OK, this is getting ridiculous. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: final score of 4-3 after one team being up 3-1. After the first period it was hard to be too optimistic that lightning would strike for the 4th time in a series and that we’d be on the favorable end of it. Tonight the CBJ faithful were treated to nothing less than a fairy tale story of a young, playoff-inexperienced team that simply didn’t know how to die. I left Nationwide Arena to thunderous echoes of ‘CBJ! CBJ!’ from an inspired and excited fan base. Here are the players that made the magic tonight:
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
Tonight, the Blue Jackets won their first ever playoff game against the mighty, storied Pittsburgh Penguins. We’ll get to the game recap in a second, but please indulge me a tiny bit of nostalgia. It’s truly a distinct pleasure and honor to reflect on tonight’s game. The woes of the Jackets team have been many and well chronicled. For many of us, the reality of tonight was a hope…a far off dream – something that might happen. That dream steeled our resolve when we took insults or pity from fans of other teams. That dream drove us to find one another and connect and find our strength as a group because no one knew what kind of a struggle being a Blue Jackets fan could be. That hope kept us coming back game after game, player after player…we wore our CBJ gear with pride and tried to share the gospel of a team that maybe someday would be considered a contender.
Friends, tonight dream became reality and “someday” is today – courtesy of Matt Calvert’s tenacious second whack at a puck against a scrambling Marc Andre Fleury.
I don’t know where each of you were when you watched the game go down but I am sure we came together one time more – struggling and fighting panic in TWO overtimes and then with the victory processing shared disbelief, followed by relief, followed by unbridled joy.
It’s a great time to be a Blue Jacket fan – this team is a group that believes and, perhaps sometimes more than we are able to, puts the past in the past and focuses on building a future to be proud of.
To put it simply, tonight was special. Really special. Let’s look at the three stars as named by NHL.com
So a 4-3 game one loss is in the books. I guess you could call it a moral victory, although I would call it a missed opportunity. Marc-Andre Fleury was as shaky as advertised in the first half of the game, the game was more or less even at 5 on 5, but the Penguins powerplay and a few key mistakes brought down the upset attempt. I’m only going to breakdown two goals completely, as for the most part there wasn’t a whole lot of hidden elements in most of the goals. The Jackets opened the scoring with a huge individual effort from Brandon Dubinsky (although Jack Johnson scored the goal). The Penguins followed that up with a Jussi Jokinen goal that resulted from Sergei Bobrovsky misplaying the puck, Fedor Tyutin misplaying the puck, Derek MacKenzie letting his man go (probably thinking Tyutin was going to corral the puck), and Bob being a little out of position after scrambling back into the net. The Jackets grabbed the lead right back on a Mark Letestu powerplay goal. I like the puck movement on that goal, really spreading out the zone and forcing Fleury to move. The goal ultimately came off a scramble that saw Fleury needing to move across the net. They have to keep that up. MacKenzie made up for his earlier gaffe, with a great individual effort on the PK to take the puck from Kris Letang and beat Fleury on a breakaway. The Penguins made it 3-2 on a powerplay goal by their second unit, off a great tip by Beau Bennett. I would have maybe liked to see Dubinsky pick up Bennett as he comes across there, but no major mistakes on that goal.
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
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.
Disappointing end to what once looked so promising. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this game, as the Jackets have traditionally struggled with the Avalanche’s speed. But minus top scorer Matt Duchene, the Avalanche were not able to pull away like they usually do. The Jackets controlled play for the first two periods, carrying a resounding two goal lead into the third period. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hang on, and a (justified) penalty on Artem Anisimov put the Avs on a 4v3 powerplay in overtime to seal the deal. On the bright side, the Jackets got a point, New Jersey only got one point, and Washington got crushed. So the CBJ stay in a playoff spot for the time being.
Continue reading Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ vs. Colorado
A valiant effort, but a disappointing outcome as the Jackets fall 2-1 in regulation to the Penguins. The Jackets controlled the play for most of the game, but couldn’t buy a goal until it was too late. Strange flow to the game tonight, as the first and second periods were riddled with penalties and powerplays, but no goals. The third was a barnburner, with the two teams combining for a whopping 28 shots on goal (and only one powerplay). The bad news is a regulation loss. The good news, is the Maple Leafs also lost in regulation. This still leaves the Blue Jackets in the drivers seat in terms of making the playoffs. Four teams are still tied at 80 points. The Jackets still hold the regulation wins tiebreaker over Washington, Detroit and Toronto. Columbus no longer has a game in hand on anyone, but they do still have on over the Leafs. So it’s on the Jackets players now. The playoffs are in their hands. If they equal or better the teams they are battling, they make the playoffs. If two of those three teams outplay them, then the CBJ didn’t deserve to make the playoffs anyway.
Continue reading Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ vs. Pittsburgh
We all knew coming into this game how important tonight’s match up were for the CBJ playoff hopes. Obviously, anything less than 2 points would have been unacceptable and even though the Jackets have had the Red Wings’ number in recent years, they’re never a team to take lightly, especially with young talent like Nyquist and Tatar stepping up in times of veteran absences due to injury. Be it team proximity, old Central division rivalry or just two teams playing for their playoff lives, those in attendance at Nationwide Arena were treated to another great game that gave the home fans a lot to be happy about. Tonight’s 3 stars include:
3rd Star: Curtis McElhinney
While I’m not goalie expert, I can only imagine being a backup to someone like Bobrovsky who would sooner play a game without pads on than miss out on ice time has got to be incredibly difficult. Based on his post-game interviews it sounds like McElhinney had all expectations that he’d start tonight only to find out after warmups that Sergei would be in net. In addition to the practice and physical preparation that goes into being an NHL net minder, the mental prep/routine for a day where you start is well documented and many goalies don’t do well with interruptions to this routine. Curtis assumed his position on the bench for the 1st period and I can only presume he was disappointed. Imagine getting the tap at 1st intermission to be told you after all are going in. Curtis came in and while he allowed some pretty juicy rebounds early, he found his rhythm after a bit and gave the team a chance to win. Admirable performance by McElhinney tonight against a tough team in what’s arguably the most important game to date. This is a star well-earned.