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.
Continue reading Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ Philadelphia
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.
Continue reading Three Stars and Game in One Picture: DET @ CBJ
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?)
Continue reading Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ MTL
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
The Jackets continue their breakneck speed chase to the playoffs. Tonight, the 3rd team in the West came to town – the San Jose Sharks (who are currently on a tear through the east). And let’s not forget how freakin’ good the West is. It was a mighty test after the Jackets have faltered against “really good” teams like St. Louis, Chicago and Pittsburgh. This may have been the Jackets’ best showing to date and that’s a good sign for a team that is building up to hopefully join the “really good” teams in the NHL. The boys brought home a point and couldn’t convert in the skills competition – but it was a good showing keeping the CBJ tied with the Rangers for one more night. And of course, props to Richards for putting Cam in the shootout lineup to confound any conspiracy theorists that are out there in CBJ land. On to the three stars…
3rd Star: Joe Pavelski
Joe Pavelski is good at hockey and he’s having a career year already matching the 66 points this far into the season as he had in his previous career high in 2010-11. He had a lovely assist to Mr. Marleau when the Jackets erred on the kill by sending two forwards deep into the offensive zone letting the Sharks skate with the man advantage in and Pavs simply had to feed it to Marleau for goal number three. When guys have that kind of talent, you can’t do that. Well, you can’t do that in general but you know what I mean. Pavs also had the only goal of the shootout so there’s that – he get’s a star.
Continue reading Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: SJS @ CBJ
What a huge night for the Blue Jackets. They entered the evening coming off a strange, emotional night last night, tied with Detroit for the final playoff spot, facing the Red Wings, and with a number of teams battling for the final playoff spots in action. The night went about as well as possible. The Jackets beat the Wings in regulation. The Devils beat the Flyers in regulation. The Penguins beat the Capitals in regulation. The Hurricanes beat the Rangers in regulation. Now if the Sharks can beat the Leafs in regulation (2-1 SJS at the time of posting), the night will be complete. The Jackets now sit in 3rd place in the Metro division, only one point back of the Rangers, who have played an extra game.
As for the game itself, well it started off ugly. It got a little better in the second period. Then woo boy was that a hell of a third period. Huge effort to stick with it and pull off the much needed two points (and almost as important keep Detroit from getting any).
Continue reading Stars of the Night and Game in One Picture: CBJ vs. Detroit