Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lucas Sedlak; Fulcrum for Success

Lucas Sedlak, 2016 Training Camp
I don't know if fulcrum is the right word or not, it's just the one I could come up with that was close to what I meant.  I really regret the loss of William Karlsson, as I think he is going to bloom into a better than average NHL center.  And since Jarmo got him through a bit of grand theft as a throw in from the Wisniewski trade, whom we had acquired as a free agent, we were able get out of the expansion draft without spending a hard earned draft asset (well, except for that late first round pick).

I know there are differing opinions out there on Willia Karlsson, but I will point out that by the end of the playoffs last year, Torts was matching Karlsson up against Crosby as one of our best defenders.  So I think Karlsson will flourish in Vegas.  The reason I say this is that I want to paint the picture of the hole that needs filled, and I think Lucas Sedlak is the guy that will do the filling.

Two years ago, Lucas Sedlak had established himself as an excellent defensive center for the then Lake Erie Monsters.  However, when the playoffs arrived, Sedlak's goal scoring exploded through the simple expedient of crashing the net with his stick on the ice.  Oliver Bjorkstrand routinely found him for tap in goals in that series.

Last year, Lucas was a surprise addition to the team, forcing Gregory Campbell into the Blue Jackets front office in a player development role (see what happens when you save your employer $1 million?).  Lucas had a very steady rookie year in a fourth line center role, finally scored his first NHL goal, and seemed to improve as the season went on.  Unfortunately, a late season injury hampered his play down the stretch, but I thought he was a noticeable force in the last playoff game.

So anyway, just how big of a hole does he have to fill this upcoming year?  Assuming he needs to step in and replace Karlsson as third line center, he needs to upgrade his performance from 7 G - 6 A - 13 P to William Karlsson's 6-19-25 in his sophomore campaign.  Some folks have Oliver Bjorktrand playing on that third line next year, so he likely will have opportunity to up his assist totals with better line mates.  His defensive abilities are certainly good enough to hold down the third line center role, and he is excellent in face offs.

There are some people penciling in Pierre-Luc Dubois into this third line center role.  I think that is fraught with, well, fraughtness.  PLD has to prove he can play in the NHL, and probably should be playing with the Cleveland Monsters this year if his development could override bad arrangements with the Canadian Hockey League.  If PLD doesn't make the NHL squad, he has to go back to the Q and push around 17 year olds, which isn't going to help his development at all.  But I think it unlikely that PLD could duplicate 6-19-25 in his rookie campaign.  If he can, power to him.  So on the big club this year I see him getting his feet wet in a fourth line role.  He has the frame to carry it, and there won't be huge pressure to succeed.  If injuries deplete the top 6, then he could fill in at that level, where the organization hopes he is ultimately going to play.

The reason I say this about PLD is my conviction that it is an organizational imperative that the Blue Jackets make the playoffs again in a murderous Metropolitan Division.  The organization should be past the point of throwing rookies against the wall to see if they stick.  The problem with PLD is that the developmental choices are so crappy.

The reality seems to be that it is not such a stretch to expect Lucas Sedlak to be able to step in and replace William Karlsson's contributions to the team.  A prodctive bottom 6 is a good way to wins games, and I think the Blue Jackets are positioned to have a productive bottom 6 again this year.  Now if only Dubinsky would start scoring.....

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Hartsy, The D-Corps, and Same Ol', Same Ol'

Scott Hartnell
Well, since I last wrote, Scott Hartnell has been bought out, and is now a Nashville Predator.  I am glad for him to go back to his roots, and I wish him a productive year.  Laviolette has coached Hartnell before (I think, correct me if I'm wrong) and knows what he can bring to a team, perhaps more than Torts does, or did.  No matter.  We wish Hartnell well in all he does.  Question: Tribute video when he returns for the first time??  That would give us a sense of how offended our folks were by Joey.  Good luck Scott!

I've been following the Matt Duchene saga, where it is rumored that Colorado wants half our D-Corps for a guy who scored as many points as Gagne last year.  Well he had a down year.  So did Ryan Murray.  Screw 'em I say.  I think Colorado is a bunch of stone cold lunatics for even thinking of trading Duchene, but he is the only asset they really have other than McKinnon.  Why aren't you planning on building around this guy?  If not, why should we mortgage our future for him?  I know he is the sparkly bauble on the other side of the grass is always greener fence.  I know our center depth took a hit with the loss of Karlsson.  It is what it is.  If Duchene will get us a Cup, fine.  I don't think he will.  So he's not worth it.

