Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Uh-mer-cun Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving hockey fans!!!  I hope you all get some time with your loved ones this holiday and are able to celebrate another year.  I personally am thankful that you continue to read our musings about the hockey world that surrounds us.  I'm also thankful that the CBJ eked out a win in New Jersey, and am especially thankful that I got a chance to see Mount Tortorella simmering before it blows in last night's post game press conference.  The Coach wasn't especially happy, and indicated they'd won a game they didn't deserve to win.  If you take away the numbskull penalties, they played pretty good.  If you include them, the penalty kill won the game, by keeping New Jersey off the board.  So I am thankful for the win.

I'm also thankful not to be Boone Jenner in the next film session.  New Jersey's goal was scored on a sequence where pretty much everything went wrong for Jenner.  That's going to be a tough little time there for Boone, but I imagine he's no happier about it than Tortorella, so maybe I'm exaggerating .  I speculate that we'll see Justin Falk in the lineup for the first time, as Prout did not exactly distinguish himself last night.  

So Penguins on Friday, always a good time.  Come prepared to battle for the home turf.  I love watching Hartnell in games like this.  It should be a good time.

The holiday is always a good time to listen to the DKM hockey podcast (see link in right column), and hear Jar-moe read Joe's texts.

Happy Thanksgiving and all blessings to you and yours from us here at the Dark Blue Jacket and DKM Hockey!


Monday, November 23, 2015


Kerby Rychel has been settling in on the fourth line
Last night's 5-3 loss against the San Jose Sharks is the kind of game that happens to a team during a year of hockey.  San Jose was hot, and while they were coming off a back to back, the Blue Jackets were playing their third game in 4 days, and their fourth in 6 days.  So energy was a bit of a wash early.  Late in the third period a veteran team took advantage of a younger team, and before you looked around the Blue Jackets third period lead was gone.

In the grand scheme of things, this is a game to take lessons from, and get better.  With the NHL's current scheduling format, we play the Western Conference teams in a home and home.  Since the Jackets inexplicably won at San Jose on their last west coast swing, all the Sharks did was even it up.  Since the Jackets are looking up at a .500 record, this isn't exactly a death blow to their season.  If they can go through the year with essentially a .500 record against the Western Conference they'll be in ok shape at the end of the year.  A better record would be desirable, of course, and the albatross of a modern record bad start hangs heavy around the season's neck.  Nonetheless, you are going to have to do some winning in your own conference and division if  you want to be a playoff team.

It was a strange crowd yesterday.  Very quiet.  With the early start, I think there were lots of families there, and the crowd couldn't seem to sustain much energy, except in the second period when the Jackets were blowing the Sharks off the ice.  Problematically, however, the CBJ only scored two goals, and that wasn't enough to suck the life out of the Sharks.  Jack Johnson's shot off a post on the backhand was oh so close to going in, and if it does it might change the game.  The Jackets forecheck was on proud display in the second, and there was a period when we got a line change in while maintaining possession, and later we end up with a 5 on 3 power play.  You need more than two goals out of such a dominant stretch of play.  But its nice to see that they have that in them, and I think we are going to see more of that as the season goes on.

I find myself pretty compelled to watch Coach Tortorella's press conferences.  They are pretty insightful, and the dude is obviously very sharp.  It's going to be an interesting year.

Back in the conference Wednesday at New Jersey.  This would be a good game to win.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Perdition for Predators

Bobrovsky get first shutout of the year
Much as Craig Anderson dictated the game Thursday night, Sergei Bobrovsky dictated the game last night.  It didn't really matter how much rubber the Nashville Predators sent his way, Bob was on top of all of it.  The Blue Jackets won their third straight game at home 4-0, a trend I would like to see continue.  It was a really fun game to watch, and it was nice to see Bob being Bob.  We are going to be needing that as the season rolls on.

Only 13,584 at a Friday game last night.  While I hope some of that is an influence of a huge Michigan State v. Ohio State game today, but I am worried that the early season losing is also something of an influence.  Nonetheless it was a fairly boisterous crowd, and a foundation for what I hope is stronger attendance going forward.  Sunday's game against the Sharks will be a big one, as lots of families will be out for the early start, and its a good way to build a new generation of fans.  In other words, its an important game to win.

