straight. The refs straight up blew that call. Nick Foligno was pushed into the crease, barely made contact with Niemi, then was out of the way of the goaltender when the shot was taken. Had he not been pushed in, or had he been making contact with Niemi still when the shot was fired, I’d have no issue with that call. But it was Joe Thornton interfering with Niemi, not Foligno. Fortunately, Mark Letestu let the refs off the hook a minute later with the game winner.

3rd Star: Mark Letestu

Two goals, including the game winner, 54% on faceoffs, a game high +10 corsi, and some damn fine penalty killing. That’s more than enough for the third star. Let’s backtrack to his first goal though. Holy what a pass by Artem Anisimov. Just a beautiful saucer pass right where it needed to be. Letestu had a nice finish on that one as well.
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Goal Breakdown: Johansen Finds Some Space, and a Few Things Not To Do

Posted by The Coach on October 22, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets / No Comments

Welcome to the second Goal Breakdown of the season. I mentioned it at the top of the last post, but I will do it again here. This year I will be putting out a Goal Breakdown every Wednesday night, generally featuring one goal for the Jackets and one goal against, that will go through the nitty gritty of what made that goal happen for the Jackets (good or bad). Last week’s Goal Breakdown post featured Cam Atkinson‘s goal against the Sabres, and Rick Nash’s goal during the Rangers game. This week will see a slight tweak, with all three goals against the Senators being quickly discussed, and a deeper look at Ryan Johansen‘s goal versus the Flames. Continue reading…

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Goal Breakdown: Cam Snipes on the Sabres, Duclair Makes Amends

Posted by The Coach on October 15, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets / 2 Comments

Welcome to the initial Goal Breakdown for the 2014-15 Blue Jackets season. If you are here, you’ve probably seen one of these posts in the past. If you haven’t seen one before, then welcome, and enjoy. I’m going to be doing these a little different this year than in the past, with a new Goal Breakdown being posted every Wednesday (give or take). They won’t be game specific, but will usually feature one goal scored by the CBJ, and one scored against them. I will tend to focus on what the Blue Jackets are doing (or not doing) that led to the goal being scored, usually beyond the obvious “the goalie didn’t stop it”. I will mostly use goals from the previous week, but will look at older goals if anyone has a question about how any goal happened. If you have a request, you hit me up on Twitter @TheCoachUB. I don’t tweet much, but if you mention me I will probably see it eventually. Today’s post will feature Cam Atkinson‘s powerplay goal versus Buffalo, and Rick Nash’s goal late in the game versus the Rangers.
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The Rebound Tracking Project: An Introduction

Posted by The Coach on October 07, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets, Stats / 3 Comments

Of the four major North American sports leagues, hockey has been the slowest to take to advanced stats. It’s no surprise really. Hockey isn’t parcelled out into nice little segments like baseball and football. The possession’s aren’t as neat and easily definable as they are in basketball. Hockey is a dynamic, fluid mess of players and equipment. Attempts have been made, and it is amazing the progress that has been made in the development of advanced stats given the paucity of data. Hockey is similar to basketball this way. Go back a few years ago, and the most advanced stats going on were on-court/off-court plus-minus, and other similar measures. Any hockey fan should know the dangers of judging a player by plus-minus. Basketball was probably behind hockey until SportVu was introduced. Suddenly, there was an overflow of data, and smart people were able to take that data, and figure out better ways to play the game, better ways to assemble rosters, and a whole world of other ideas, many of which don’t leave team facilities. Hockey needs a SportVu.

Now there has been talk of this happening for a couple years now. In the meantime, intrepid people like Eric Tulsky and Corey Sznajder decided to stop waiting for a SportVu-esque data collection measure to come to hockey and just track items themselves. Primarily this has been through scoring chances and zone entries/exits. Through this fantastic work, we’ve learned a lot about the game of hockey. We are finally connecting dots between the classic hockey thought and advanced stats. Every coach in hockey history has emphasized the importance of the the blueline. Now we know how important it is, and what the best way to cross it or defend it is. We know what plays gain added value from this. That’s a massive step forward from using shot attempts to sorta, kinda measure possession. Alison and I at the Union Blue want to continue on in the good spirit of those who started tracking games (since most of them now work for actual NHL teams).  Continue reading…