Unlike last year, we had a consensus winner for the Masterton this time around. A reminder (as this one may be a bit more obscure), the Masterton goes out to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. Last year the award was taken home by Vinny Prospal, so we’ll obviously have a new player take home this hardware. The champion is something of a no brainer, but the tUB team was all over the map in the second and third place votes. Continue on to find out the winner…. Continue reading…
The Lady Byng. Every player’s least favorite award. The official description reads as such: “Outstanding sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” In general, this award tends to go to the good player with the least number of penalty minutes. Or, as many think of it, the good player who is also the biggest pansy. I object to that description, as there are a number of Jacket players who fit the bill this year, while also playing very hard shift in, and shift out, taking abuse, going to the corners, and playing a tough game in general. However, what sets those players apart from the Dubinsky’s is their ability to do so without putting the Jackets shorthanded very often, constantly being good sports, and playing like gentlemen. We actually had a tie this year, with most first place votes used to break it. Last year’s winner was Cam Atkinson. Can he repeat? Let’s find out… Continue reading…
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…
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.
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…
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).
Well that was a game. This competing for a place in the ‘dance’ is fun, eh? The Jackets fought hard against a good team, took the game to overtime and then defied the odds in the shoot out to take two points from a Minnesota team. Still processing the impact and energy of that game and the fact the boys did it yet again so let’s just get on with it and look at the 3 stars according to NHL.com tonight…
3rd Star: Darcy Kuemper
This guy is technically the third line guy, but with Backstrom and Harding out, he’s been called into action and he played well. In a game that seemingly went back and forth, a battle of the goaltenders if you will, no question Kuemper gets the star.
It is amazing to me how much changes when momentum builds late into a game and into the extra frame. The tone for this post changed dramatically with the conclusion of the third period, and of course, improved even more after the shootout victory thanks to Letestu and Atkinson. Yes, the Blue Jackets played and won their first road game of the season on Saturday night, yet I still feel the need to return to much of what concerned me in the early stages of the game (followed by brief elation, I promise).
The first period started poorly. New York was quick to the puck, smart with their passing, and stymied the CBJ defensively. By first period end, the shots favoured the Islanders 9-4, but there was plenty of positive in the possession Columbus maintained later in the period. Notable efforts from Dubinsky and Jenner to get physical and press the play forward pushed the play into the Islanders zone; however, shots remained a premium, and defensive efforts to get the puck on net were met with shin pads or the glass behind the net. Unfortunately the lone defender to take the spotlight was David Savard, who seems to be struggling with when to be patient with the puck and when to get rid of it. Shots into midsections from the point also come to mind.
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.