Cody Goloubef and Fedor Tyutin were both injured in the first period, with Cody suffering a broken jaw.  The Jackets finished the game with Johnson, Savard, Murray and Connauton as their defensive pairings.  Coach Tortorella had high praise for this group, and Bob, in his post game comments, and they deserved it.  I wonder how much it helps mentally knowing that Joel Quennville won a cup at Chicago last year essentially playing 4 defensemen.  I wonder if it seems more normal to the players.  Of course when you have Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook it helps, for sure.  But our guys stood tall, with Savard and Johnson pulling down about 30 minutes of ice time.

A very solid effort by the Blue Jackets, helped immensely by the fourth line kicking in a goal right off the bat.  Gregory Campbell finishes, with helpers to Kerby Rychal and Josh Anderson at 2:35 of the first.  Two minutes later Johansen cashed in as Saad was flung into the net.  Of late the Jackets have played pretty solid when they get a quick two goal lead like that.  And Bob made it stand up.

A good rally game after a shut out at the hands of the Ottawa Senators the night before.  A good team win.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015


OK, so maybe it WAS a good move to trade for Saad
In a fit of petulance after the Blue Jackets lost an early season game to the Maple Leafs, I characterized the team as soft.  These things happen, and it was accurate at the time.  Of late they seem to have left that behind them, and last night I thought they deserved the moniker solid.  When the Blues got up early, they closed ranks and didn't allow another one, though I felt the Blues pushed to try to get the extra goal.  Then they went out and got two of their own, and shut the game down.  That was a sterling example of 'Blue Jackets Hockey' especially when they buried the Blues with the forecheck in the second period.  That was a thing of beauty, at least to some of us.

So the players deserves some props for listening to Tortorella, working hard, and trying to make what the coach is preaching happen.  Tortorella has done a great job, I think, and has the team in the right frame of mind.  The wins at home are a nice touch.  Problematically, a winning home record is an essential component of a playoff team's demeanor, not the occasional treat we have seen of late.  The team's home record kept them out of the playoffs last year, and they really need to chase those demons out of the barn for the rest of this year.

This last little run of play has been a good thing, but they are SO far behind, that it has done little but stop the bleeding.  They really need to play that way for an extended period now, which seems relatively impossible, but for a couple of things.  First and foremost, they've done it before.  Secondly, they got it over with quickly.  So, just sort of fussing around, let's set an interim milestone by which we can gauge progress.  Let's say that if they are at .500 before LA gets to town on December 8, they will have climbed back into this thing.  So, Remember Pearl Harbor is our goal for the interim.  Mind you, if they get to .500 by the end of December they are back in it as well.  Getting to .500 by December 7 would erase a lot of stink from the early season, and make you think they were the playoff team we thought they would be.  And, most importantly, it would make the rest of the season a lot more fun.

So Remember Pearl Harbor.  But don't Give up the Ship if they don't make it to that interim goal.  Close does count for that one.

The Blue Jackets play has improved.  Let's hope it continues!


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Well Gosh, That Sure Feels Better!!

Karlsson Scores 2 Goals to Continue a Solid Run of Play.
The sky is a little bluer, the sun is a little brighter, and the Jackets have put together a little 2 game winning streak.  This feeling is not a coincidence.  The Jackets played two feisty games against two opponents that were on winning streaks of their own, and ground out two victories.  With a 2-1 victory at Pittsburgh Friday night, and the home win (finally) last night against Arizona, 5-2 the Jackets remain in last place, but the vibe is quite a bit different, and they look like they are ready to start climbing.

Lots of scrums last night, with Boll, Campbell and Rychel leading the charge and Hartnell conspiring to keep the pot stirred.  This helped fuel a change in momentum late in the second period.  I had a lot of love for Mike Arace's comment over on the Columbus Dispatch, when talking about Ryan Johansen's game as a Jason Chimera hat trick, a goal, an assist and a stupid penalty.  I really like that Chimmer has found a home in Washington, I miss that infectious Chimera attitude, but I don't miss having to watch him every game.  But Johansen finally potted a goal, which was a beauty, Karlsson getting two contributed to an appropriate level of scoring for once.  The two goals at Pittsburgh were enough, but its awfully tough to win a bunch of NHL games if you are only scoring 2 goals a game.

The crowd was good last night.  Smallish, as one ought expect from a team that is just winning its first at home, but game competitors.  The crowd dealt with the flat play that allowed the Coyotes to climb back into the game, but got rolling when the scrums and hitting ramped up.  It's a funny thing about the C-B-J chant that has developed over the last few years.  That's something that just has to be earned, and it won't flow from the crowd unless the conditions on the ice merit the response.  So it was interesting to hear Johansen's comment about it, that the players had missed it.  As we have seen often so far this year, its a double edged sword, as an opponent scoring two goals in about 20 seconds will shut that flow off in a hurry.

