OK, is there a better team to host for the home opener than the New York Rangers? These games are becoming absolute gems where both teams play hard, things often get a bit nasty and you know that anyone could be the hero of the night. Fans who packed the Arena District this Saturday night were rewarded with not only a CBJ win over a division rival but an absolute heckuva game. Let’s get into who the NHL picked as the 3 stars and who could be perceived as the studs and duds.
Well friends, it’s hockey season. Welcome back to the crazy 82 game ride. Luckily, the Jackets started on an up note. Buffalo, a team that finished in last place last season, wasn’t exactly an intimidating opponent and arguably a welcome first opponent for a very different looking Jackets roster than a lot of fans expected. Nonetheless, the team suited up, with newly returned Ryan Johansen and three rookies suited up to beat the Sabres 3-1.
If you’ve not been with the Union Blue for these recaps in the past, a quick primer. Every game we look at the three stars as named on NHL.com and let you know if we agree or disagree. We then name one “stud” and one “dud” from the game and wrap it all up with a glorious piece of art from the famous @RockmanHalo. So let’s get to it…
Gut punch. No other way to describe it. With three seconds to go the Blackhawks scored the winning goal after a mess in front of the Blue Jackets net. Blame officiating, blame a missed call, blame the wrong line up, blame confusion on the bench to avoid a too many men call – the score stands. No crying over spilt milk. The reality is a team that was this close to finally getting at least one point against Chicago did not. This game hurt. It hurt a lot – more than just in the standings. Let’s look at the three stars:
3rd Star: Ryan Johansen: First goal of the second period and a way to set the tone for what would be a back and forth game. As of this writing, Extra Skater is still stuck at 9 minutes to go in the game but at that point, Ryan had the best Corsi of the night for the Blue Jackets so let’s live in that world shall we and factor in the one Blue Jacket that got a star.
Before tonight’s game there were seven games left. Every one a piece of what equates to a playoff series. The Jackets needed a win in their next to last matchup against a Metro division opponent and they got one tonight. A huge 2-0 victory – the first on Philly ice and the first against former Blue Jacket Steve Mason. The Jackets also played to WIN and never sat back on their laurels – a response to a lead the CBJ faithful have been wanting to see. Six more games lie in wait – including another big match up tomorrow so let’s take the little time we have to revel in this win and celebrate the three stars according to the NHL. (Sidebar – if you watched the Fox Sports Ohio broadcast, get ready for a different lineup here)
3rd Star – Steve Mason: Ok I’m sorry but I’m gonna chalk this up to hometown writers. Mase had 25 stops on 27 shots and was admirable, but the second goal went in standard five hole, and Mason was the losing goalie on ten fewer shots than the winning goalie. Just doesn’t fly based on the game I watched. Would have preferred to see Brandon Dubinsky or even Matt Calvert here.
Well that was a riotous affair. In a game that will be much like every other game through the end of the season, Jackets fans held their breath while watching the Jackets bring home a 3-2 all important regulation win (increase that ROW!) An important victory – as they all will be – but a good story on the season as the Jackets got better (as far as winning) each time they played the Canadiens. Let’s also not discount going into that barn and stealing two points from the home town team. On to the three stars…(because really at this point we’re all looking to the match up against the Rangers, right?)
The appearance of Jagr and Brodeur marked what started off horribly for the Jackets and the home crowd. But somehow this team found a way to gut out an ugly 5-4 win after going down 3-1 early and take two points from a team that is ahead of them currently in the Metro. It was season ticket holder “free food” night at Nationwide and thankfully the team gave people a reason to return to their seats versus just standing in long lines for tasty eats all night. So let’s get to it and look at the three stars per NHL.com.
Well that was a hockey game. A complete 60 minute effort from the Jackets roster made for a an exciting and rewarding game for everyone who took it in. And HUZZAH! The yo-yo W-L-W-L pattern was broken in spectacular fashion with a shut out for McElhinney. While the crowd was sparse, those who braved the winter storm certainly found the effort to get downtown worth the while. There’s some lingering worry about Wisniewski and Calvert who both left the bench before the game is over, but let’s take tonight at least to celebrate the work of a team that didn’t stop. And we get to run our first official Game in One Picture! Read on!
