At the halfway point of the season I wrote about the second half expectations for the Blue Jackets. I looked at my preseason goal predictions for each player, then predicted how I thought they would perform over the second half of the season. Before I got to that point, I briefly discussed the team results. At the outset of the season, I had predicted a total of 128 goals scored on the season. I was off by a bit here, as they came in at only 120. However, I was off by the same amount in their goals against, as I had predicted they would come in at 127 goals allowed over the full 48 game season. Instead, they finished with 119 goals against. Excuse me for a second while I pat myself on the bat for exactly nailing their goal differential. In my preseason predictions, I hit another point that I think probably raised some eyebrows at the time: that the Jackets offense would actually improve with Rick Nash off in New York. And believe it or not it did (barely). The Jackets scored 120 goals this season, or the equivalent pace of 205 goals over 82 games. Not a great number, but better than the 202 goals the Jackets scored in 2011-12. Continue reading…
Here it is folks, the day you’ve all been waiting for. I bet every single one of you has been waiting on pins and needles to find out who wins the Clancy. It is awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community. Generally, this one goes to players who do extremely awesome philanthropy. As we aren’t exactly privy to that information it took on a little different flavor. And your winner is….. Continue reading…
A huge hard fought win for the Blue Jackets finally brings them into sole possession of a playoff birth. A great road game from the Jackets paid off huge, even though it looked like it might slip away from them in the 3rd period. Sergei Bobrovsky was his usual stellar self, only really getting beat on one goal. I’m not going to break down that ridiculous Dave Steckel goal (which even Puck Daddy thought was very strange), other than to say that it could have broken the team. Goals like that are the ultimate deflators. It could have ended the Jackets in this game, which probably would have ended their season. Instead, they didn’t miss a beat, tied it up a few minutes later, and pulled it off in overtime (again). You can’t praise the heart of this team enough. Let’s take a closer look at the goals: Continue reading…
The boys began yet another late game with the continuous roster roulette, subtracting the injured Nick Foligno and returning James Wisniewski to the defense. Sean Collins was also called upon to play forward and Coach Richards went with seven defensemen to pick up the load. Scratching John Moore and Colton Gilles. During the pregame, Dan Kamal mentioned how such a line up would force this team to make all the pieces fit and everyone would have to be solid. The implication being that this team needs to be 100% on 100% of the time. A drop in any one area would doom the game. He didn’t know how spot on he would be.
The game started off well. The line of Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson centered by Artem Anisimov would be the most solid unit on ice all night and struck early with a goal ten seconds in from Cam. Just when I had begun to wonder if he was cooling off a bit – Cam knocks one in and ties a franchise record. I don’t think Khabibulin had even gotten set in his stance. Lest you think Cam was done, he immediately assisted on goal number two passing to Matt Calvert. Jackets were up 2-0 and things looked good. Continue reading…
The Blue Jackets took to the ice Friday night in an attempt to extend their franchise record-breaking streak of consecutive games with a point to twelve games. It is hard to believe that this streak began nearly a month ago to the day when we were facing the tail of two incredibly tight losses to St Louis and Chicago that put the team record at 5-12-2, yet as the game began this evening, that momentum that has seemed to carry through this month was palpable.
A major contributor to their streak has been the penalty kill, slowly improving throughout and now resting in 3rd place amongst the other 30 National Hockey League teams. This penalty kill has been spotless in fourteen of their last fifteen games (including this evening), a combined total of 34 out of 35 or 97.14%. A combination of stymy defensive work along with high end goaltending have made this streak possible, and I personally believe it helps to provide this team with the confidence needed to play their game at even strength.
We’re officially at the halfway point, so I thought I would take a look back at my preseason individual goal predictions, the team predictions, and what to expect moving forward. First things first, lets start off with the team totals. My predictions had them finishing with a +2 goal differential over 82 games (or about +1 for 48 games), if they could raise their team save percentage from .903 to .910. Unfortunately, they are currently sitting at a -15 goal differential. The problem here hasn’t been just scoring or defense. I had them at 64 goals through 24 games and they are only 9 goals below that. On the defensive side, improvement was dependent upon raising the save percentage from .903 to .910, but it has actually dropped to .902. A jump to .910 would have reduced the first half goals against by 8. Aside from the predictions, the team has greatly improved so far this season. With league average shooting percentage and save percentage, the Jackets would be at a -6 goal differential (based on 60 goals for and 66 goals against). The Blue Jackets -60 full season goal differential from last year equates to a -17 over 24 games. For some perspective a -6 goal differential would tie them with Nashville, while a -17 would tie them with Edmonton.
