The Blue Jackets season ended Monday night in front of a packed house of appreciative fans. We here at tUB wanted to take a few days to reflect on the season as a whole and now we come together to share our thoughts on what was, perhaps, the greatest season in Blue Jacket history. Here’s what our team had to say…
I was out of the country for a bit there, lacking internet and good watching locations (although a packed bar all rooting against the Penguins was a great place to watch game four), so I missed a few games for the goal breakdowns. So here is a supercut from the last three outings. Not every goal is covered, but a couple from each game that stood out for one reason or another.
Game Three: Boone Jenner from Jack Skille and Ryan Johansen, 1-0 Jackets
A few things on this goal. First, holy hell, that is a pass by Ryan Murray. You can’t even see if it is tape-to-tape, but it sure looks that way by the time the camera catches up to Ryan Johansen. The pass creates a nice little insta-rush, but it really shouldn’t have come to anything. The movement by Johansen, Skille, and Jenner is what makes this dangerous. I like the creativity by the Johan here. He has to slow up to get help, which usually means getting the blueline, stopping hard, letting the defense sink back, the following forwards crash in, and the puck carrier walks into space. But Pens defender Olli Maata expects this and steps up on Johansen, so Joey cuts right into the heart of the defense, which pulls everyone in. From there, Skille and Jenner do a good job of spacing themselves out and forcing a decision by Maata. The rookie has Johansen, passes him off, and then has to decide between Jenner and Skille. Skille takes a shot and goes wide, stops Maata cold, and Jenner has all day to bury the rebound. Any time you can force players to change coverage and make decisions, you are going good work. Continue reading…
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…
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.
Coaching, Columbus Blue Jackets, General Manager / No Comments
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.
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…
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.
I jokingly mentioned to friends that I didn’t want Wizniewski or Gaborik on the ice for this game as the team roster that got beat in Philadelphia had to redeem themselves for that horrible loss. When I said that I had no idea I’d be single-handedly cursing Gaborik to yet more months on the IR. I’ll never make statements like that again. This game had a character test nestled within the character test that was the entire game and gave us a chance to learn a lot about our team. The obvious question going into tonight was how would we bounce back from a brutal loss at our own hands in Philly? At the end of the 2nd period tonight the obvious question was how would we bounce back from a brutal final 140 seconds of the 2nd period where two Flyers I frequently covet in Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier tied up what appeared to be a game that the CBJ had well under control. Early in the third, the Nikitin-Savard pairing made abundantly clear that there would be no such repeat of Thursday night.
3rd Star: David Savard
Savard played very well tonight. Sometimes an offensive spark comes from the most unlikely of places and tonight Savard was the flint to strike the cannon to trigger the boom. Watching the replay, you can see great motion from low to high in the form of Tropp => Nikitin => Savard who directs it to the high blocker corner of the net with little wind-up or wasted motion. Savard also nets a solid assist in Jenner’s deflection goal that came from a Nikitin blast from the point.