Which leads me to a different sort of observation.  I really felt this in watching the Pittsburgh game.  The Jackets were up 2-0, on a hard earned, a 'we're just going to keep throwing scoring chances at you until we score' goal, and a lightening strike from Saad dashing down the slot (#wickedbackhandshot),  But even though the CBJ had the lead, you could tell that Pittsburgh was thinking that they were only going to need about 20 seconds to tie it up.  Last night the Jackets responded with more scoring, and were able to pull away.  But they couldn't do that against Pittsburgh.  And this will be the Jacket's life for some little while as the season progresses.  Teams are going to think they will fold late, and the Jackets are going to have to amply prove them wrong before they stop thinking that way.

I am finding Tortorella a fascinating character.  His post game conferences are always interesting to watch in order to hear how he talks about the game.  But he has brought a lot of structure to defending, which is starting to take hold, and the players are executing much better.  Of course losing Brandon Dubinsky to injured reserve because he had to do too many push-ups in practice is a negative, but .....

The Jackets win a couple in a back to back.  Good stuff.  More adversity ahead, for sure, that's the NHL season, but it also looks like this can be an entertaining season.  If this team can establish a winning tradition at home, something it has not done successfully for the last two years, it could be a really entertaining season.  And I think Coach Tortorella has his sights on that home record, which portends better things.  It is still very early in the season, but the hole is deep.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

So. Is Not Getting Booed at Home Progress?

Damn, those Sedins are quick....
Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets got beat by the Sedin twins, 5-3.  Multiple defensive breakdowns on bang-bang plays by the Sedin line pretty much decided the game.  It is important to note that Henrik Sedin could hit the empty net on his back hand from behind the Vancouver Blue Line while Nick Foligno could not hit the empty net on his forehand from the left dot.

Bobrovsky played reasonably well tonight.  The goals they scored were undefended goals from prime scoring positions, or even the crease.  The bitter, vindictive part of me wants to say that this was the Sedin twins trying to prove to Tortorella that they are bigger than he is.  Keeping in mind my nearly 100% incorrect prognostications, I don't think this is a playoff team for Vancouver.  They had a goal tender coming up from the minors on a conditioning assignment (coming back from injury) that played out of his mind in the second period.  Problematically for the Blue Jackets, Vancouver simply pulled away in the second half of the third period.  While the CBJ lead momentarily on a beautiful short handed goal, the ice had already tilted, and Vancouver dominated the play for the rest of the way.

0-6 at home.  Pitiful.  Don't lay this at the crowd's feet.  When the crowd was loudest, the CBJ simply coughed up more goals on blown defensive coverage.  Mind you these are beautiful tape to tape passes, that the Sedins were making; slick, ethereal offensive plays.  But that's not a playoff team we lost to, and even if they do make the playoffs, they will be quickly eliminated because all you have to do is shut down one line.  The Blue Jackets were unequal to that task, and got the fate they deserved.

0-6 at home.  And attendance is already in the tank.  Don't worry about me.  I'm a die hard.  Heck, I renewed my tickets after 2011-12.  This is not a good situation for a cap team.  Not at all.  And I am frankly kind of scared about it.  I think this team is better than what they have showed, but they have burned every scrap of cushion that they ever had this year already.  For any kind of attendance uptick they pretty much have to go undefeated at home the rest of the way, and that's just not the way NHL hockey is.  Games like tonight, first game coming off the road from out west, are notoriously bad for the home team, and not just the CBJ.  It happens to other teams too.  However, other teams have not squandered the cushion that they have for games like this, or won games to counter balance this kind of loss.

Management was deluded by a defense that had 60 games to practice to be what they could be last year.  They haven't had 60 games of practice this year, and they look wholly inadequate to the task assigned to them as a group.  A good defense might be victimized by the Sedins for 1, maybe 2 goals.  They are good players, no doubt.  But that line is not going to go through the NHL scoring 5 goals a night, far from it.  And if they don't, Vancouver is not a playoff team.  Right now they are ahead of Anaheim and LA and San Jose.  It won't be that way at the end of the season.

This is a very troublesome result.  Yes, the CBJ have a long home stand in February and March.  But they may well be beyond redemption when they get there.

