Wow. Well that was a game. It was everything we love and hate about the match ups with Nashville – physical play where one big play usually makes the difference. Now you can add stellar goal tending to the recurring trend of these games. Who can forget the flurry of saves Bob made against Nashville in the final game last season and he would do it again in the closing seconds to preserve another win. In his post game interview, James Wisniewski said that was as close to a playoff game as you get. I have to agree. We were fortunate enough to be at the game and the atmosphere was pins and needles. That game was intense, hard hitting hockey. That’s what you want to see – that’s what JD has promised us…and tonight we got it (well at least after the first period). With the Jackets’ divisional opponents scooping up points tonight the win was essential and the boys in Union Blue got it done. They travel to Dallas next and I have to believe they are gonna need the day in between to recover from that match up. So on to the three stars…
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.
Well that was a disappointing way to get back into things. The Jackets were thoroughly outshot through the entire game, with the final tally of 35-19 . At least they were consistent, getting outshot by five or six shots every period. Oddly, I didn’t feel like New Jersey was actually dominating the play. For parts of the first and third periods, and most of the second period, the Jackets looked like the better team. They did look to be off in the positioning, and were definitely off in their passing. Those are both related, as I felt the team did an extremely poor job tonight of supporting the puck carrier, forcing players into making tougher passes than necessary. Oh well, not like this was a divisional game against a team they are battling for a playoff spot. Oh wait, New Jersey is now only two points back. Super. Continue reading Three Stars & Game in One Picture: CBJ @ NJ
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.
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.
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.
Ahhh, back above the line. Feels good, doesn’t it? There’s a lot to be happy about with tonight’s performance and as always some things to be concerned with. Since inking Nathan Horton to a deal I’ve been wanting to see how he and Johanson would play together. Tonight I got to see that and with some more time together and some refinement I think the 38-19-8 line can become consistently dominant. Let’s see who the NHL thought was worthy of the stars this fine evening:
3rd Star: Jack Johnson
I liked a lot about Johnson’s game tonight. He generated good traffic towards the net (see his assist on Johanson’s 2nd goal) and had the type of physical game that gives your teammates a jolt of energy. Johnson logged about 7 minutes each on the 100% effective penalty kill and the 0% effective power play on the evening. He was key in setting the CBJ tone tonight, which was “I hope you’re ready to work for every inch of ice you want, Capitals”. While Johnson was the lone D man between Ward on Bobrovsky on Ward’s short-handed goal, I think he was effective in shutting down Ward’s passing lanes and forcing Ward’s hand to have no choice but to shoot. Sadly, that shot went in. Continue reading Three Stars & Game in One Picture: Washington vs. CBJ
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
Readers, if you haven’t heard the term before, this is what you call a trap game. A team like the CBJ with tons of momentum enters the barn of a team that’s had a particularly turbulent year seeing personnel changes both on the bench and behind the bench. It’s all too easy to come off of a 5-1 win against a division leader like the Capitals with a little too much confidence. I think we were a victim of that overconfidence from the moment the puck dropped. Also, as we’ve seen time and time again we seemed to play to the level of our opponent. We lacked the ferocity and work ethic that led us to the previous 5-1 victory against the superior Capitals. Admittedly I missed seeing the 1st goal scored against the Jackets as I was stuck in traffic en route to the CBJ game watching party at the Dublin Buffalo Wild Wings but it sounded like the result of sloppy play in our own end that ended up in the back of our net. Let’s get to the three stars per NHL.com:
3rd Star: Tyler Ennis
Ennis was a key contributor on two goals and logged an impressive 25 minutes for the evening. That said, I can’t help but feel like either one of the net minders would have been more deserving of this 3rd spot. While save percentages and GAA were nothing amazing, had either Miller or Bobrovsky had an off game, we could have easily seen combined goal count approaching the 10-12 mark. Special nod to Bobrovsky for going a perfect 3 for 3 in the shoot out.