Friday, October 4, 2019

Please Keep Hands and Feet Inside CBJ Ride, Until it Comes to a Complete Stop

Hi folks!  The Columbus Blue Jackets 2018-20 Roller Coaster will start tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  It should be a heckuva ride this year, and we don't really know where it's going.  Personally, I think its going to be a lot of fun.  But expectations are low.

Which is funny, because my buddy Bill always says these seasons never turn out the way you think they are going to.  Realistically, I didn't think I would ever see that last year's team would fear for making the playoffs, and they were nearly diva'd right out of the dance.  Our poor showing after the trade deadline had a lot to do with our diva weight last year, weight that we shed over the off season.  So I like our chances to finish about where we did last year, but who knows?  Have fun with it folks!  New story lines, and new and interesting players should make it a fun year.

Terms of Service
I am a solo blogger, and I do this for fun.  That makes for a certain amount of intermittancy in my posts, as my time may get sucked up by being a working stiff.  I pay for my tickets, I go to the games, and I share my opinion, no matter how misguided.  There's a lot of good stuff out there on the blogosphere to keep you busy reading.  Thanks for taking the time to check in once in a while.


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Old School Blue Jackets Approach is New Again

Alexandre Texier
The Columbus Blue Jackets will be faced with an interesting season this year, and one way to view it is as an old approach made new again.  But there are some stark differences in the approach this time around.  In the early days of the franchise, the CBJ often relied on newly drafted young players coming into the lineup to provide a hope for success.  This was due mainly to the paucity of talent in the organization (a dramatic contrast to the Golden Knights).  Derick Brassard is an example of a player that came into the CBJ lineup without a stop in the AHL.  Our desperation level was high at that time.  Sometimes the players fared well in spite of the complete lack of development, e.g. Rick Nash, Brassard, Jakub Voracek.  Other times they didn't, e.g. Alexander Picard.  Nonetheless, these players were looked to for advancing the team's fortunes.

Fast forward to the upcoming 2019-20 NHL season, and the Blue Jackets will once again be looking for young players to advance the team's fortunes, but with some huge differences.  Whereas in the past many of the young players WERE the talent, in the upcoming season they will be surrounded by relatively proven talent.  There were no players close to Seth Jones or Zach Werenski on the old teams, or forwards such as Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson, Pierre Luc-Dubois of the newly added Gustav Nyquist.  These players are backed with proven veterans such as Boone Jenner and Nick Foligno, so the supporting cast is orders of magnitude stronger.

Emil Bemstrom
The other major difference is that the young players have not been rushed to the NHL, but their development has been allowed to run its course.  It is entirely possible that Alexandre Texier and Emil Bemstrom are not ready for the NHL.  But their development has not been rushed, and it is the right time in their development curve to attempt to take that step.  They will get a chance to prove in training camp that they are ready.

Of course, the biggest story of looking for young players to step up is in the net.  Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikens will man the net for the Blue Jackets this year.  I have always liked Elvis' game, and way back in early development camps I thought he showed he was a great prospect.  Personally though, I am very bullish on Joonas Korpisalo.  Several years ago a read a lengthy article about goal tender development in Finland.  It was in part VI of that article where I learned that Finnish goal tenders tend to have a later development curve.  In other words, they just seem to mature later in contrast to Canadian players.  The takeaway lesson was to be patient in developing your Finnish goal tenders. 

To me, Joonas Korpisalo is at the sweet spot of his development curve, and this is a nearly perfect time for him to ascend to a number 1 net minder.  Keep in mind that while Joonas' stats are not sparkling (2.95 GAA; .897 SV%), his record was 10-7-3.  Keep in mind that if the Blue Jackets back up goal tender doesn't have a winning record, they don't make the playoffs in the tumultuous 2018-19 season.  This is the best record ever for a CBJ backup (McElhinney's 2015-16 record of 12-14-2 is closest) as it is a winning record.  Joonas is going to be ready, and I think he will surprise some people.  And I think he is ready for this.  He has learned all he can ever learn from Bobrovsky.  Now its time to put it to use.

The late Jeff Little used to like to say, "hope is not a strategy".  Unfortunately, hope is all the Blue Jackets had available in the early years.  This time around though, the CBJ have done their due diligence on the development side of the ledger, and have several young players that are ready to take the step to the NHL as a natural progression in their development.  Their level of success can only be gauged in the crucible of play in the best hockey league in the world.  Likely some will succeed, and some will need more time.  However, I hope they all succeed beyond our wildest dreams!


