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.
If there’s a better expression of pure joy I haven’t seen it
To put it simply, tonight was special. Really special. Let’s look at the three stars as named by NHL.com
Continue reading Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ PIT – Game 2
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.
Continue reading Goal Breakdowns: CBJ vs. Pit Game One
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
Wow. Well that was a game. It was everything we love and hate about the match ups with Nashville – physical play where one big play usually makes the difference. Now you can add stellar goal tending to the recurring trend of these games. Who can forget the flurry of saves Bob made against Nashville in the final game last season and he would do it again in the closing seconds to preserve another win. In his post game interview, James Wisniewski said that was as close to a playoff game as you get. I have to agree. We were fortunate enough to be at the game and the atmosphere was pins and needles. That game was intense, hard hitting hockey. That’s what you want to see – that’s what JD has promised us…and tonight we got it (well at least after the first period). With the Jackets’ divisional opponents scooping up points tonight the win was essential and the boys in Union Blue got it done. They travel to Dallas next and I have to believe they are gonna need the day in between to recover from that match up. So on to the three stars…
Continue reading Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ NSH
Well that was a disappointing way to get back into things. The Jackets were thoroughly outshot through the entire game, with the final tally of 35-19 . At least they were consistent, getting outshot by five or six shots every period. Oddly, I didn’t feel like New Jersey was actually dominating the play. For parts of the first and third periods, and most of the second period, the Jackets looked like the better team. They did look to be off in the positioning, and were definitely off in their passing. Those are both related, as I felt the team did an extremely poor job tonight of supporting the puck carrier, forcing players into making tougher passes than necessary. Oh well, not like this was a divisional game against a team they are battling for a playoff spot. Oh wait, New Jersey is now only two points back. Super. Continue reading Three Stars & Game in One Picture: CBJ @ NJ
Robyn Regehr? Seriously? Robyn Regehr? Ugh. That part of this game sucked. Coughing up another late lead sucked. But on the bright side, the Jackets have taken three of four points so far on the California trip, and sit one point back of Detroit for the final wild card spot, one point back of Philadelphia for third place in the Metro, and two points back of the Rangers for second in the division. Oh, and they have a game in hand on each of those teams. So yeah, beat the Sharks, and get right back in that thing. Since it’s late, let’s get to the stars.
3rd Star: Jake Muzzin
Muzzin scored a goal. So he gets a star. I wrote Reghr’s section before I wrote Muzzin’s. Muzzin also was terrible territorially tonight, routinely getting outplayed. But at least he was crushed with defensive zone starts (only two o-zone starts all game) and was matched up against the Johansen line. They crushed him but he scored. So he gets a star.
Continue reading Stars of the Night and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ LA
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.
Continue reading Random Observations on Random Plays
Ahhh, back above the line. Feels good, doesn’t it? There’s a lot to be happy about with tonight’s performance and as always some things to be concerned with. Since inking Nathan Horton to a deal I’ve been wanting to see how he and Johanson would play together. Tonight I got to see that and with some more time together and some refinement I think the 38-19-8 line can become consistently dominant. Let’s see who the NHL thought was worthy of the stars this fine evening:
3rd Star: Jack Johnson
I liked a lot about Johnson’s game tonight. He generated good traffic towards the net (see his assist on Johanson’s 2nd goal) and had the type of physical game that gives your teammates a jolt of energy. Johnson logged about 7 minutes each on the 100% effective penalty kill and the 0% effective power play on the evening. He was key in setting the CBJ tone tonight, which was “I hope you’re ready to work for every inch of ice you want, Capitals”. While Johnson was the lone D man between Ward on Bobrovsky on Ward’s short-handed goal, I think he was effective in shutting down Ward’s passing lanes and forcing Ward’s hand to have no choice but to shoot. Sadly, that shot went in. Continue reading Three Stars & Game in One Picture: Washington vs. CBJ
The Blue Jackets headed into tonight’s game with a lot to look forward to. Many players have been clicking on both ends of the puck and with healthy super-cop Sergei Bobrovsky I was confident in their ability to if not win, eek a point out of it and put on a good show for the home crowd. While I was sweating bullets after the hiccup midway through the second period, I could not have been happier with the performance. 2 goals against a good Lightning team is fine, and even though the Jackets leaned a little on Bob that’s what he’s there for isn’t he?
3rd Star: Ryan Johansen
Joey was all over the ice tonight, making marks on even strength with a ridiculous slapshot from the high slot. The puck traveled through the mountains of at least 4 NHL players but still managed to land safely in the twine behind Lindback. Couple that with a great scoring chance where the young star used his mind controls to break a stick and almost score on subsequent rush down ice. If you’re not used to seeing his name on these recaps, well, you adjust to things worse than my father who still uses a computer he bought back in 1998.
Continue reading Stars of the Night and Game in One Picture: Tampa Bay Lightning @ CBJ
A hard fought, but possibly costly win came tonight versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. An ugly first period led way to a very good second period and a mish mash of a third. But more importantly, the Jackets finally do NOT crap the bed on a night when I do the three stars! Whoopee! All is well in Jackets-land, minus all the injuries and inconsistency and all the other things wrong. Anyway, ignore that for now and revel in a shutout victory.
3rd Star: Sergei Bobrovsky
He was good. Very good at times. Let’s be honest, that one save is where this is going. It was a good save. It was also the classic Patrick Roy move where the big arm/wrist movement post save makes it look MUCH better than it actually was. Watching it live, it looked spectacular. On replay, it was clear that Brown did not get the puck up very much and it was a fairly routine glove save. Then there is the bad part of that save. Let’s keep our fingers crossed this is nothing serious, as relying on Curtis McElhinney for more than a dozen games in an entire season is a losing proposition. Continue reading Stars of the Night: CBJ vs. Tampa Bay