Posts tagged RJ Umberger

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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Three Stars and Game in One Picture: FLA @ CBJ

Well the Blue Jackets returned to Nationwide Arena’s main ice for the first time in a month and, while it looked like there was still some rust being knocked off in a rare Saturday matinee, two points were earned, and in this playoff push, that’s all that matters. It’s worth noting that every CBJ goal tonight was earned on a power play, in a shorthanded situation or on an empty net (Thank goodness it was Florida in town). So without delay, let’s get on to the three stars…

3rd Star – RJ Umberger

RJ can get a lot of critique from the CBJ fan base, but today was a good day for him. RJ seemed really poised to play a physical game and found himself with quite a few chances. He played a gritty game and deservedly got a goal for his efforts. RJ played his role today and was deservedly rewarded. He ended the afternoon at +1 and was someone who was definitely energized by the line changes that Coach Richards put in place.

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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.

Continue reading The Small Picture: Thoughts on the Current Roster

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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Three Stars & Game in One Picture: CBJ vs. Ottawa

So the Blue Jackets have lost three games in a row now. But these weren’t your standard Blue Jackets losses. These weren’t cataclysmic events of magnificent ineptitude, despite what Twitter would have you believe. All three were just hockey games. Against Buffalo, they pretty much controlled the play and lost the goaltending battle something fierce. That happens. The Carolina game was a dud, a game where pucks were bobbled, the PP differences helped swing the game, and nothing else seemed to go right. It only came across as disappointing because they jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Against the Sens, the Jackets had the slight edge in controlling the play (well in terms of shots, it was basically a dead heat in shot attempts), they just couldn’t pull it off. A couple of pucks hopped over a sticks, a couple whiffs, a couple of good bounces for the opposition. These games happen. They happen to every team. This is a good team now. They legitimately won eight games in a row. They now lost three straight games. If they win four, lose one, win two, lose one, win two more and then lose another one, they would still be 8-3 in their last 11 games. But I think the perception would be much different.

My point here is that this is NOT something to be too worried about. This isn’t a total collapse. No reason to hit the panic button. The very best NHL teams lose 20 to 30 games per year. They rarely crap the bed, but they lose games where their goalie just doesn’t have it, or the opposing goalie is on fire, or they don’t get the bounces, or the opponent gets the bounces, or its the second night of a back-to-back, and third game in four nights. These last three losses suck, as it hurts them in the standings and takes a little wind from their sails. But those games were “good team losses”. They were the kinds of games good teams lose, which is good in a strange kind of way.

3rd Star: Cam Atkinson

Cam had good boxcare numbers against the Sens. Goal, assist, three shots, four blocked shots. Sounds like a solid game. Problem is the offensive production came on the powerplay. At even strength Cam was buried in the Jackets end, to the tune of a lowly 42.9% corsi. Considering Cam’s offensive role, the four blocked shots should have been a dead giveaway. He was 50% on offensive zone starts, so he wasn’t buried that way, nor was he tasked with tough matchups, as he played most of his time against Eric Gryba, Coling Greening, Zack Smith, Marc Methot, and Chris Neil. Side note: I really want to see Cam fight. This only comes up now, as seeing him jostle with Nate Gerbe against Carolina got the thought in my head, and Cory Conacher causing ruckus last night kept it there.

Continue reading Three Stars & Game in One Picture: CBJ vs. Ottawa

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

That was a hockey game. Wait, that doesn’t really say what I’m trying to say. That was hockey game. One of the best games I’ve seen in a while. Both teams play such similar, hard styles, that when both teams play well, it’s just beautiful hockey. Had the Jackets managed to lose, I still think I would have greatly enjoyed watching that game. Made me wish the two could somehow meet in a playoff series. Imagine seven straight games of that? Man, that would be intense. Anyway, yeah the Jackets earned a hard-fought, well-played 5-3 victory over the LA Kings. It really was a true team effort, with pretty much every line and defense pair contributing at times, and Sergei Bobrovsky coming up with a few huge saves. With that being said, some Jackets shone brighter than others.

