Posts tagged James Wisniewski

Playoff Preview: CBJ vs. Pittsburgh

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.
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Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ @ Florida

Well there it is, game number 82 in the books. The final score was maybe a little closer than I would have liked to see, and Bob saw a little too much rubber, but all things considered, throwing up almost 80 shots on net in (basically) meaningless games is not too shabby. With the win, a match-up in the first round with the Penguins is now set, the Jackets will have a little time to heal/rest up, and the best season in franchise history continues on.

Third Star: Mark Letestu

Not much creativity by the star pickers tonight. Letestu scored, so he gets a star. Personally, I would have gone with Boone Jenner. Tied with a game high six shots on goal (with Fedor Tyutin), and paired up with Ryan Johansen for a dominating performance by that line. James Wisniewski was also quite good tonight. And hey, both of them picked up assists.  Continue reading Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ @ Florida

Three Stars and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ Philadelphia

Before tonight’s game there were seven games left. Every one a piece of what equates to a playoff series. The Jackets needed a win in their next to last matchup against a Metro division opponent and they got one tonight. A huge 2-0 victory – the first on Philly ice and the first against former Blue Jacket Steve Mason. The Jackets also played to WIN and never sat back on their laurels – a response to a lead the CBJ faithful have been wanting to see. Six more games lie in wait – including another big match up tomorrow so let’s take the little time we have to revel in this win and celebrate the three stars according to the NHL. (Sidebar – if you watched the Fox Sports Ohio broadcast, get ready for a different lineup here)

3rd Star – Steve Mason: Ok I’m sorry but I’m gonna chalk this up to hometown writers. Mase had 25 stops on 27 shots and was admirable, but the second goal went in standard five hole, and Mason was the losing goalie on ten fewer shots than the winning goalie. Just doesn’t fly based on the game I watched. Would have preferred to see Brandon Dubinsky or even Matt Calvert here.

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Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ vs. Pittsburgh

A valiant effort, but a disappointing outcome as the Jackets fall 2-1 in regulation to the Penguins. The Jackets controlled the play for most of the game, but couldn’t buy a goal until it was too late. Strange flow to the game tonight, as the first and second periods were riddled with penalties and powerplays, but no goals. The third was a barnburner, with the two teams combining for a whopping 28 shots on goal (and only one powerplay). The bad news is a regulation loss. The good news, is the Maple Leafs also lost in regulation. This still leaves the Blue Jackets in the drivers seat in terms of making the playoffs. Four teams are still tied at 80 points. The Jackets still hold the regulation wins tiebreaker over Washington, Detroit and Toronto. Columbus no longer has a game in hand on anyone, but they do still have on over the Leafs. So it’s on the Jackets players now. The playoffs are in their hands. If they equal or better the teams they are battling, they make the playoffs. If two of those three teams outplay them, then the CBJ didn’t deserve to make the playoffs anyway.
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Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: SJS @ CBJ

The Jackets continue their breakneck speed chase to the playoffs. Tonight, the 3rd team in the West came to town – the San Jose Sharks (who are currently on a tear through the east). And let’s not forget how freakin’ good the West is. It was a mighty test after the Jackets have faltered against “really good” teams like St. Louis, Chicago and Pittsburgh. This may have been the Jackets’ best showing to date and that’s a good sign for a team that is building up to hopefully join the “really good” teams in the NHL. The boys brought home a point and couldn’t convert in the skills competition – but it was a good showing keeping the CBJ tied with the Rangers for one more night. And of course, props to Richards for putting Cam in the shootout lineup to confound any conspiracy theorists that are out there in CBJ land. On to the three stars…

3rd Star: Joe Pavelski

Joe Pavelski is good at hockey and he’s having a career year already matching the 66 points this far into the season as he had in his previous career high in 2010-11. He had a lovely assist to Mr. Marleau when the Jackets erred on the kill by sending two forwards deep into the offensive zone letting the Sharks skate with the man advantage in and Pavs simply had to feed it to Marleau for goal number three. When guys have that kind of talent, you can’t do that. Well, you can’t do that in general but you know what I mean. Pavs also had the only goal of the shootout so there’s that – he get’s a star.

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Cam Atkinson, the Ten Percent Theory, and Healthy Scratches

So it looks like Cam Atkinson will be back in the lineup tonight against the San Jose Sharks. After three healthy scratches in the last four games (and the lone game played being the Chicago shellacking), we finally get to see him again. Cam Atkinson looks to be the victim of one of my favorite sports theories, Bill Simmons’ Ten Percent Theory. While originally applied to Russell Westbrook of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, I think it applies pretty well in this situation regarding Cam. As the theory goes, no player is perfect. Every player is missing at least 10 percent of the ideal basketball player (or hockey player in this case). For Russell Westbrook, his ten percent is the recklessness he plays with. This can rear its head at inopportune moments, and distracts people from the 90% of his game that is fantastic. He compares this to Kevin Durant, whose missing ten percent is his lack of strength and defense, two things that are not as obvious to most viewers.

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The Small Picture: Thoughts on the Current Roster

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.

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Stars of the Night and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ LA

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.

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Stars of the Night and Game in One Picture: CBJ @ Anaheim

It was way back at the end of October when the Jackets were 5-5 that the Ducks came to town. The Jackets lost that match up 4-3. So tonight, facing a still successful Ducks squad (leading the league in points actually), in their barn the Jackets started their 3 game west coast road trip with a good test.

Well Jackets fans who stayed up (with lots of caffeine through the night or plans for lots in the morning) were definitely rewarded. It was touch and go for a bit when Anaheim pulled within one but the Jackets sealed the deal against a worthy opponent with the final score of 4-2. Unlike the measuring stick games against Pittsburgh and St. Louis which seemed to show how far we might be – the Jackets looked far more like a contender tonight and lock down two points. Let’s get on with it and look at who NHL.com said were the top there contributors tonight.

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Random Observations on Random Plays

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.

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