Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pay The Extra Dime

Sergei Bobrovsky, Game Winner
Tonight, the Columbus Blue Jackets beat an unbelievably talented Chicago Blackhawks team in a shoot out.  We don't care about the charity point, as it lands in the Western Conference.  What we do care about is why we won tonight, and that is unarguably Sergei Bobrovsky, who was masterful in goal.  He is in a contract year.  He will get paid.  This is not a subject for debate.

The subject for debate is who will lurk at the end of the line, and skate up with a huge hug for the guy who bailed you out all night long.  Who does Bob want to see, as a reward for a great game played, in which he stole us a victory, much as tonight's tilt against a superior opponent?  It is my personal belief that the guy he wants to see is one Nick Foligno.

Nick is an interesting guy.  A career twenty-ish goal scorer, in a contract year on a pace for thirty-ish.  A guy who rose up when all was lost, dripping character all over the place.  Who does your franchise goal tender want to see at the end of the line when you win the Cup?

Pay Bob.  He's worth it.  The trickier question is what to pay Nick.  I say that Nick''s presence at the end of that line outweighs the statistics.  Nick should be given long term as a 20 goal scorer.  As the guys in the pipeline pass him in skill, this will start to look like an 'iffy' contract.  But you need someone at the end of the line when you win the Cup.  And what ever extra you pay Nick is worth that moment right there.

Bob stole one from the Blackhawks.  The CBJ are still photobombing the playoffs (personal communication, Puck Rakers, 2014).  Nick is at the end of the line.  And that, my friends, is worth the extra dime.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Boone Down

Boone Jenner
Today the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that Boone Jenner would be out for 1-2 months with a stress fracture in his back.  This is both good and bad news.  The bad news is the horrifying run of injuries to this team continues.  Another key player injured for a significant period of time.

What good news could there be in this?  To me, I think about Nathan Horton.  How many undiagnosed stress fractures did he suffer as a player?  Now he is staring at a career ending injury.  These kind of fractures also ended Freddy Modin's career.  So good on the CBJ medical staff for diagnosing this injury.  

Now where do I find instructions for making sacrifices to the hockey gods?  This is getting a bit crazy.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Wennberg Called Up

The Puck Rakers are reporting that Brian Gibbons has been placed on injured reserve with a bum knee, and that Alexander Wennberg and Cody Goloubef have been called up from AHL Springfield.  In 6 games in Springfield, Wennberg was 0G-3A-3P and a +/- of +4.

Gibbons was injured in last night's game, and only skated a couple of shifts in the third period.  Gibbons was 0-5-5 with a +/- of +2.  So if you ask yourself what role does Wennberg need to fill, it's that of Gibbons.  Wennberg has speed, and in his previous stint in the NHL he was 0-3-3 (similar to Gibbons), with a +/- of -14 (not similar to Gibbons).  The latter number is a bit deceiving, as in the height of the injury problem he was thrust into the role of playing third line center as a rookie.  The return of Dubinsky has shored up the center position somewhat, and he will not face as much pressure as he did previously.  He may end up on Foligno's wing.

Here's my observation on Wennberg's play.  He was overwhelmed at times, no doubt.  But he was getting the hang of playing the possession game along the boards, and at times was quite effective at that style of play.  On Foligno's wing he faces no more pressure than Gibbons faced, and he may have a chance to thrive.  Wennberg can be a pretty versatile player, and I will be very interested in how he plays.  He wouldn't be the first one to decide he likes that Pros better than the minors, and is able to do something about it.

Goloubef was on a conditioning assignment in Springfield, and had to come up before the roster freeze takes effect at midnight tonight.  He joins a log jam at defenseman, that has a veteran, Jordan Leopold, sitting even though he has played very well.  A log jam of defensemen who can play well is a good problem to have.

Tomorrow night the Blackhawks come to town.  Brace yourself for a lot of Chicago fans tomorrow.  What should be fun is that they have never really experienced the full on C-B-J chant, as it really arose after we had played them last year.  Jackets fans will need to pin their ears back and come ready to get loud.  I expect a playoff atmosphere Saturday, much like it was at the last Penguins game.  I'd be really happy with a similar result.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

100. Chaput, Rinse, Repeat

Nick Foligno Maintains His Torrid Pace
Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets succumbed to the motivationally advantaged Washington Capitals (damn you Trotz) 5-4 in overtime.  The cumulative weight of a schittload of shots finally bore Bobrovsky down, along with so-so legs on the home squad.  A point streak remains alive at 8 games, but the winning streak falls by the wayside at 7 games.  So it goes.

