Quite a series we have on our hands here. Another hard fought, close game, where a team comes back from two goals down (twice this time) to eventually win the game. If the first game showed the Jackets can hang with the Penguins in a series, this game showed they could pull off the upset. The Jackets now have home ice advantage, Bobrovsky hasn’t stolen a game yet, and Fleury hasn’t choked away a game yet. If anything, the goaltending battle has been in Pittsburgh’s favor so far. A stinker from Fleury and Bob stealing a victory would theoretically give the Jackets a dynamite chance at three wins this series (should they not happen in the same game). Couple that with a home win or two, and you have the recipe for an upset. A long way to go to get that far, but it continues tonight at Nationwide Arena. Let’s all get amped up for tonight with a look back at all the goals in the Jackets first ever playoff victory. Continue reading Goal Breakdowns: CBJ vs. Pittsburgh Game Two
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
Wow. What started as a bit of a snooze-fest on the front end of the game sure turned into an exciting conclusion for an all-important two points that the CBJ need to try to create some breathing room between them and others hunting down one of the wildcard spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Early in the game, the 4th line created some great energy and a gorgeous scoring opportunity that started with a gorgeous saucer pass from Letestu to Comeau’s stick and ended with Khudobin making an impressive save. Coming away with a win in a game where the Jackets never had a lead in regulation is huge and speaks to a trait that they’ll need to have if they expect to make the playoffs and be productive once there. Let’s take a peak at the stars of the game:
3rd Star: Artem Anisimov
I won’t argue this with the exception of maybe bumping him up above 3rd. While Joey’s OT game-winner was a great shot, Artem’s feed on that was the real work of art on that play. Couple that with his game tying goal in the 3rd and Anisimov simply came up big when it mattered most tonight. Love seeing that and can hope he can carry the momentum from tonight’s game into the rest of the season.
Losing sucks. Doubling up a team in shots and not winning sucks more. Holding a team to zero shots for an entire period, and still not winning? That’s practically unheard of. So we’ve covered that Tuesday’s game sucked. But let’s go into a little more detail. I was unable to watch the game unfortunately, so I don’t quite share my site-mate’s rage over the proceedings. But I did take a look at the goals, and the goals against had a couple things that really jumped out at me. So let’s talk about them and maybe point a finger or two in the right direction. Continue reading Goal Breakdown: CBJ vs. Carolina Edition
Wow. Well that was a game. It was everything we love and hate about the match ups with Nashville – physical play where one big play usually makes the difference. Now you can add stellar goal tending to the recurring trend of these games. Who can forget the flurry of saves Bob made against Nashville in the final game last season and he would do it again in the closing seconds to preserve another win. In his post game interview, James Wisniewski said that was as close to a playoff game as you get. I have to agree. We were fortunate enough to be at the game and the atmosphere was pins and needles. That game was intense, hard hitting hockey. That’s what you want to see – that’s what JD has promised us…and tonight we got it (well at least after the first period). With the Jackets’ divisional opponents scooping up points tonight the win was essential and the boys in Union Blue got it done. They travel to Dallas next and I have to believe they are gonna need the day in between to recover from that match up. So on to the three stars…
A dangerous back end of a back to back faced the Jackets tonight and, second period aside (woof!) the team showed up with what ended up as a decisive 4-2 win in front of a very healthy Tuesday night home crowd (If you win – they will come).
The trade deadline looms tomorrow and noone knows if we’ll see this same roster in Union Blue ever again, so let’s mark the moment and appreciate that the team definitely gave us some things to remember from tonight’s game. So let’s get on to the three stars…and, if you read the whole thing, enjoy a mini rant at the end of this recap.
Third Star: Boone Jenner
The resident CBJ man-child had a stellar game today. His no-nonsense style of play continues to get under the skin of opponents and the 8-19-38 is really singing. Talk about size. Boone started off the CBJ scoring early with a strong shot from the top of the circle and it jump started the 3 goal blitz that would later bring the Jackets the win.