Last night, I was able to purchase a ticket to attend the 2013 Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation’s “Black Tie Blue Jackets Style Show”. I’ve heard great things about this event for years and this was the year I finally decided to pool my dollars together and attend!
This year’s gala had the theme “Brightening the Journey” and from start to finish, it didn’t disappoint – not only as a fun time to be around the entire Blue Jackets organization but also as an event focused on the mission of giving back to the community specifically in the fight against pediatric cancer. I think it’s important to spend a moment talking about how much energy the Foundation spent incorporating the purpose of the night into everything. From the moment you walked in, you were greeted with large photos of the night’s “heroes” – young children battling pediatric cancer. Artwork from the children at Nationwide Children’s hospital was available for auction and the hero’s mingled with the group before the program started – some of them drawing just as big a crowd as some of our boys in Union Blue! We got to hear from the people leading the fight against cancer, and of course, the selected heroes were the stars of the style show that ended the evening. The fun and the joy on those children’s faces cemented their status as stars of the show (I think Colton Gillies’ hero has a lifetime crush on her runway escort – she beamed at him the entire time). I know I am not alone when I say that I have been touched by cancer through far too many people who are close to me. When you realize that the suffering you see/saw your loved ones go through is what these children are facing – its a harrowing discovery for sure. Continue reading…
An evening after an extremely hard fought win against Dallas and a fog delay which delayed their flight until this morning, the Blue Jackets took to the ice against a very strong Minnesota Wild team. Before they even arrived in St Paul, I had a sneaky suspicion that their previous twenty-four hours would degrade their effort on ice, but as a Jackets fan, the best thing we can do right now is be optimistic. This rings especially true with this group of players who we were told would be extremely hard working.
Fortunately for viewing entertainment, Columbus came out of the gate strong, controlling the play early on and forcing the issue deep into the Minnesota defensive zone. While the scoring chances were not piling, the opportunities were, and felt like it was only a matter of time before they struck. Tack on a Minnesota netminder in Backstrom who was handing over juicy rebounds all game, and it felt like the Blue Jackets faithful would be well on their way to the first win streak of the year.
But a thirty minute gap between the middle of the first period and near the end of the second period caused optimism to halt. Scoring chances, or even possession in the offensive zone seemed to become a premium for the Jackets. Goals by Koivu (sneaky goal from behind the goal line) and Gilbert (unfortunate off a block directly onto his tape — where was the Blue Jacket coverage again?) put Columbus in a familiar two goal deficit heading into the first intermission.
Justin Bourne at the Backhand Shelf had a fantastic post earlier today on rewarding grinders for playing well, then giving them too many minutes. We saw a little of this last night for the Blue Jackets. While the 4th line of Colton Gillies, Mark Letestu and Jared Boll played around six minutes of even strength ice time, they were quite effective in doing so. As the game wore on, CBJ Coach Todd Richards ending up rewarding them. Through most of the game, they were doing exactly what a 4th line is supposed to do. They kept the puck deep in the offensive zone, they threw the body around with abandon, got the fans and teammates excited, and (most importantly) they avoided getting scored on. They even managed to draw a couple of CBJ powerplays. This fine play resulted in the bountiful reward of a few extra minutes of playing time in the 3rd period, as almost half of their ice time came in the final frame.
A little over 10,400 Blue Jackets faithful showed up to Nationwide Arena last night to see if our hometown team could finally deliver a regulation win against the Dallas Stars based on the “never be outworked” philosophy that was promised this season. After some early back and forth, it was confirmed that both Jagr and Benn would be in the lineup, and the placement of Lehtonen in goal promised us a good challenge for the match up.
The early part of last night didn’t show much promise. We were outskated, continued to play poorly in the neutral zone, and did not seem to be up to the challenge of another game so quickly after the
tie loss to Chicago. The Blue Jackets execution on the power play was non-existent early on in the game. This included the inability to capitalize on an 5-on-3 opportunity that seemed to seal our fate and cement the fact that the goals just weren’t going to come this year. It was nearing the end of the second, with the boo birds coming out, that I found myself with some rationalizations “Well, at least there’s hockey”; “Hey, at least we’re facing a #1 goalie and not a back-up”.