Third Star: James Wisniewski

Wiz was solid tonight with two apples (although Murray deserves both assists on Johansen’s goal). However, I’ll take him here as a stand in for the powerplay in general. They only went 1/3 on the evening but the puck movement was very solid, and they came away with ten shots. There was some nice trickery on the backend that they haven’t used as much in the past. A lot of movement away from the puck by the two defensemen and one of the forwards. It helped create a lot of space, best seen on Umberger’s powerplay goal, and when Letestu managed to get in all alone on Jones (he had five hole but pushed past it trying to go around Jones).
Continue reading Stars of the Night and Game in One Picture: CBJ vs. LA

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

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

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

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.

Continue reading Stars of the Night & Game in One Picture: Philly @ CBJ

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

Well that was a hockey game. A complete 60 minute effort from the Jackets roster made for a an exciting and rewarding game for everyone who took it in. And HUZZAH! The yo-yo W-L-W-L pattern was broken in spectacular fashion with a shut out for McElhinney. While the crowd was sparse, those who braved the winter storm certainly found the effort to get downtown worth the while. There’s some lingering worry about Wisniewski and Calvert who both left the bench before the game is over, but let’s take tonight at least to celebrate the work of a team that didn’t stop. And we get to run our first official Game in One Picture! Read on!

3rd Star: Curtis McElhinney

You can’t underestimate the importance of a strong showing from McElhinney is his first outing as the go-to ‘tender with Bob on IR. Curtis delivered in spectacular fashion! While he certainly plays farther out of the net than Bob-ites may be used to seeing, he stopped all 20 shots he saw – including 4 from power plays – and inspired some strong play in front of him from the defense. To be honest, it was surprising that the goalie didn’t walk away with first star honors considering what was on the line.

2nd Star: RJ Umberger

Tonight marked RJ’s 400th game as a Blue Jacket and he clearly wanted to mark that moment in more than one way. He did what he’s supposed to do with some physical play – taking two penalties – and then notching a goal and an assist. The goal was mainly due to a beauty of a pass from Foligno but the genuine joy on RJ’s face after the puck went in made you genuinely happy for the guy. A big contributor tonight – worthly of notice.

1st Star: Nick Foligno

Remember last year when the Foligno trade was the one forgotten in the wake of the Nash blockbuster? Well #71 is certainly showing himself to be worth getting. He played a worthy 18 minutes and went 1-1-2. The assist to Umberger was amazing and perhaps would be garnering even more buzz if we all still weren’t basking in the glow of his highlight real goal versus Tampa Bay earlier this week. Foligno seems to be a key driver of this team both on and off the ice and his name is entering the conversation for future captain. I’m still scratching my head a bit as to why McElhinney isn’t number one, but if Foligno is going to take it away, that’s ok.

Game in One Picture

Game in One Picture 12-06

 

Stud: Boone Jenner

Remember when we were debating if Boone should spend a year in Springfield? Yeah me neither.  This guy was buzzing all night – putting in the work. He was finally rewarded with a 3rd period goal, after 13 games without one, and this is a guy who certainly speaks to the identity the Jackets are trying to build and shows he can be a key part of the future of this team.

Dud: Mother Nature

We know the team is struggling, and we know that the only thing that consistently puts butts in seats, but after a low turnout Tuesday, did ya really have to pummel us with “snowmageddon 2013″ to even some of the most ardent fans at home? Ah well – the fans who did show up got to see something great…let’s just hope there’s manageable weather for all home games in the foreseeable future.

Goal Breakdown: Geometry Lessons

So I haven’t posted a goal breakdown yet this season. Bad job by me. Sorry about that team. Anyway, what better goal to start it off with than Nick Foligno’s beauty on Ben Bishop and the Tampa Bay Lightning. First things first though, some context for the goal: we’re almost five minutes into the second period in a game locked at zeroes. Both goalies are playing well, with Sergei Bobrovsky looking like last season’s Bob, and Ben Bishop looking like he’s looked all year. For those not following along with the Lightning, Bishop is in the top five or so in pretty much every relevant goaltending statistic. With all that happening, this game looked like it could be a ‘first goal wins’ kind of game, which is exactly how it played out. For those who have somehow missed it or just want to watch it again, here is video of the goal: Continue reading Goal Breakdown: Geometry Lessons