When I think of D-Corps depth I always think of the last time Vancouver made a run to the finals.  They had arguably the best and deepest defensive group in the league, and all season long pundits and fans talked about the trades that Vancouver could make with that depth.  By the time they got to the Stanley Cup final, maybe one of those guys was still standing, and they lost him to injury in the final.  You can't have enough defensive depth.  Ryan Murray has seen several players pass him on the depth chart.  That is a unique experience for him, as he has always been the best defenseman on his team.  This summer he is essentially healthy, and has an opportunity to do something about it.  Don't undersell this guy.  It is, however, a 'show me' season, where he needs to demonstrate he is a Top 4 D-man.  Could he unseat Jack Johnson as Savard's partner?  We assume he can't, or won't, but that will be determined in training camp.  Or could he seize a top pair role opposite Seth Jones, pushing Werenski down to Savard's partner?  Think about Seth Jones or Werenski on the ice for 50 minutes of a 60 minute game.

Joe Sakic is trying to rebuild a fundamentally depleted roster with one trade.  Jarmo HAS to stand firm on this.  Duchene is a nice addition, but he does not single-handedly loft our team to the Cup.  Defensive depth is essential to a run to the Cup, as we don't have the forwards to overcome that lack (see Penguins, Pittsburgh).  So the Colorado fans think other teams are underselling them.  If this guy is worth 3 players and a pick, why the heck are you trying to trade him?  Don't you think the new GM in Colorado is going to want to build around this guy?  Stand fast Jarmo.  Don't do it.  It's okay to talk, but just don't.

So while I was indiscriminately re-tweeting every thing CBJ related around the opening of free agency, I came across a series of tweets about 'if we don't get Duchene it's the Same Ol', Same Ol' Jackets'.  I guess I don't agree with that, though I concede the fact that there are people who are going to feel that way.  I think there is a ton of back pressure on the parent club being provided by a talented group of youngsters.  Gabriel Carlsson is putting a lot of heat on our Defensive Corps from below.  Markus Nutivaara had a break out season, but could be on the bench this year.  Scott Harrington as well played a depth role effectively, but Carlsson may have passed both of them.  This is a GREAT problem to have.

Likewise, there is a lot of pressure in the forward corps.  Oliver Bjorkstrand will have an opportunity to train effectively this summer, something he was unable to do last year.  I have high hopes for this player.  Pierre-Luc Dubois is looking to make the team, but the other huge wild card is Vitaly Abramov.  The guy won the scoring title AND the MVP in the Quebec Major Junior league in his draft year.  Now the Q is not renowned for its great defensive play, and the ability to play defense will likely determine if Abramov makes the team.  But, like Dubois, he is either going back to the Q or playing on the big club.  But he is another potential sniper that will keep the heat on everyone playing above him.

So, in the end, I don't think we are looking at a 'Same Ol', Same Ol' Jackets' season no matter what.  I think that it is an organizational imperative to make the playoffs this year.  Injuries, defections, mumps, lose 8 in a row, what have you; we need to be deep enough to carry it through.  Eke in as the last wild card, on the last day, it doesn't matter.  This organization HAS to make the playoffs this year, or last year's superlative season is reduced to 'Same Ol', Same Ol'.  This just can't happen.  Maybe it will.  It's a tough league, and a lot of teams are getting better, particularly in our Division.  But our team is very young, and getting better is what they are going to be doing for the next little while.  And I am unwilling to sacrifice that for an overvalued bauble so that another team can rebuild their shattered roster at our expense.

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Another Good Hockey Trade

Brandon Saad, 1 day before taking a smile altering puck
in the teeth.  Training Camp 2015
On Friday morning, Jarmo Kekalainen made another 'good hockey trade', by sending Brandon Saad back to Chicago in exchange for Artemi Panarin, in a trade that likely improves both hockey clubs.  There were other moving parts to the trade, but this was the headline, and rightfully so.

Brandon Saad was a good player for the Blue Jackets, and it could fairly be said that we likely had not yet seen the best he had to offer.  We had signed him to a long contract, and in my mind he had plenty of time to become the guy we needed him to become.

