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
The Jackets took down the Isles in a slightly early evening affair (not many 6pm starts). It was something if a strange game, very un-Jacket-y, with the majority of the teams four goals coming on the powerplay. The shots, shot attempts, and pretty much every stat were pretty close. This confuses some people, but we’ll get to that. Faceoffs were the one big difference, as the Jackets finished with 65% of the draws in their favor. Oh yeah, the score was also pretty different.
Third Star: Mark Letestu
Letestu was solid tonight, finishing with an assist on Boone Jenner’s game opening marker, and a goal capping off a fantastic passing play. Oddly, I didn’t feel like there were many standouts tonight (other than the guy I’ll talk about next). I just felt like most of the team was solid. I did like seeing Letestu being engaged physically, especially the nice hit he laid on Cal Clutterbuck (just before John Persson took out Derek MacKenzie for no reason, then slashed him while he was on the ice).
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
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 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.
Woof. That was not fun. In a game that the Blue Jackets most certainly could have (and arguably should have looking at the season to date) the team fell down in almost every aspect of the game to hand Buffalo a win – their first since January 12th when they beat the Capitals. I’m trying not to point out what happened to the Caps since then, I’m also trying not to point out that when it comes down to it, it can come down to a single game. I’m not because I really don’t think either fate will befall the Jackets this year. I think everyone associated with the CBJ wants to get this over with so let’s review the three stars and (hopefully) put this behind us. Every team has an off night – just stinks when it finally happens.
As Blue Jackets fans, I’m sure you’ve read a lot of prognostications on the CBJ’s season. Most of these (including my own) have harped on the issues the team could have this coming season. Regression from Sergei Bobrovsky. Not taking enough shots. Not controlling the play enough. A lack of goal scorers. There is one x-factor that could render two these issues moot, and turn two of those issues into strengths. If you read the title, then you can probably guess that I’m referring to Ryan Murray. In my opinion, Murray is the key cog in whether or not the Jackets have a successful year. Yes, Marian Gaborik scoring 40 goals would be huge. As would and early return from Nathan Horton and 25 goals in 60 games from him. Bob staying true to last seasons form would also be great. Boone Jenner sticking on the top line and being a Calder candidate would also be a boon to their chances (sorry, that joke was terrible). However, none of those will have the same impact as what Murray could do.