3rd Star: Curtis McElhinney
You can’t underestimate the importance of a strong showing from McElhinney is his first outing as the go-to ‘tender with Bob on IR. Curtis delivered in spectacular fashion! While he certainly plays farther out of the net than Bob-ites may be used to seeing, he stopped all 20 shots he saw – including 4 from power plays – and inspired some strong play in front of him from the defense. To be honest, it was surprising that the goalie didn’t walk away with first star honors considering what was on the line.
2nd Star: RJ Umberger
Tonight marked RJ’s 400th game as a Blue Jacket and he clearly wanted to mark that moment in more than one way. He did what he’s supposed to do with some physical play – taking two penalties – and then notching a goal and an assist. The goal was mainly due to a beauty of a pass from Foligno but the genuine joy on RJ’s face after the puck went in made you genuinely happy for the guy. A big contributor tonight – worthly of notice.
1st Star: Nick Foligno
Remember last year when the Foligno trade was the one forgotten in the wake of the Nash blockbuster? Well #71 is certainly showing himself to be worth getting. He played a worthy 18 minutes and went 1-1-2. The assist to Umberger was amazing and perhaps would be garnering even more buzz if we all still weren’t basking in the glow of his highlight real goal versus Tampa Bay earlier this week. Foligno seems to be a key driver of this team both on and off the ice and his name is entering the conversation for future captain. I’m still scratching my head a bit as to why McElhinney isn’t number one, but if Foligno is going to take it away, that’s ok.
Game in One Picture
Stud: Boone Jenner
Remember when we were debating if Boone should spend a year in Springfield? Yeah me neither. This guy was buzzing all night – putting in the work. He was finally rewarded with a 3rd period goal, after 13 games without one, and this is a guy who certainly speaks to the identity the Jackets are trying to build and shows he can be a key part of the future of this team.
Dud: Mother Nature
We know the team is struggling, and we know that the only thing that consistently puts butts in seats, but after a low turnout Tuesday, did ya really have to pummel us with “snowmageddon 2013″ to even some of the most ardent fans at home? Ah well – the fans who did show up got to see something great…let’s just hope there’s manageable weather for all home games in the foreseeable future.
It’s been a tough road critiquing the Blue Jackets over the last ten games. Should I be acknowledging their convincing wins as playing to their potential, or are they showing up against opponents hitting the snooze button? Many in the Toronto realm seem to think that convincing loss was one of the worst performances by Toronto in recent history. Despite all the sharp edges around recent tweeting, I’m actually pretty optimistic about the team when they are off the ice, leading me to believe that none of their wins were flukes.
As of December 1st, Columbus is 6th of 30 NHL teams in man games lost (101). Somewhat dated on account of the game played last night, but it does show that while Columbus is averaging around 3.75 players out per game, and considering the caliber of players who have missed time (Horton, Gaborik, Dubinsky, Jenner, Calvert, Foligno etc), it’s no surprise that the idea of man games lost as a crutch for mediocrity would be used.
Well we couldn’t let a group of guys going after revenge get it without causing some nervous moments, but luckily the boys in Union Blue were up to the task tonight and beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 in Columbus. It’s a crucial two points, and yet another “up” in the constant yo-yo’ing this team is doing so we’ll see what happens tomorrow in Boston but for now, let’s look at tonight’s three stars (These are a lot more fun when we get to talk about Jackets)
Third Star: Sergei Bobrovsky
Can’t argue here. Bob faced 28 shots, and gave up two goals. He showed fairly solid play and was supported by a defense that seemed much more interested in helping him out tonight – well except for the third period when 8 minutes of penalty killing took it’s toll and resulted in one power play goal and one goal immediately after the power play expired. The first Bryz vs. Bob matchup showed Bob as the winner.
After the hole Columbus dug themselves during losses to Edmonton and Vancouver, I was ready to see another convincing loss against Toronto and a major shakeup. It’s not that pessimism has taken over my mentality for the team, in fact, I still believe on paper they are about as capable as any other team in their division to compete for a playoff spot. Rather, it just seemed like par for the course, after the way they’ve played, and the injuries they’ve suffered.
Instead, my smile increased throughout the game. The matchup brought shocked satisfaction as Columbus controlled the puck, limited mistakes, and caused turnovers which lead to odd man rushes for the first real time this season. It was exciting, and even caused me to watch the late night replay so I could take in the quality effort again. They deserved to win the game, and they did the right things. With the exception of Toronto basically sitting back and letting them win, I could not be more impressed by their efforts.