Consider this.  Saad came from a Cup victory to a team that rewarded him with a hefty contract, and promptly punted a season in the span of 8 games.  This had to be baffling to him. Fortunately he got to experience a turn around with essentially the same group the following year.  That experience will make him a better player in the context of Chicago.  When he speaks of adversity in their locker room, the words will come from one who has known adversity.  So good luck in Chicago Mr. Saad.

Coming the other way is a player who can be a dynamic scorer.  Panarin has scored 30 goals in consecutive years, and will move from the second line to the top line.  Yes, other teams will adjust, but the Jackets have shown an ability to score by committee, so it won't be like in days of yore when Nash was the only scoring threat on the team.  Between Panarin, Atkinson, and Bjorkstrand, we have some guys who can do some serious sniping, so if another team commits to shutting down Panarin, we have other guys who can make it hard for them.  In addition, he does a lot of his scoring on the Power Play, and ours looked like it needed another finisher towards the end of the year.  It should be fascinating to see how this plays out.

I watched a video clip of Panarin one-timing a pass from Brent Seabrook for a goal, and all I thought to myself was: Zach Wereneski can make that pass.  Seth Jones can make that pass.  Heck, Markus Nutivaara can make that pass.  So, this looks really good.

A good hockey trade is defined as a trade that helps both hockey clubs, and both players.  The Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen has proven to be a good hockey trade.  I feel this trade fits that mold.

Welcome to Columbus, Artemi!  We have a few details to work out.  Do you like 'the Breadman'?  Are we allowed to have an Arti Parti?  We'll sort that out during the season, a season that may well promise some highlight reel stuff from a dynamic player in a new role.  Dang, I can hardly wait.

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sorry to Hear About Joey, Rainy Morning in Columbus

Ryan Johansen knocked out of playoffs. :-(
The news came the other day that former Blue Jacket Ryan Johansen was knocked out of the playoffs by a thigh injury that required season ending emergency surgery.  I am really disappointed for Joey, as I was enjoying the exploits of the Predators this year.  They handled the repeated match-ups with Cup winning Chicago the right way.  It made them better, and they finally kicked the crap out of Chicago.  Probably the only thing standing between us and doing the same thing to the Penguins is Mike Sullivan, and they will stupidly fire him soon for some dumb reason (insert diabolical laughter).  So don't whine about the playoff format.  Just get better.

As for the Predators, they rallied to win a game on the road yesterday, and stand one game away from a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.  Best of luck to them.  I am disappointed for Joey because he was really coming into his own after the trade to Nashville.  That trade remains a great hockey trade, as both teams and both players benefited from the trade.  Good luck in your healing processes Joey!

It's been awhile since I've posted, as I have been really busy, as well as trying to digest the totality of the Blue Jackets season.  This was the best season for the Blue Jackets, by far, but after thinking about the whole thing, they really need to return to the playoffs next year to validate this season.  The analogy I am going to use is the Islanders.  The went a long time as a not real good team in terms of where they finished in the league.  Then they got to the playoffs, but were out the next year,  Back in, then out again.  So really sort of on the cusp.  The Jackets might have gained a modicum of respect around the league, but for them to grow that, they need to return to the playoffs next year.  Miss the playoffs, and the rest of the league will look at it as 'same old Jackets'.  No excuses this time.  No injuries, no craptastic start, gotta go back.  Expectations are one thing, but this is not an expectation, it is a need, and its not really optional.  Anything else is a major step backwards.

But, this year was the best year in franchise history.  So let's play with some of the 'firsts'.  Right now I am up to thirteen, but I suspect I am missing some.  Let me know what I missed.  Here we go!

2016-17 Columbus Blue Jackets Firsts:

  • Most wins, 50 
  • Most points, 106
  • Consecutive wins, 16 
  • Most wins by a goalie, 41 by Bobrovsky
  • Most points by a rookie, 47 by Werenski
  • Most goals scored, 249
  • Fewest goals allowed, 195
  • Best league finish, 4th
  • First top 5 finish in the league
  • First non-wild card playoff spot
  • First playoff win in regulation time (no OT)
  • First playoff elimination game win
  • First road elimination game
As you can see, that first batch of 'firsts' is from the regular season, the second half of the list is from the playoffs.  So even if we got bounced by the defending champs in 5 games, we did some things that represent baby steps in our playoff development.  That development can continue apace if we return to the playoffs again in 2017-18.  But that is a long time away right now.  Whether it is a long distance away remains to be seen.