Second Star: Sergei Bobrovsky
Many had wondered if the back to back start against a non-conference opponent was a waste of time Bob could use to rest up. Well apparently they need not worry. Without Bob in net, that game does not end up going the Jackets way tonight. A lackluster second period from everyone who was not in net, meant Bob had to come up time after time with the save. His calm on the ice was obvious, and his composure during a late flurry of shots from the Stars kept the Jackets in this game when the rest of the team wasn’t. Now, don’t get me wrong, he wants that second goal back…badly. But it was evident tonight why Bob is one of-if not the-linchpins of this team.
Well they certainly made it interesting at the end for us, didn’t they? With the Jackets in the thick of the playoff hunt, practically every game is a ‘must-win’ game. After the special teams shootout against Florida I was curious to see if we’d be able to get some even strength scoring on the road against Toronto. Luckily we got that even strength scoring from a rather unexpected source in Dalton Prout as well as surging Russian Olympian Artem Anisimov. Tonight’s 3 stars according to NHL.com include:
3rd Star: James Reimer:
Reimer kept the Leafs in a game that they had no business being in after the 2nd. While as a Jacket fan I take issue with the liberties he was taking with our players in/in front of his crease that went uncalled, if your teammates won’t clear the crease for you, sometimes the net minder has to take matters into his own hands.
Well the Blue Jackets returned to Nationwide Arena’s main ice for the first time in a month and, while it looked like there was still some rust being knocked off in a rare Saturday matinee, two points were earned, and in this playoff push, that’s all that matters. It’s worth noting that every CBJ goal tonight was earned on a power play, in a shorthanded situation or on an empty net (Thank goodness it was Florida in town). So without delay, let’s get on to the three stars…
3rd Star – RJ Umberger
RJ can get a lot of critique from the CBJ fan base, but today was a good day for him. RJ seemed really poised to play a physical game and found himself with quite a few chances. He played a gritty game and deservedly got a goal for his efforts. RJ played his role today and was deservedly rewarded. He ended the afternoon at +1 and was someone who was definitely energized by the line changes that Coach Richards put in place.
The Olympic break is just that. A nice little break to take stock of the season so far. Looking back so far over the season, there are really two Blue Jackets squads. There is the injury riddled, under-performing bunch from the start of the year. Then there is the top ten team from the last couple months. Is any of this really that surprising though? We knew Nathan Horton would be out to start the year. We knew Sergei Bobrovsky would regress. We knew this was one of the youngest rosters in the league, one that had barely played together over the last couple of years. That has all the makings of a slow start.
However, the first few months of the year probably went worse than would be expected. Just check out the Jackets’ goal differential from the first few months (where they played like a borderline playoff team, with only a -2 goal differential through December 22nd), to now, where they have played like a legit playoff team (currently +9, good for 10th in the NHL). So injuries plus weak goaltending provides results worse than should be expected. That’s all the makings for a turnaround. Aka the last two months are not a fluke.
So where do we go from here? I’ve got two views of it. The first, to follow in this post, is the small picture. It’s the trade deadline and this current offseason. You can’t fully discuss one without talking about the other. Player re-signings, rentals, prospects, draft picks; they are all just so intertwined, it makes sense to discuss both. The other view is the big picture, coming later this week. It’s based around a not-so-simple question: who do the Blue Jackets want to be?
With that being said, let’s look back to the current roster. Per CapGeek , the Jackets are currently sitting on around $2.5m in cap space, although they will have about $4m by the deadline. That means they can add up to that much in salary without sending any out. Basically, unless the Jackets are targeting one of a handful of premium rentals, they don’t need to move out anyone of significance. This picture gets even rosier this offseason. The team will have about $22m in cap space for next year, with ten forwards, four defensemen, one goalie signed. That is a lot of room to work with, and considering the young age of the roster, GM Jarmo Kekelainen and President John Davidson can take this team in just about any direction they want. I’m not Jarmo or JD, but here is the direction I would like to see them take, broken down by player status.
This post is a little scatterbrained. There isn’t really a common thread here, it doesn’t really fit into any kind of “narrative” whether that’s the Jackets season as a whole, their current playoff battle (currently 3rd in the Metro Division!), or even a narrative within itself. It’s just a bunch of video, a screenshot, and some commentary a few smaller items that I’ve noticed from the Jackets over the last couple of weeks. As with their play, it’s predominantly positive. There’s a couple of negative plays, so let’s start there. Beware, there are a LOT of videos, so this may take a minute or thirty-seven to load.