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!!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Give 'em a Bjorking!!

On a night when the New Jersey Devils had the legs on the Blue Jackets, the CBJ (read Bob) hung in there until the third period.  In a play eerily reminiscent of the Calder Cup Championship series last year, Oliver Bjorkstrand slipped through a seam in the defense and Sam Gagne hit him with a sweet, gentle pass that Bjorkstrand took top shelf blocker side on the Jersey goal tender Kinkaid who had played a heck of a game.  This ended up being the winning margin, with Cam Atkinson sweetly wrapping up the game with an empty netter for his 30th goal of the season.

Sergei Bobrovsky has given up one goal in 4 games, the lone goal coming on a ticky-tacky call in overtime to create a 4 on 3.  He has back to back shut outs, and it is my earnest hope that Torts benches him for Friday's game, bringing in 'the kid', Joonas Korpisalo, to give Bob the extra day of rest.  Joonas also had a shut out in his last game, and deserves to see the net, as the Jackets have a Friday-Saturday home and home against the dangerous Buffalo Sabres.

The Blue Jackets are re-writing the franchise record books at a furious pace right now.  Zach Werenski has tied Rick Nash in the rookie points category, and has a mere 17 games in which to get an assist and eclipse that mark.  You never know what will happen in this sport, but it is satisfying to be able to view him as one of the most significant rookies in franchise history, even though the Toronto Press will award the Calder Trophy elsewhere (not without justification, but still).

It is a real delight to see Cam Atkinson join the 30 goal club in the Blue Jackets history.  He is very deserving of this, and it will help the team, as his teammates will be less focused on trying to get him that goal.  I think he will score quite a few more down the stretch now that the thirty goal monkey is gone.

And finally, Sergei Bobrovsky, in spite of being the best goal tender in franchise history for several years, has finally claimed the 'most wins in a season' spot from Steve Mason, and tonight extended that record to 35 wins.  That Mason's 2008-09 winning performance stood up this long is a testament to how well he played that year in propelling to the CBJ to its first playoff appearance.  He had nothing left in the tank when the Red Wings came to town in the playoffs.  It is my earnest hope that it is a rested Bobrovsky that faces the CBJ's playoff opponent this year.  I think that can happen, while keeping Bob hot.  We'll see.

The team sits at 90 points on the season, with 17 games remaining.  The franchise record for a season is 93 points.  That gives you an idea of how good this team is.  They will re-write the record books in their own image before this year is done.  I could point out that they did that type of thing last year in a negative direction, but I would only do so in order to show the point that the pendulum swings both ways.  Hockey is a funny game.

On a night when they didn't have their game, the goal tender did, and bailed them out.  The team got their legs, and made the shutout into a winner in the third period.  A very big win, and evidence that the team is playing well, and heading in the right direction.

But before I leave, I want to make mention that TJ Tynan made his NHL debut tonight.  I was really pleased to see that, as he has performed well for the Cleveland Monsters, and has earned that chance.  Way to go TJ!!

A home and home with Buffalo this weekend.  This is a good Buffalo team, that got up 3-0 on the Penguins, but couldn't close the deal.  The Jackets will need to bring a good game Friday night.  they actually get to have a practice on Thursday, which should help the team.

A good win tonight.  That's enough to think about.

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Slugging Through Three More

One goal in 3 games.  'Nuff said.
The games are coming too thick and fast for me, as a solo blogger, to really keep up with.  But if I had to characterize the Jackets play, I would say it was solid.  The veterans picked up at the trade deadline have seamlessly assimilated, and the major trade deadline acquisition, Oliver Bjorkstrand, is showing he belongs in the NHL.  This batch of three games started with a 1-0 win against the Minnesota Wild, a 3-2 loss to Ottawa in which the back up goal tender played well enough to win, and a 3-0 win at New Jersey, in which Bobrovsky got his second shut out of the week.

The Jackets continue to stay in the hunt for the second place finish in the Metro, winning 2 out of 3 again.  The Jackets have 88 points with 18 games remaining.  This is significant when you consider that the franchise record for points is 93, a record that seems certain to be eclipsed.  It is also an important number as it is the sort of acknowledged minimum number of points necessary to make the playoffs.  So the Jackets are well positioned, and in a battle with Pittsburgh for home ice advantage in the playoff clash that looks inevitable at this point.  One of the two teams needs to collapse, or the Caps, and I don't see any of that happening.

