I had the majority of a post put together for an offseason game plan post featuring all the moves I wanted to see the Jackets make. I’d figured out reasonable cap hits for the guys I wanted to be signed, figured out a nice trade or two that made sense, and wrote a nice long paragraph about how no one in their right mind would deal anything of value for RJ Umberger. Then it all got blown to hell. It came out that Jason Spezza had Columbus on his no trade list (I had him as a trade target), Nikita Nikitin was dealt to the Oilers, and Umberger was somehow traded for Scott Hartnell. In my opinion, those moves took care of a lot of what the Jackets needed to do this offseason. So instead of a post detailing everything I wanted to see, I figured I’d hit everything that has happened so far, and what I want to see happen the rest of the offseason. 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…
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.
Losing sucks. Doubling up a team in shots and not winning sucks more. Holding a team to zero shots for an entire period, and still not winning? That’s practically unheard of. So we’ve covered that Tuesday’s game sucked. But let’s go into a little more detail. I was unable to watch the game unfortunately, so I don’t quite share my site-mate’s rage over the proceedings. But I did take a look at the goals, and the goals against had a couple things that really jumped out at me. So let’s talk about them and maybe point a finger or two in the right direction. Continue reading…
A dangerous back end of a back to back faced the Jackets tonight and, second period aside (woof!) the team showed up with what ended up as a decisive 4-2 win in front of a very healthy Tuesday night home crowd (If you win – they will come).
The trade deadline looms tomorrow and noone knows if we’ll see this same roster in Union Blue ever again, so let’s mark the moment and appreciate that the team definitely gave us some things to remember from tonight’s game. So let’s get on to the three stars…and, if you read the whole thing, enjoy a mini rant at the end of this recap.
Third Star: Boone Jenner
The resident CBJ man-child had a stellar game today. His no-nonsense style of play continues to get under the skin of opponents and the 8-19-38 is really singing. Talk about size. Boone started off the CBJ scoring early with a strong shot from the top of the circle and it jump started the 3 goal blitz that would later bring the Jackets the win.
Second Star: Sergei Bobrovsky
Many had wondered if the back to back start against a non-conference opponent was a waste of time Bob could use to rest up. Well apparently they need not worry. Without Bob in net, that game does not end up going the Jackets way tonight. A lackluster second period from everyone who was not in net, meant Bob had to come up time after time with the save. His calm on the ice was obvious, and his composure during a late flurry of shots from the Stars kept the Jackets in this game when the rest of the team wasn’t. Now, don’t get me wrong, he wants that second goal back…badly. But it was evident tonight why Bob is one of-if not the-linchpins of this team.
Well they certainly made it interesting at the end for us, didn’t they? With the Jackets in the thick of the playoff hunt, practically every game is a ‘must-win’ game. After the special teams shootout against Florida I was curious to see if we’d be able to get some even strength scoring on the road against Toronto. Luckily we got that even strength scoring from a rather unexpected source in Dalton Prout as well as surging Russian Olympian Artem Anisimov. Tonight’s 3 stars according to NHL.com include:
3rd Star: James Reimer:
Reimer kept the Leafs in a game that they had no business being in after the 2nd. While as a Jacket fan I take issue with the liberties he was taking with our players in/in front of his crease that went uncalled, if your teammates won’t clear the crease for you, sometimes the net minder has to take matters into his own hands.
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.
Columbus Blue Jackets / Comments Off
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.
I jokingly mentioned to friends that I didn’t want Wizniewski or Gaborik on the ice for this game as the team roster that got beat in Philadelphia had to redeem themselves for that horrible loss. When I said that I had no idea I’d be single-handedly cursing Gaborik to yet more months on the IR. I’ll never make statements like that again. This game had a character test nestled within the character test that was the entire game and gave us a chance to learn a lot about our team. The obvious question going into tonight was how would we bounce back from a brutal loss at our own hands in Philly? At the end of the 2nd period tonight the obvious question was how would we bounce back from a brutal final 140 seconds of the 2nd period where two Flyers I frequently covet in Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier tied up what appeared to be a game that the CBJ had well under control. Early in the third, the Nikitin-Savard pairing made abundantly clear that there would be no such repeat of Thursday night.
3rd Star: David Savard
Savard played very well tonight. Sometimes an offensive spark comes from the most unlikely of places and tonight Savard was the flint to strike the cannon to trigger the boom. Watching the replay, you can see great motion from low to high in the form of Tropp => Nikitin => Savard who directs it to the high blocker corner of the net with little wind-up or wasted motion. Savard also nets a solid assist in Jenner’s deflection goal that came from a Nikitin blast from the point.
After last night’s game I was looking forward to writing tonight’s stars of the night and predicted we’d have some Blue Jackets to write about. Without further ado:
3rd Star: Joe Colborne
I have no issue with Colborne being considered for a star of the game. He netted Calgary’s only score and put in a good 12 minute effort.