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Friday, April 21, 2017

What a Ride!

Nationwide Arena Glows in a Playoff Light
Well my friends.  That was a beauty.  The cool thing is that I think a lot of people got to see how the barn can thunder in the playoffs.  When Cam scored that goal at the beginning of Game 3 I wasn't sure the roof was going to stay on the building.  That was really fun, what a moment!  I also think that some fans felt for the first time what it means to engage on your team's behalf, and what a battle that can be.  Because that's what it means to be a fan.  You have to sell out for something, and take the consequences as they come.  This last week had some rough spots for me, I can assure you.  I think it was likely that way for many of you.

Yet here we are.

I am starting to ingest some of the angry emotions from being bounced from the playoffs, and am starting to be able to look back with pride at what this team has accomplished.  I'm not in a big hurry here.  Playing with the lists of 'firsts' that came this year is going to be a lot of fun.

But first a comment on where this team now stands.  In 2008-09 Rick Nash pulled the team to its first playoff appearance by sheer strength of will.  I can remember wondering after that series if Nash would be able to climb that mountain again.  To his credit I think he tried, but his efforts were in vain, and it became time to move on.

After the 2013-14 playoffs the lack of organizational depth showed, and the team on one hand was unable to shrug off a rash of injuries and on the other stumbled and fell out of the gate, thus putting them well behind in the race, which they gamely finished.

So what about the 2016-17 CBJ?  This club was substantially better in all facets than the 2013-14 playoff team and they accomplished a number of franchise firsts.  Will they too stumble or be too short handed to succeed?  I guess my point is that the  2017-18 team doesn't need to repeat or exceed any of the firsts they had this year, so long as they become the first team in franchise history to go to the playoffs in consecutive years.  From there, as we just experienced, we will see what we will see.  Experience tempers expectations I guess, but next years team has lofty goals to achieve.

Now for some fun with lists.  A couple of cool firsts pointed out by Lori Schmidt (@LoriSchmidt); the first playoff game won in regulation, the first elimination game that the Jackets have won, and of course the corollary, their first road elimination game lost.    So that's a step in the right direction.  A baby step, yes, but a step.

Next, I think it was the boys over at the Dispatch that pointed out  that 10 CBJ players had their playoff debut.  In no particular order they are ( - r means they were a rookie):

Wennberg
Werenski - r
Karlsson, WB
Carlson, G - r
Nutivaara - r
Sedlak - r
Bjorkstrand - r
Milano - r
Harrington - r
Anderson - r

It is significant that 8 of the 10 Blue Jackets that made their playoff debut were rookies.  There is a lot of growth to be had internally

Enough for now.  You will hear plenty of negativity out there.  Don't let it bother you.  The negatives help if they provide perspective, but they should be regarded warily, especially if the self-aggrandization is evident.  Then all you are getting is a narrow view, and it should be considered with caution.  I know that some sources I formerly used to gain perspective are now unreliable.  It's a shame.

Since I said that, I wanted to clarify that I write these for fun, and I do it for free.  When its not fun, I'll quit.  I do however, pay for season tickets.  So my hockey knowledge is bought with cash money.   Whether or not that is wise is probably subject for debate.  But its definitely a ton of fun!

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bated Breath (short post)

Well.  The prelims are over.  The big show starts tomorrow.  Look around the blogosphere, and there is a lot of great coverage of the Blue Jackets team versus the Penguins.  This is our best team ever.  I am going to sit back and enjoy the ride, no matter how short, or no matter how long.

The guys I am happiest for are Mike Arace, Aaron Portzline, and Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch.  These guys have poured a lot of blood sweat and tears into covering a sometimes awful team.  This should be a blast for them.  We are lucky to have good coverage in the local rag, and I hope they enjoy covering the high times as well as the low.

The Jackets are in the playoffs.  The Monsters are locked in a tight fight to make the playoffs.  It's a great time to be a Jackets fan.

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

More Gliding than the Ice Capades

It's good for Saad to feel the net
Hi folks.  I've been kinda quiet lately.  A big part of my silence is that I feel my role in the blogosphere is to try to provide perspective.  Welp.  I have no perspective here.  This is uncharted territory for the franchise, and even if I look back at it in hindsight all I can say is that this is our best team ever, hands down.  What that means in the grand scheme of things is something to be considered later.  Now, it's just the ride.