I don't mind telling you that I have fully embraced the notion that the Jackets and the Pens will square off in the first round.  You have to get through them if you want to do anything anyway, might as well get it over early.  However, this just doesn't feel like the last time we played the Pens, or when we were facing off against Detroit.  In those I was hoping we would win some.  In this go around, I feel a great deal more positive.  Its the playoffs,  The teams will get an opportunity to fully explore each others strengths and weaknesses, and the best team will win.  It could well be Pittsburgh.  But the two teams are a lot closer in this go around then they were in 2013-14.

It's time to start ramping up for the playoffs.  You want to be playing well in all facets of the game (power play, I'm talking to you), and the Jackets seem to be playing very solid hockey.  They have played tight games against top teams in the NHL and are succeeding at a pace that would result in advancing in the playoffs.  This is not the playoffs, to be sure, it is the grind of the season.  But it's good prep work.

The Jackets return against New Jersey on Tuesday at home in Nationwide Arena, and face Buffalo on a home and home starting Friday night at Nationwide.  The next 3 should be interesting.

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Three Good Games

Since emerging from the 5 day 'bye week' mandated by the contract with the NHLPA, the Blue Jackets have played what they call their 6 best periods of hockey this year in the 7-0 win over the Islanders and the 5-2 win at the Rangers.  Last night they followed those up by garnering a point on the road in a 1-0 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens courtesy of a questionable call.  It happens.  The refs aren't perfect, and in the playoffs that call doesn't get made.

Nonetheless the Jackets played a very tight game, buoyed by spectacular Sergei Bobrovsky, in what was actually a game full of adversity.  William Karlsson turned up ill before the game, and coupled with other forward injuries, they were short a forward all night.  So they used 3 centers, which tended to scramble the lines a bit.  But they played through the adversity in a very tight, 0-0 game.  The only redeeming value about the ending was that it was not a shoot out, but other than that, the Jackets deserved a better fate.

Thus ends the season series against the Atlantic Division leading Habs.  Two wins, and an overtime loss, a 12-2 score differential in the Jackets favor, and they never trailed in regulation.  So while the ending of last nights game might not be what we wanted, the notion that the Jackets would sweep Montreal this year seems like a stretch.  We are not there yet.  Two years from now, when Seth Jones is making Shea Weber feel his age, maybe.  But not now.  This is a very good Montreal team, and the acquisition of Weber has made it even stronger.  And don't look to the 10-0 blowout to give you any insight, as Montreal came prepared to play the 2015-16 Blue Jackets for that one, and paid the price for their mistake.

However, it was clear that Tortorella, while diplomatically unhappy with the outcome, is pleased with his team.  Even though he was kept off the score sheet, Oliver Bjorkstrand was all over the ice with speed and tenacity in a fairly physical game.  This is the Bjorkstrand we have seen in the past, and he is going to be making lineup choices tough down the stretch.

And seriously.  Gagne is never going to score again, right?  Man the guy can't buy a goal.

I liked the depth acquisition of Zach Dalpe, currently assigned to Lake Erie.  Tortorella knows this player from Vancouver, and having plucked him off the waiver wire, the CBJ front office showed they knew the rules.  Normally a waiver acquisition has to report to the NHL club and be on the roster.  That wasn't the case with Zach.  He has had a tough season, with 2 surgeries on a beat up meniscus, but he is in form now, so time on ice at the Monsters is what he needs.  He could easily play a role down the stretch.  Don't be surprised if he bolts from the Monsters over the next few days as he and his wife are expecting their first child, and she is still in Iowa.  I'll have to dig through my old OSU hockey pics and see if I have one of him.

After a period of unfocused play, floating around .500 in the win-loss column, the Jackets seem to have come out of the bye week playing really good hockey, and seem focused for the stretch run to the playoffs.  This morning, we have home ice against the Penguins, who lost last night, on tie breakers.  It is really going to be fun down the stretch!

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!