Monday, May 6, 2019

Ya Gotta Score a Goal

Tonight, the Columbus Blue Jackets fell to the Boston Bruins 3-0.  Shut out in game 6.  That hurts.  But there it is.  The better team won.  Now we move on.

This was the most successful team in the history of our franchise.  Never lose sight of that.

This is a veteran Boston Club, and the window is closing rapidly on them.  Give them credit for playing like playoff veterans.  We didn't score.  That's a statement on their part.  It wasn't because we sucked.  They were the better team and they deserved to win.  Play better in the regular season, come through the Metro bracket, and this match-up might be in the Eastern Conference Championship.  No slight to Carolina meant.  That's totally on us.  Personally, I'm planning on being a front-running jerk for the rest of the playoffs.  But that's just me.

Congratulations Columbus Blue Jackets!  It was fun to root for you this year.  And we are looking at a tumultuous off season, so we'll have a lot to talk about.  Love you all.

So ends the best season ever for our young franchise.  It was a beauty.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Locked into a Real Series

For the first time in their history, the Columbus Blue Jackets are locked into a real playoff series.  This is a team that has never experienced a game 7, and the odds seem to be that they are looking to add this to their resume soon.  Certainly Boston will not be alarmed if they lose one of these next two games, as their veteran attitude came out in a big way in Game 4.

Tonight's game 5 will be an interesting test for the CBJ.  There are some improvements they need to make in their 5 on 5 game as has been well documented, and need to stay out of the penalty box.  As has been shown in this series, and against Tampa, and really against Washington last year, the fates of the team are fairly closely tied to their power play success.  So here's hoping that Cam has a blistering night on the power play.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.  For us, we will be trying to re-capture the taco magic from Game 1 against Tampa.  It's a long story, but it worked. 

Congratulations to Carolina for advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.  That is a really good story. 

Big game tonight in Boston.  We have to take at least one game on the road if we want to advance.  I'm looking forward to it.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

5th Line Fizzle

Game 3, 2014, when real crowds graced
Nationwide Arena
That was, bar none, the worst playoff crowd to ever attend a game in Nationwide Arena.  Needy, apprehensive, the crowd allowed the Bruins to take them out of the game.  The CBJ did not have the puck luck tonight.  That's hockey.  The crowd needs to rise above that.  They didn't.

Telling the refs they suck is a truism.  Of course they do.  A lightning quick game, played with different unspoken rules than the regular season.  Even the CBJ's lone goal was on a bad call.   Hello folks.  One goal is not enough. 

Tuuka Rask was the better goal tender tonight, or perhaps the luckier one.  We put plenty of good chances on him.  He held his early lead.  This was a predictable performance by the Bruins, and if we want to advance, we now have to win another game in their barn. 

This was a real solid mid-March crowd.  Got some momentum by the third period, left for their cars when the Bruins put the game away.  Really?

I feel bad for the players.  It didn't go their way tonight.  That's hockey.  You have to grapple with defeat.  This is not like college football where you have to be perfect.  No one goes undefeated.  That's why you have to win a 7 game series.  They didn't bank on having a lame crowd tonight. 

It's time to look in the mirror, so-called 5th line.  What do you really want?  Historic playoff crowds have cheered louder when things went bad.  That's our advantage.  It wasn't present tonight.  No wonder we lost.

Bullschitt performance by the CBJ crowd tonight.  The players will respond.  Will you?


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Dubi Calls Me Out; Bread Delivers

After last night's thrilling overtime win in Boston, Brandon Dubinsky was asked about the atmosphere in Nationwide Arena he expected this coming Tuesday.  His response was something to the tune of 'It will be a hell of a lot louder than it was here'.  Challenge accepted Dubi.  Game on!

Second round playoff hockey comes to Nationwide Arena on Tuesday for the first time ever.  It will ooze awesomeness.  I am already getting pumped up.  You don't get that many kicks at this can, and my head is right to leave it all out there Tuesday night.  So thanks Dubi.  I can relax, and let it flow now.

