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
Desperate for a win, Columbus played host to the New York Rangers on Thursday night. It was somewhat laughable sitting in the stands pre-game and seeing names like Stralman, Dorsett, Moore, and Brassard all lined up with Rangers jerseys on. Makes me realize just how much these teams have swapped over the last couple seasons. Regardless, the stage was set for a solid matchup, and most would expect Columbus to take this game as not only a potential stepping stone to better results, but an opportunity to depart from their losing ways.
Solid pressure in the offensive zone was great to see from Columbus, yet pure scoring opportunities remained a premium. Notable was the shakiness of backup goaltender Talbot for New York, and most shots were met with unsure saves, leaving rebounds for the taking. Despite that, it was New York who managed to score first, making a solid tic tac toe play on the break. The biggest culprit on this particular rush was probably Tyutin, who appeared to not know who to cover, and failed to get a stick on the eventual goal scorer in Hagelin.
Continue reading Game Recap: Columbus vs NY Rangers 11-7
In the wake of home-and-home losses to Pittsburgh, the usual cacophony of reactions are evident — ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Today, we’ll try to take a relatively dispassionate look at the club, the recent efforts, and dust off the crystal ball for some thoughts as to what might come down the pike.
First things first, however. Shortly before game time, I caught a TSN tweet indicating that Gary Bettman was at Nationwide for the game, and a second tweet indicating that he was in the company of Mayor Coleman. Rudimentary arithmetic led me to one conclusion — All Star Game — a fact confirmed about 30 minutes later, when the lights dimmed, Greg Murray advised the crowd of a special announcement from John Davidson, who then appeared on the scoreboard screen with Bettman. The announcement that the 2015 All Star Game was coming to Columbus on January 24 & 25, 2015 was almost an anti-climax at that point. Still, it was terrifically positive news for the franchise, the city and the 18,634 assembled fans. The NHL made good on its promise to “do right” by Columbus after the lockout trashed the All Star Festivities for the 2013 game.
The most surprising aspect of the announcement was the timing. Traditionally, the venue for the All Star Game is announced in January, or at least in conjunction with GM meetings. That the announcement came so far in advance is a credit to both the NHL and the progress that the organization has been making at all levels. Kudos to all concerned, and Columbus fans can now tuck those 2013 All Star Game pucks away, waiting for them to appreciate in value. (Just kidding…sort of) So with that issue put to bed, time to return to the ice. The intent here is not to provide a game summary of the Pittsburgh battles — @Canadan82 does that extremely well — but to look at the higher level issues, positive and negative, that are emerging as this fledgling season moves forward. The two games vs. the Penguins do highlight some of the issues in stark relief.
Continue reading Observation Time — All Star Style
Before digging into the substance of the post, I must provide an apology. As many of you know, we just returned from a two-week vacation to Maine, Nova Scotia, PEI and Quebec. (Articles forthcoming during lulls in the hockey action). The down side of the vacation was that we missed the start of the season, and in our absence, the Blue Jackets posted a 2-5 record. Since our return last Saturday, they are 3 – 0. Just sayin’. Anyway, notwithstanding any dubious claims of causation, I promise to never again allow vacation to interfere with hockey. Mea culpa . . .
Let’s turn to the matters at hand. The Blue Jackets now have 10 games under their collective belts, which equals 12.19% of the season. Instead of relying on Twitter summaries or online post-mortems of the games — as we were compelled to do on the cruise — I’ve seen the live, in-person product on the ice for three games. Combined with some statistical review, I’ve got all I need to provide a first review of the good and the bad, and some indications of what might be forthcoming.
As of Sunday morning, the Blue Jackets are 5-5-0, with 10 points, but working on a three-game winning streak. The record might not be what some had hoped for, but represents a significant improvement over the 3-6-1 start last year, and light-years ahead of the 1-8-1 start in 2011-2012. More importantly, the club was able to shrug off a miserable four-game losing streak and post truly solid efforts against Vancouver, New Jersey and Toronto.
Continue reading The 12.19% Solution
For two straight games, the Columbus Blue Jackets have achieved what they claimed to be in news articles and advertisements. Hard nosed hockey with talent and success, giving the fans a real treat from the stands. Wins against Vancouver on Sunday (hat tip to McElhinney) and a convincing win last night against New Jersey gives confidence to those wondering what type of team has been assembled here. The visible difference this team has shown over these last two games has been massive.