So I have this to offer for Blue Jackets fans.  Tonight's 5-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets is the most meaningless game the Jackets have played since preseason.  It has no impact on the standings or playoff position.  And seriously, a late season swoon by the Jackets is the perfect sucker play, because there will be a number of national pundits saying 'see, I told you so, these guys aren't that good'.  True.  They have performed poorly in games that don't really count all year long.  Props to the Caps for salting down their second consecutive President's Trophy.  They deserve it, they have played a lot of winning hockey.  Likewise, the Penguins deserve home ice, by winning in spite of their injuries.  And lastly, the Jackets have a big interest in having the Penguins believe they are the better team.  Perhaps they are.  They need to win a 7 game series to prove it, just as the Jackets do.  We get to watch.  Woot!

One thing the Blue Jackets know how to do is block shots.  However, shot blocking tonight was rather symbolic.  I watched Seth Jones do this funky genuflect, pretending he was blocking a shot, and the guy walked around him and scored Winnipeg's second (?) goal.  I promise that Seth Jones gets that puck in the playoffs, or the guy never gets that shot off.  That's how meaningless these games are.

So there it is.  Four goals tonight is something.  The CBJ know how to play defense.  They need to get their offense going.  Look for these next two meaningless games to be pretty wide open, fast skating affairs.  And look for the defensive pressure from both sides to ramp up in the playoffs.  That much, at least, I know.

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Buckle Up!

Yesterday afternoon the Captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nick Foligno, exhorted the fans to 'buckle up' for a fun ride!  Truer words could not be spoken for this fan, who is looking forward to the ride through the playoffs.  Likely disappointment will await, as it does for all teams but one, but the team goes on this journey vastly improved from previous additions.

Yesterday's 1-0 win was a slugging match with the Flyers, the type of game you have to be able to win in the playoffs.  For the moment the Jackets have home ice advantage in the playoffs, a position that is sure to vary over these last two weeks of the season.  With a 3 game stretch next weekend of Chicago, Washington, and Pittsburgh, the President's Trophy competition will sort itself out on the ice, which is all you can ask for.  It should be a fantastic learning experience for our young team, where mistakes, and lessons from those mistakes, don't translate into playoff losses.  You can't really ask for a more fitting ending to an outstanding season for the Blue Jackets.

More than anything you want to go into the playoffs playing good hockey, and the Jackets are working on solidifying their game.  Day off today, I believe, a chance to practice tomorrow, and then the Sabres are coming to town, the first of the three remaining home games.  Not many chances to get out and see the best team in franchise history at work getting ready for the playoffs.  You may want to take advantage of that opportunity.

Last two weeks of the season, and then girding for the playoffs!

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Joonas Steps Up and Takes the Loss

A fundamental reality of the NHL, in this day and age, is that no team, no matter how many guys you have called Cindy, is good enough to win all of its games.  Losing efforts are inevitable, and the question becomes "when do they happen and how much damage does it cause?"  Tonight, Joonas Korpisalo was his normal kinda 'scrambly like he is a young goal tender' self, and ended up taking the loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.  To his credit, Joonas was perhaps the most aggressive player on the 5 minute power play in the third period, throwing the puck up the ice.  The rest of the team seemed content to glide around the ice in the face of Toronto pressure.  One shot on a 5 minute power play, on the Jackets lone man advantage, is pretty pitiful.  The power play got booed of all things; in Nationwide Arena. But it was no more than they deserved.  By the way, have I ever mentioned how much I hate drop passes?

One team wanted to play well tonight.  One team wanted to win.  The team that wanted to win did so, as the Jackets were obviously focused on tomorrow's match-up with the Capitals.  If you do that in the NHL you get burned.  That's what happened to the Jackets tonight.  Since looking past an opponent rarely benefits a team, they may well lose tomorrow as well.  The Jackets were a one line team tonight, with lots of passengers.  I didn't like the hit on Bjorkstrand when it happened, but I never got a real good look at it.  The refs had already let the game get away from them, so calling a major when it got out of hand seemed appropriate I guess.  The league will review it, but had the refs taken a stronger stance on high hits earlier in the game it might have never happened.