Last night, Artemi Panarin scored two goals.  One of them truly sublime to tie the game up in the third period.  Overall, he played a very good game, but dang, on both of his goals all of his skill was on display.  I'm keeping the blinders on, focusing on this chance in the playoffs.  The Jackets were able to gain a split on the road, and now come home for the next two games. 

I am pleased for Matt Duchene, who I think has played well in this second round.  I think all the players have had some struggles at times in this series, Boston is going to do that to you.  They are a very solid team.  There is a lot of hockey to be played yet in this series, but once again the Jackets are coming home and playing with house money.  This is going to be fantastically fun.

Meanwhile, kudos are due to the Cleveland Monsters as well, who advanced to the second round of the AHL playoffs.  The parent club has pulled a lot of talent from there on this run, its good to see the depth that we have down there.  Liam Foudy scored two goals to help advance the Jackets.  That's really good to see.   Jarmo moved a lot of assets to vault the parent club forward, but the Monsters have played tough down the stretch, and done well so far.  Here's hoping they can keep it going forward.

Second round action comes to Nationwide Arena on Tuesday.  It will be awesome.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

How the Open Scrimmage Helps me Gird for the Second Round

Jarmo Kekalainen's suggestion to open the scrimmage to the public yesterday drew about 5,500 CBJ fans.  I had intended to take some vacation and go; my wife already had the day off.  But I hurt my myself (upper body, day to day) and couldn't go.  But this break, and an event like that are helping me to get my edge back as a fan.

You see, I let it all hang out in that series against Tampa.  The notion of cheering hard when the least little thing went bad meant nothing to me.  The funny part of game 4, is that I don't even remember Tampa tying the game, we were cheering so hard.  Ears pinned back, letting it loose, particularly when things looked like they were going sideways.

For you see, no one could do anything to me that hadn't already been done in an opening round of the playoffs.  The precision of the Detroit sweep, the angst of the Penguins, the crushing losses to Washington, there just wasn't much that I hadn't seen.  The pundits predicted another Detroit-like sweep.  So I had nothing to lose.

But when the CBJ swept Tampa, I was hit with this overwhelming sense of joy and relief.  And I have struggled since then to regain my edge.  I now feel I have something to lose again in this next round, and I have to find a way to let go of that if I'm going to be the fan I need to be in this upcoming round. 

So the rest and recuperation has been helpful for me, after a trying season of fandom.  But I can feel it coming back now, the edge and the excitement.  I'll be ready to take on any disappointments with aplomb, keep my head in the game, and make Nationwide the most competitive environment I can.  I'm ready for it now, and we just need to get this Boston-Toronto game 7 out of the way so we can see ahead.

We pushed hard on Tampa, and they did not have an answer.  Our second round opponent will not be hampered by that problem, and will respond when pushed.  Likewise, we will be called on to do the same.  It is going to be fantastically fun, and I am really getting pumped.  But I needed the break for this one.  So thanks for sweeping them boys!

Round 2 starts later this week.  Uncharted territory.  It should be awesome!

GO MONSTERS!! (up 2-0 in their own playoff series!)

Monday, April 15, 2019

Stage Set for Another Epic Game 4

The Columbus Blue Jackets have a somewhat checkered
Seth Jones
playoff history.  But one thing you CAN say about their playoff history is that they produce epic Game 4's when they are in the playoffs.

Game 4 against Detroit in our first ever playoff series, when they came back from multiple deficits.  The too many men penalty at the end that sealed the sweep for Detroit, and the shower of beer cans that followed.  That's called real time performance feedback folks.

The epic game 4 against the Penguins, with Dubinsky's late tying goal, and Foligno's overtime winner replaced the Detroit game as the best Game 4 ever.  What a game that was, and what a moment.

Last year's game 4 saw Columbus waste a pretty good performance by Bob because the scoring had ultimately dried up.  Washington evened the series at 2 games apiece in that one, as their march to the Cup was just getting started.

This year's game 4 may prove epic as well.  The Jackets come into this game with 10 players having scored in the series.  It is to be hoped that the well of scoring is far from dry, and my personal hope is that Texier gets his first playoff goal to add to the list of scorers.   A dangerous and talented Tampa Bay team will come into this game looking to win a game and stay in the series.  For the Blue Jackets, the 4th game is the hardest game to win in a series.  We will get to see if they can rise to that occasion.  A win would be epic, to say the least.