The CBJ could have lost 2 points of ground after a stinker of a first period, instead they only lost 1 point of ground.  For December, that's good enough, but with the Blackhawks coming to town next, getting back to winning ways is going to take better skating and better discipline than the Jackets showed tonight.  The Jackets didn't play well, but still eked out a point on a tough night against an opponent looking for paybacks.  That shoe now moves to our foot for the next tilt between the two teams.  I'm just loving Eastern Conference play.  It's just more natural, and resulted in a really entertaining game tonight.

Some really cool things happened tonight.  Nick Foligno scored his 100th, and 101st goals.  Jack Johnson got on the board early in the second to get the home squad rolling.  And Michael Chaput scored his first NHL goal.  Jeremy Morin got his first point as a Blue Jacket, and Kevin Connauton continued his strong play.  Newcomers and core players combining for 4 goals, which should have been enough to win this game, but wasn't tonight.

It's late, and I have to turn in cause tomorrow's another work day.  In summary, not our greatest night.  But we got a standings point when things weren't going well, and rallied after a real stinker of a first period.  We try that Saturday night, we might be down by 6 goals before the fans get a chance to buy popcorn.  The Caps were a step faster all night, and got the extra point they deserved.  Our guys showed resolve and battle when things weren't going their way.  These experiences will serve them well down the road.  It was a fun game to attend.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thoughts Between Games

Fedor Tyutin back in the line up last night
OK, sorry for the little whimsical post last night.  The Jackets play a superb game and I'm off on some tangent.  But I guess you're used to it by now.  

But on a more serious note, if you want to look at a sophomore slump, look no further than Ryan Murray.  Yeesh.  What a year.  I really think that once he is fully healthy he should go down to the AHL to develop his game more.  We know he can play in the NHL.  At this point, why rush it?  But I digress again.

The CBJ are back to playing 'Jackets' hockey, and have started to play it with some consistency.  They are coming off two games against opponents at the top of the standings in which they played very well.  This winning streak includes both leaders of the Atlantic Division, and the leader of the Metropolitan Division.  Tomorrow we play a team we are chasing, sitting in the third place spot of the Metro.  Oh yeah, we will also be seeking to tie the franchise record for consecutive wins, set last season.

Much as it did last year, a significant winning streak has vaulted us up into the conversation for making the playoffs.  Last night's win allowed us to vault Philly and New Jersey in the Metro standings.  There is a lot of hockey left to play this year, and it is important to get these points while we are playing well.  Last night's game was a great exhibition of disciplined hockey by both teams, and was a really great game for a 0-0 game.

The Jackets will need that discipline and effort, and more against the Capitals tomorrow.  They are already talking about getting in Bob's grill, and the best way to stop that will be to forecheck relentlessly in the Captitals zone.  I get the impression that Trotz's boys will be coming loaded for bear.  Plus, being on the losing side of a 20 round shoot out probably has them very frustrated.  We will need to work and be disciplined tomorrow to tie the winning streak.

Bob is on fire.  He has had a number of unbelievable performances in this streak, and rang one up against the Caps.  I don't think they liked it.  Should be a really fun game at Nationwide Arena tomorrow.  I'm really looking forward to it.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sophomore Slump

Boone Jenner
I think it is important for Blue Jackets fans to realize that young players often have what is known as the sophomore slump.  When they have a really good year, sometimes young players tend to regress in their second year in the NHL.  Fans need to be patient as they work through these growing pains.  It is not unusual for a player to spend some time in the minors as part of their normal growth.  

Jackets fans should remember that Boone Jenner is a very young player, and that his development should be given plenty of time.  Patience, patience, patience!  

As with his recent run of poor play, he ...... wait, what?  Penalty shot?  Shoot out winner??

Dammit Jim, he's only a sophomore, he, well...... Oh. 

Never mind!*

Ha ha!! Seven Straight!  OK, a serious post tomorrow.

Go Jackets!!!

*underlined italics is the official sarcasm font of the Dark Blue Jacket

Monday, December 15, 2014

A New Dynamic

I have been reflecting a bit on the new dynamic in the games versus the Penguins.  For most old experienced season ticket holders like myself, we carry scars of that game about 4 or 5 years ago, when the Blue Jackets were still playing in the Western Conference.  It was the first time that Pittsburgh had played in Nationwide Arena for several years, and the Penguins fans just took the place over.  Through an error, a Pittsburgh fan even rode the zamboni during the intermission.  It was a totally humiliating experience for a season ticket holder.