The Jackets played tonight like a team that had clinched the playoffs that was playing against a team that is still fighting to hold its playoff position.  Since the team needs to take some losses down the stretch, this isn't such a bad loss to take.  Like any loss it is galling, but at the end of the day, it is not the focus of this team any longer.  Tomorrow's game against the Caps is more important, though it is hard to think of ways that tonight's stinker somehow prepares you for tomorrow's game that counts.  This game was winnable for the Jackets.  They just couldn't reach out and do it.  So the team that deserved to win ended up winning.  That doesn't always happen, but it did tonight.

We gotta lose some games.  It might as well be that one.  We certainly don't want a 16 game winning streak now (as if you can turn that on), we would want that in the playoffs.  So there it is.  Losing sucks, and kinda burns.  But it has to happen.  Better to feel the pain now to make you stronger in the future.

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Monday, March 20, 2017

They Made It! Playoffs Clinched!

Josh Anderson is rolling.
Hi folks.  Sorry I've been so quiet lately, but I've been gripping the stick a little too tight down the stretch here.  Almost afraid to write about stuff, for fear of jinxing something.  But this team has something going, and is playing some very tough hockey down the stretch.  It is a real pleasure to watch these guys play, though I have to admit there have been a few referees cursed loudly in the friendly confines of my own home during these away games.

I am really happy for the team that they have the President's whatchamacallit to chase.  It keeps them playing good hockey as the playoffs approach.  Failure to win the President's Trophy could not possibly take away from the pleasure I have had in watching this team succeed they way they have this year.  This group has stomped all over the franchise record books in a way that will resonate through years, and that makes me feel really good.  This group of players are always going to be remembered as something special, no matter how this all turns out.  Because the sledding is about to get tougher.

But before we go there, reflecting on the fact that this team has 100 points in the books, have clinched a playoff spot, and there are still 10 games left in the regular season just blows my mind.  And they have a unique opportunity.  You can have a very good team, have a very good year, but not be in a position to have a chance to take a run at the President's Trophy.  So you want to take full advantage of that opportunity.  But the Blackhawks seem to be wanting to make this a four team race,   However, we get a crack at them up in Chicago, the same way we get a crack at the Pens, and two more cracks at the Caps.  That ought to be some really fun hockey down the stretch.

As far as the playoffs, it seems to me that the match-up with the Penguins is somewhat pre-ordained.  We've been staring at it for months now, and it seems inevitable.  The bad thing about this playoff set up is that a really good team, one of the Caps, Pens or CBJ is going to lose in the first round.  But the hockey will be compelling.  And for sure you want home ice advantage if you have any way to get it.  So we will see where the chips fall in these next 10 games.  But the team seems to have some momentum right now, and that is really good to see.  Now is the time when the lessons of The Streak, and the aftermath become the most beneficial.  They know what it is like to look toward a big thing, they know what it is like to see it end.  The one game at a time mantra that they preach and seem to practice will help them here.

Amazingly, as much as this team has accomplished this year, it still has a lot to prove, and in my opinion the players recognize that.  Watching some national outlets go out of their way to take shots at this team because they do not fit the predetermined narrative has been a real surprise for me.  I've been stomaching poorly researched, poorly executed, and just plain biased writing from outlets I formerly respected.  It is interesting to see that at work.  And there has been a little tooth grinding as I had to stomach this stuff.  It is quite possible that the Jackets will bow out in the first round.  It looks like they are playing the Caps or the Pens in the first round, and both of these squads are formidable opponents.  That doesn't mean I am conceding these match-ups, far from it.  But the final outcome is certainly in doubt, that's why you play the games.  I reiterate.  One of three really good Metropolitan Division teams is going to lose in the first round.  That's the way these playoffs are structured, and the purpose is to generate steaming hot rivalries.  This is precisely what the rivalry geeks wanted, and they are gonna get some dandy games out of it.

But I have to say, I don't fear the outcome of the playoff series.  I think our team is poised to acquit itself well, as a fan I plan on leaving it all out there 'on the ice' so to speak, and I don't plan on having any regrets regardless of the outcome.  We shall see.

The second season looms.  I have never felt better about a Jackets team going into the playoffs.  I plan on being one scruffy looking dude before this is all over.  Third playoff series in franchise history.  Who knows?  Could be third times the charm!

GO JACKETS!!!
GO MONSTERS!!