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.
That was a hockey game. Wait, that doesn’t really say what I’m trying to say. That was hockey game. One of the best games I’ve seen in a while. Both teams play such similar, hard styles, that when both teams play well, it’s just beautiful hockey. Had the Jackets managed to lose, I still think I would have greatly enjoyed watching that game. Made me wish the two could somehow meet in a playoff series. Imagine seven straight games of that? Man, that would be intense. Anyway, yeah the Jackets earned a hard-fought, well-played 5-3 victory over the LA Kings. It really was a true team effort, with pretty much every line and defense pair contributing at times, and Sergei Bobrovsky coming up with a few huge saves. With that being said, some Jackets shone brighter than others.
Third Star: James Wisniewski
Wiz was solid tonight with two apples (although Murray deserves both assists on Johansen’s goal). However, I’ll take him here as a stand in for the powerplay in general. They only went 1/3 on the evening but the puck movement was very solid, and they came away with ten shots. There was some nice trickery on the backend that they haven’t used as much in the past. A lot of movement away from the puck by the two defensemen and one of the forwards. It helped create a lot of space, best seen on Umberger’s powerplay goal, and when Letestu managed to get in all alone on Jones (he had five hole but pushed past it trying to go around Jones).
Continue reading Stars of the Night and Game in One Picture: CBJ vs. LA
You can’t support the Blue Jackets and not be ecstatic with tonight’s game. The Jackets were right there even strength with the Coyotes, were the better team on the powerplay, the better team on the penalty kill, and got the better goaltending. Don’t sleep on Phoenix either, as they are currently a playoff team in the tough Western Conference, and their 49 points would be second in the Metro division. Of course, I’ve buried the lede here, as Nathan Horton made his Blue Jackets debut. That went pretty well.
3rd Star: RJ Umberger
I have no issues with his placement here, even though he had a solid, if unspectacular game (outside of his goal of course). I tend to think of Umberger’s placement here as a vote for his entire line, which just continues to click. Foligno and Johansen were just as great as Umberger was last night, and while I’ve been hoping to see Horton take Umby’s spot on this line upon his return, RJ seems to be doing everything he can to hold onto it. He’s up to 11 goals on the year now, which puts him on pace for a very solid 22 goal, 46 point season. Continue reading Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ @ Phoenix
Picking up right where they left off before the Christmas break, the Blue Jackets faced off against a division opponent in the New Jersey Devils. The Devils are one of the many teams in the Metro bottleneck all vying for the coveted 3rd place automatic playoff bid. Like Blue Jackets fans learned at the end of last season it’s much better to be protecting a playoff spot then chasing one. Tonight’s game had a lot to like and a lot to think about how we’ll improve on. Without further ado, here’s my take on the NHL’s three stars of the evening.
Going in to this game on a night when 28 of 30 NHL teams were playing I was thinking to myself “what do we know about Carolina beside Staals and Malhotra?” Well we soon found out that what we need to know is Skinner and Peters…and oh, don’t hope for calls. But right about that time that the CBJ fan community was ready to accept defeat, this team turned on its heel and rewarded Mike McKenna with two late goals to give him the W. Arguably, it was the play of the ‘tender that kept the boys in Union Blue in it while they shuffled through the 2nd period and the better part of the third. And for once, the team with the surprise winning goals was our Jackets in a rewarding game against a division opponent for two much needed points. Merry Christmas indeed. The Jackets have 32 goals in the last nine games and need to keep that up through this run of divisional opponents.
Let’s look at what the boys from the NHL had to say as far as the three stars…