A big part of that was the crowd noise.  At that time, the main chant Jackets fans were using was the old 'Let's Go Jackets, clap, clap clappity, clap'.  And oldie but goodie that many teams use (e.g. the Red Wings).  During that game, when the Pittsburgh fans started roaring 'Let's Go Pens', all the Jackets fans had to respond was 'clap, clap, clappity, clap', which isn't exactly a visceral response.   The Penguins fans used their 'Let's Go Pens' chant to run the Blue Jackets fans out of the building (this is not an exaggeration).  It didn't help that the Penguins waxed the Blue Jackets on the ice.

However, late in the run to the playoffs last year, a new cheer arose from the depths of Nationwide Arena.  A homegrown (the best kind) cheer, a stirring chant of C-B-J repeatedly bellowed at the top of your lungs.  This cheer allows the fans to really bring the thunder, and anyone who experienced last year's playoff games will not easily forget that sound.  Scout around YouTube in those playoff clips.  There are some excellent examples.

So when a game like Saturday's game starts to come up, the old scars start to tingle.  The fear of being run out of the building lurks like a shadow.  But there is a new dynamic in these games.  The C-B-J chant is the exact same cadence as that 'Let's Go Pens' chant, and it gives the fan something that you can use to really respond.  So now in these games, when some knuckle dragging mouth breather starts yelling in support of his flightless sea birds, I promptly, and effectively crank up the C-B-J chant.  This gives the fans an ability to go toe to toe with the opposition, and contributes to the playoff-like atmosphere that we experienced on Saturday.  And you gotta love that.

C-B-J!!  C-B-J!!!  C-B-J!!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What a Great Hockey Game, Thanks for Losing!

Classic 2013-14 Playoff Imagery
So quoth Mrs. Gallos, to a Penguins fan in the restaurant after the game.  'What a Great Hockey Game, Thanks for Losing!'  The guy's date was sporting CBJ colors, and he was wearing a Lemieux jersey, indicating a certain constancy of fandom, and he had the grace to be hurt by it and laugh at the same time.  That's the good stuff about rivalries.

The CBJ took a step forward tonight, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in a shoot-out.  The CBJ did not beat the Pens in the regular season last year, so the win represents an incremental gain for our battered team, and helps to erase a 6 game losing streak earlier in the season.

Nationwide Arena was absolutely rocking tonight, as the CBJ faithful did battle with a throaty Penguins contingent.  It was very much of a playoff atmosphere in the barn tonight, which seemed fitting for the level of hockey played.  Both teams brought their lunch bucket, and their brass knuckles, and proceeded to get it on.  It was a very intense hockey game, periodically interrupted by fights, including the semblance of a line brawl in the second period.  The best part was our players sticking up for each other.

Nick Foligno started the scoring with a power play goal, a tap in he kicked up to his stick, earned by camping at the edge of the crease as the man unmarked by the penalty kill.  That got the CBJ an early lead, and they really ramped up the pressure, skating hard and playing physically.  This was exemplified by a play in which Sutter was winning a board battle down low in our defensive zone, and Jack Johnson came from in front of the net to plant a shoulder into his chest that lifted him off his skates, and literally 'knocked him on his ass'.  (That one was a beauty, and really seemed to get Jack engaged in the game).

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ochovechkin Down, Geno to Go

Thank You Bob!!!!
Last night the CBJ stole a game from the Capitals, prevailing in overtime on Nick Foligno's second goal.  It was a '2' night for Nick.  2 goals on 2 shots.  The fancy stats folks will tell you that this is an unsustainable shooting percentage, and he will regress towards his average.  Ummm, yeah, 100% seems a little unsustainable.  He also had 2 hits, 2 takeaways and 2 points.  Since I wear a Nick's number 71 to most games, I am loving this.  I was especially pleased to see that Jarmo reached out to his agent about contract discussions.  Nick is having a really good season.

At any rate, in spite of losing big in the shot column, the Jackets somehow managed to come out on top of Alexander Ovechkin (or Ochovechkin as Mrs. Gallos likes to call him, since he wears number 8) and company.  When the fancy stats people tell you that shots, missed shots, and blocked shots (e.g. Corsi events) are a surrogate for possession, they are not lying.  Washington dominated puck possession, especially during the first two periods, with Ochovechkin taking a season high 9 shots.  But the Jackets came away with the two points, though they left the Caps with one, because this is where the conversation turns to Sergei Bobrovsky.