Despite a lack of scoring in the first period, Columbus controlled the puck well at both ends of the ice, and got traffic in front of Schneider early and often. It was the type of period that could have had them scoring a couple goals, but rather, they walked into the looker room still tied at zero, arguably holding the momentum.
Continue reading Recap: Columbus vs New Jersey 10-23
For those fortunate enough to watch the Columbus Blue Jackets yesterday, they got to watch a team achieve what the commercials, the hype, and the expectations would suggest this roster can accomplish on ice. The stage was set for ‘one of those games’ with backup Curtis McElhinney in net, playing a Sunday game against a very tough Vancouver team, and the CBJ still reeling from an abysmal effort against Washington.
It took some time to get into the right groove offensively. Shots were 13-2 at the end of the first period, despite Columbus being up 1-0 and overall play relatively neutral in possession. Columbus was having a hard time getting the puck close to Lack, and found the boards behind him on probably six or seven occasions. On the other side of the ice, McElhinney got a nice introduction to the NHL speed, enjoying his first start in a couple of years. Shots were coming from the outside and were gobbled up quickly, leaving little that could result in follow up goals. Credit the Columbus defense for being quite sound; however, I still felt their presence needed to be less about where they were on the ice, and more about neutralizing their opponents.
Continue reading Recap: Columbus vs Vancouver 10-20
Searching for the panic button? A 2-4-0 start from Columbus starts another season in familiar, mediocre territory. Two straight games with only a single goal, injury and ‘scratched player’ problems, and a distinct sense that 100% is not applicable to this roster. Feel free to hit the reset button on NHL 11 and start the season over whenever you feel like it.
The trouble began last night just before the five minute mark (after a handful of whiffed shots on great scoring opportunities for Columbus). Despite being on the penalty kill, the Blue Jackets applied enough pressure to allow Subban to fire a pass through the middle to a wide open Bourque, who skated in alone on Bobrovsky and beat him for the 1-0 lead. Now, I can understand that sometimes breakaways happen, but this team is starting to make a really bad habit of giving them away on a nightly basis. To make matters worse, they allowed on when they were a man short, when their entire game plan is to protect their own net. As a fan watching that, it’s infuriating.
Continue reading Recap: Columbus @ Montreal 10-17
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.
Continue reading The X-Factor: Why Murray’s Preseason OT Winner is Exciting
Have no fear, we’re not about to start humming Nadia’s Theme here (if you don’t know what that is youngsters, Google it), but with the NHL’s first games in the books, Patrick Roy’s inaugural tirade dully documented, and Nationwide Arena gearing up for its own debut tonight, it’s time to get down to the business of hockey in earnest.
The young, of course, are the Blue Jackets players themselves, who once again will be in the running for the youngest team in the league. How young? Only five on the roster (McElhinney, Gaborik, Tyutin, MacKenzie and Umberger) have ages beginning with a “3″, and two (Murray, Jenner) entered their 20′s. Feel old yet? No? Let’s try this one — not a single Blue Jacket player was alive for the USA’s ‘Miracle on Ice’ at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. I’ll wait while you retrieve your hearing aids and shawls . . . More on this in a bit. Continue reading The Young & The Restless — Hockey Time in Columbus!
In the previous installment, we focused on the offensive zone — examining how much scoring would likely be needed, and where those goals might come from. We now turn our sights to the other side of center ice — between the trapezoid and the blue line. Seven players spend the majority of their ice time here, with their primary purpose to prevent the other side from finding the back of the net. If they do that well, the pressure on the scoring end goes down. Of course, if the scorers don’t uphold their side of the bargain, the pressure on the blue line and in goal increases as well. One of the key attributes for defensemen and goalies alike is just how well they can handle that pressure over the course of an 82-game season.
Goal differential is a key metric for determining success. After all, you need to score more than your opponent to win a game, so it should not be shocking that most teams that make the playoffs have positive goal differentials. It’s not universal — the Islanders made the playoffs last year with an even goal differential, and Washington made the playoffs the prior season with an eight-goal deficit. However, if the post-season is your goal, you’d better plan on a positive number for this statistic. Note that not a single club with a positive differential missed the playoffs in the 11-12 campaign, and only one squad had that fate last year. That’s right . . . the Columbus Blue Jackets. The club ended up with a positive goal differential (+1) for the first time in franchise history last year . . . and was edged out by Minnesota (differential minus -5 ) for the playoffs. Columbus was minus-4 in its 2008-09 playoff run, while the Wild missed the dance, despite having a differential of +19. So, the Minnesotans likely viewed last season as sweet revenge.
Continue reading Inquiring Minds: Defending the Home Front