OK, this is getting ridiculous. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: final score of 4-3 after one team being up 3-1. After the first period it was hard to be too optimistic that lightning would strike for the 4th time in a series and that we’d be on the favorable end of it. Tonight the CBJ faithful were treated to nothing less than a fairy tale story of a young, playoff-inexperienced team that simply didn’t know how to die. I left Nationwide Arena to thunderous echoes of ‘CBJ! CBJ!’ from an inspired and excited fan base. Here are the players that made the magic tonight:
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
Well that was a riotous affair. In a game that will be much like every other game through the end of the season, Jackets fans held their breath while watching the Jackets bring home a 3-2 all important regulation win (increase that ROW!) An important victory – as they all will be – but a good story on the season as the Jackets got better (as far as winning) each time they played the Canadiens. Let’s also not discount going into that barn and stealing two points from the home town team. On to the three stars…(because really at this point we’re all looking to the match up against the Rangers, right?)
What a huge night for the Blue Jackets. They entered the evening coming off a strange, emotional night last night, tied with Detroit for the final playoff spot, facing the Red Wings, and with a number of teams battling for the final playoff spots in action. The night went about as well as possible. The Jackets beat the Wings in regulation. The Devils beat the Flyers in regulation. The Penguins beat the Capitals in regulation. The Hurricanes beat the Rangers in regulation. Now if the Sharks can beat the Leafs in regulation (2-1 SJS at the time of posting), the night will be complete. The Jackets now sit in 3rd place in the Metro division, only one point back of the Rangers, who have played an extra game.
As for the game itself, well it started off ugly. It got a little better in the second period. Then woo boy was that a hell of a third period. Huge effort to stick with it and pull off the much needed two points (and almost as important keep Detroit from getting any).
Continue reading Stars of the Night and Game in One Picture: CBJ vs. Detroit
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.
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.
You can’t support the Blue Jackets and not be ecstatic with tonight’s game. The Jackets were right there even strength with the Coyotes, were the better team on the powerplay, the better team on the penalty kill, and got the better goaltending. Don’t sleep on Phoenix either, as they are currently a playoff team in the tough Western Conference, and their 49 points would be second in the Metro division. Of course, I’ve buried the lede here, as Nathan Horton made his Blue Jackets debut. That went pretty well.
3rd Star: RJ Umberger
I have no issues with his placement here, even though he had a solid, if unspectacular game (outside of his goal of course). I tend to think of Umberger’s placement here as a vote for his entire line, which just continues to click. Foligno and Johansen were just as great as Umberger was last night, and while I’ve been hoping to see Horton take Umby’s spot on this line upon his return, RJ seems to be doing everything he can to hold onto it. He’s up to 11 goals on the year now, which puts him on pace for a very solid 22 goal, 46 point season. Continue reading Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ @ Phoenix
Another game dominated by the Blue Jackets at even strength where they leave empty-handed. Fun fact: the Avalanche went 3 for 3 on the powerplay. And I’m not talking about powerplay opportunities, but powerplay shots. They scored on every single powerplay shot. Not good. But hey, five on five the Jackets absolutely crushed the Avs. The best measure of who is controlling play is 5v5 close, whether you use Fenwick (69.8%), or Corsi (62.7%) or Shots For percentage (66.7%), the Jackets absolutely destroyed Colorado. But terrible goaltending and special teams can put that all to bed easily.
3rd Star: Semyon Varlamov
Varlamov is probably a little low here. He should probably the first star, all things considered. Without his contributions this game would have been a Jackets win. I understand it though, as he did give up three goals, but when a team gets so thoroughly dominated at even strength, how do you give top billing to a player who contributed to said domination (in a negative way of course). I dunno either. Anyway, yeah, Varlamov is good and probably should have been the top star.
Continue reading Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: CBJ vs. Colorado
Balls. Another recap I’m scheduled for, another crapping of the bed. Well not a complete bed crapping, as the first two periods were solid. The Jackets looked like they were going to come away with a nice little victory over their former netminder. To be fair, Mason really looked like vintage Columbus Steve Mason on all four of the goals, as each goal either just beat Mason clean or went right through him. But come onnnnnnnnnnnnn. Four softies from Mase and they STILL can’t beat the Flyers. Also not good: after a bajillion games of never losing when taking a lead into the third period, the Jackets have now lost the last two games they have led entering the final frame. Not good.
3rd Star: Nick Foligno
Sure, he scored. But Jack Johnson did most of the work on it, and the shot baaaaarely beat Mason and barely crossed the line. That was also his only shot attempt of the night. He was also out there doing some fine coasting, terrible forechecking, and lackadaisical backchecking on two of the Flyers goals. On each goal he had a clean shot to either hit or knock the puck away from a Flyers player and just missed, with Philly potting one second later each time. But hey, he had four hits, so good work, good effort.
The appearance of Jagr and Brodeur marked what started off horribly for the Jackets and the home crowd. But somehow this team found a way to gut out an ugly 5-4 win after going down 3-1 early and take two points from a team that is ahead of them currently in the Metro. It was season ticket holder “free food” night at Nationwide and thankfully the team gave people a reason to return to their seats versus just standing in long lines for tasty eats all night. So let’s get to it and look at the three stars per NHL.com.