Bobrovsky has been on an unbelievable tear, posting crazy numbers over the last few games.  Let me check.  According to the lads over at Puck Rakers, Bobrovsky has saved 167 of 176 shots during the 5 game win streak, for a .949 save percentage.  Wowza.  Bob has been exceptionally sharp of late, which the team is going to need if it is going to climb back into the playoff race.  Interestingly, the team is actually very close to the position it was in last year at this time (based on number of games), but last year razor sharp Bob did not appear until January.  In short, the CBJ have about as good a chance of making the playoffs this year as they did last year.

Which makes us turn our attention to the Penguins.  The news, via Puck Rakers again that Crosby is out for the game, because he appears to have the mumps that is sweeping through the NHL is good for the CBJ.  However, we know too well that Evgeni Malkin is plenty capable of carrying the Penguins.  If you recall Geno pretty much single handedly punched us out of the playoffs with a hat trick in Game 6, so he's got the goods to make tomorrow's game very uncomfortable for the CBJ.

Last year we did not have much, if any, success against the elite teams during the regular season.  Even though the Penguins are somewhat battered, they are still a very good team.  A win would be a step forward in the grand scheme of things, and given the crazy injury situation seems a bit much to expect at this juncture in the season.  Thus, a loss tomorrow is no reason for worry, so long as we play respectably.  A win would be 6 straight, and would erase a previous 6 game losing streak, so would be mighty nice.  We shall see.

And again, the injury bug has bit us.  The bad news, brought once again by the Puck Rakers, is that Scott Hartnell has a broken finger, and is on injured reserve.  Let's see, that's Boone, Bob, Wiz, and Hartnell who have all experienced a broken finger.  Gee whiz, when is it gonna stop?  Apparently Kerby Rychal has been called up from the AHL to fill the vacant forward spot.

The hits just keep on coming.  But the team is hanging in there.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Eastern Conference Hi-Jinks

RJ Umberger as a Blue Jacket
Interesting game tonight.  We hosted a couple of Flyer Fans which made it a little crazy, but fun.  Which is what this whole Eastern Conference gig is all about.  These games just feel so natural.  The Flyers are a bit of a train wreck, and the CBJ express is rumbling down the rails leaking steam and sparks in all directions.  It made for a fun hockey game.  In some ways this is still the age of innocence, where the CBJ have yet to punch some of these teams out of a playoff.  That bad blood is earned, and we haven't done it yet.

Perhaps we have a teeny bit of bad blood with Pittsburgh, but who doesn't?  In that regard, this is all still new to us, and these games are really fun. The CBJ <we interrupt this statement to point out the redundant use of the word 'fun'.  The office of redundancy office deplores this fan boy schilling to the powers that be because it implies that cynical bashing might be slightly out of style> prevailed tonight 3-2 in overtime on an improbable breakaway feed from Ryan Johansen to Kevin Connauton for the winning goal.  Once again the CBJ  went into a defensive shell to try to preserve a 2-1 lead late in the third period.  With about 5 minutes left in the game, and the CBJ going on the power play, the power play strategy appeared to be to play the old basketball 4 corners stall.  The Flyers ate it up, spending the bulk of the power play in their offensive zone, overwhelming our five gliders with 4 skaters.  This gave the Flyers momentum going into the last minutes, and once they pulled the goal tender, they were able to draw even.

The Flyers carried the momentum into the overtime, but Ryan Johansen, at the end of a long shift ended up on a 2 on 1 breakaway with Kevin Connauton, in which he delayed and put the puck right on Connauton's stick, and he beat Steve Mason for the winner.  This play resulted in a pile of exultant players on top of Connauton, as he scored his first goal for the CBJ, a game winner.  Cool stuff.

Other interesting story lines in this game was the return of RJ Umberger to Nationwide Arena as a member of the Flyers.  He got a brief mention on the jumbotron (he did ask for a trade after all) and Scott Hartnell got on the board with a goal, while Umberger was pretty invisible in over 15 minutes of ice time.  It is important to keep in mind that the value of this trade needs to be evaluated in the long term, as both players have several more years on their contract, but in the short term this trade is tilted decidedly towards Hartnell.

At the end of the day, this is the fourth straight win for the CBJ.  They are making progress towards erasing the recent 6 game losing streak, but the 9 game losing streak still lurks on their record.  It's not the end of the world if they lose a game, but they cannot afford any more losing streaks.  They are making the baby steps they need to climb back in it, and have lulled the other teams to sleep.  We'll see if they can sneak back into it.