Oh, by the way. There haven't been any epic Game 3's, as our Game 3 misfortunes have usually set the stage for an epic Game 4.  Until last night of course. 

Big game coming up tomorrow, should be awesome!  Maybe even epic.  We'll see where this takes us.

Before I finish, I wanted to note that the Cleveland Monsters have clinched a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs!  Well done Monsters! 

Tomorrow the Blue Jackets go for their first series win.  Fans need to come prepared to battle for this one, I don't think it will end easy.


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Unfortunately, The Jackets Must Win at Home to Accomplish Anything

David Savard
BREAKING: Tampa Bay Coach Jon Cooper announces that Braden Holtby will take the net for the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight against the Blue Jackets.  Ha ha ha!  NOT! 

The Columbus Blue Jackets stunningly return home today, up 2-0 against a powerful Tampa Bay Lightning team.  It is well chronicled that the Blue Jackets lost the series last year against the Capitals after leading 2-0.  Even the Tampa players are trying to get the Blue Jackets to believe that this is the same scenario.  It is not. 

However, Blue Jackets fans must steel their hearts and prepare for adversity.  We must be prepared to cheer when the chips are down.  Its playoff hockey, and we are part of this fight.  Sometimes it hurts.  Oh, don't we know it.  But don't give up the ship.  Tonight we cheer hard no matter what.

Reverting to the previous subject, reasons why this is not the same as last year's 2-0 lead, it is important to remember that coming back from a 2-0 deficit is a rarity, not a regularity.  Part of the reason that Washington was able to do it so effectively last year, as my little quip above indicated, they were able to re-insert their starting goal tender who had inexplicably lost his job down the stretch.  That completely changed the dynamic of the series, and Holtby got hot and took them to the Cup.  Tampa Bay already has their starter in net. 

Tom Reed, over on the Athletic (subscription required) wrote a good article today about the Blue Jackets needing to create better home memories.  He's right.  But last year, when up 2-0, this was uncharted territory for the Blue Jackets.  This year it is not, and the angst from losing that series last year has simmered all year.  They will not approach tonight's game the same way as they approached game 3 last year.  Tampa Bay is a veteran, experienced playoff club.  They, and the Blue Jackets, know that it is not over until you win four games.  The vibe here reminds me of the 1990 World Series, when the Reds stormed past a powerful A's team that just never got started.  So it would behoove the Jackets to put these guys away.

Huge game tonight in Nationwide Arena.  The Jackets need a home win.  We, the fans, need to buckle it on and bring it, no matter what happens.  We are setting up for another memorable game 4 in Nationwide Arena.  But first, we need to take care of business tonight.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Not Your Big Brothers Blue Jackets; 3 in a Row is a Trend

Wennberg Sits for Texier
The Columbus Blue Jackets have punched their ticket to the playoffs for the third consecutive year.  That, my friends is a trend, and a refreshing one.  Congratulations to the players, coaches, and management for this achievement.  It is colored somewhat by the threat of facing the Tampa juggernaut in the first round. 

And naturally, since I have been critical of Panarin, Artemi Panarin scored a goal, won the shootout on his forehand (his forehand is lethal) and Bobrovsky's stellar play got us into the playoffs against the Rangers.  Panarin continued his good play against Ottawa.  That's fine, I am happy for him, and I am happy for Bob.  Now the real test starts, and now the real evaluation starts.  So they get a clean slate, just like everyone else.

But keep in mind the illusion these two games represents.  Panarin had space to operate.  That space will disappear in the playoffs.  Think back to the Boston game, where every time he touched the puck he was jumped by one, sometimes two Boston players.  That was playoff hockey.  But the slate is clean.

Alexander Wennberg's regular season finally ended with a whimper.  A lost year for him.  He was replaced in the lineup by rookie Alexandre Texier who showed a willingness to shoot, and scored his first NHL goal, thereby getting half of Wennberg's goal total for the year in 2 games.  Ouch.  Wennberg needs a reset.  Well, the playoffs are clean slate, and if he can crack the lineup, he has a chance to make some noise if he decides to shoot the puck.  Hopefully next year goes better for him.

So the second season has started.  All teams are 0-0, and the schedule should drop later today. 

Best of luck Jackets!  No pressure, everyone expects you to lose in 4 games, so relax, have fun, work hard, and play your game.