The Jackets didn't get booed on home ice today, as they folded in third period in spite of having a lead.  I suppose that's progress.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Two out of California Ain't Bad

Hartnell a 'throwback player': Tortorella
Emerging from a tough road swing on the west coast, the Blue Jackets return home today with a 2-1 record against San Jose, LA, and Anaheim.  Very creditable.  They lost to a Ducks team that has had an even more improbably bad start than the Blue Jackets by a score of 4-2.  The game wasn't that close, except it was.  The Jackets kept answering goals by the Ducks, but couldn't crack Andersen for the extra goal.  What I liked was the ramp up of the pressure when the Jackets pulled the goal tender.  THAT's what is supposed to happen, not to meekly surrender an empty netter, which was what was happening in the awful first 7 (AF7?).  The teams ended up trading goals, which ultimately sunk the Jackets, but the late goal made things interesting.  The Ducks got sterling goal tending tonight, with Andersen edging out MacElhinney in the number of truly crazy stops you can make.  CMac came out and performed admirably on the second night of a back to back.

A .667 winning percentage that they showed over last week will get the job done.  Keep winning at that clip and this thing is doable.  Stretches of .500 play don't hurt you except to burn the clock on the season.  Stretches of sub .500 play will sink you fast.

I attempted to watch every game of this road trip.  I actually successfully watched the Anaheim game.  Those late nights are tough.  But one thing became abundantly clear on this trip.  Scott Hartnell is at the top of his game, and is a real force to be reckoned with.  He is tied with Boone Jenner with the team lead in goals at 7, and looks to be a boulder gathering momentum as it crashes gleefully down the mountain side, wrecking havoc on all it touches.  When Tortorella called Hartnell 'a throwback player' I think that is the highest praise he could offer to Hartnell.  This is the Hartnell that I hated in Nashville and Philadelphia, but am coming to love with the Blue Jackets.  In the last two games he has drawn 8 minutes in penalties through behavior that has emphatically stated that he owns the opposition's crease, and you better bring something if you are going to come take part in that discussion. These are penalties that don't hurt your team.

The team is starting to play with a tenacious work effort, and a stiff back bone.  They took some real shots from the Ducks, but kept at it, and pressed until the final whistle in the game.  If they keep doing that, they are going to win some games.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Is it OK to boo?

The Blue Jackets have fallen to a record of 2-10-0 and the chorus of boos was raining down upon the team from the rafters of Nationwide Arena following their 3-2 home loss to the Winnipeg Jets.  The preseason hype has long since faded and the team that finished last season on a 16 game tear has fallen from memory.  The team’s struggles are as much a surprise to the fan base as I’m sure they are to the Blue Jackets organization.  The Jackets have fired mild-mannered Todd Richards and replaced him with the fiery John Tortorella as head coach.   The Jackets started the season 0-7-0 under Richards and are now 2-3-0 under Tortorella.  Frustrated fans are at odds with each other as they look for ways to cope with the team’s 0-5-0 record at home.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Here We Go Again

Better get used to a Hartnell picture here.  Dude's got it going.
Dang.  Another season in the tank before Halloween.  Their play is coming.  The CBJ are still making mistakes, but it was a better effort across the board.  I was impressed with Winnipeg.  When break downs, such as bad line changes, give opponents time and space, they are putting the puck in our net.  Beautifully placed, far side, just inside the post shots, that are messing with Bob's head.  So it goes.

In the grand scheme of things, a team that will almost certainly be playing better later in the year needs to go up to Winnipeg and get a win to cancel that one out.  Then you are .500 for Winnipeg, a dramatic improvement from where we are now.  Since we play every Western Conference team twice, you have to at least try to come out at .500 for each of those match-ups.  As this team slowly finds its way under the new coach, these are the things that we need to focus on, evening up the losses from early in the season as a way of climbing back into this thing.

I didn't boo last night.  I felt the effort was there, they capitalized on our mistakes, and put them in the net.  We were unable to force a good team into the same number of mistakes.  That's gonna happen to you in a hockey season.  Unfortunately, when you have an 0-8 start, you can't afford to have those things, but it's the reality of the situation.  I booed when I felt they had tossed in the towel, I didn't feel that way about this game.  So it goes.

Young Ryan Murray was calling for a little more loyalty from the home fans, perhaps rightly so.  What he doesn't understand is how hard this calls the shade of Scott Arniel, and the time I posted a 'Fail for Nail' blog before Halloween.  Young Ryan doesn't understand just how hard this is on the fan base, and how many times we have walked this road.  I don't want to be talking about top draft picks before Halloween.  I want to enjoy some competitive hockey while the pressure is on, not when the pressure is off.  And I'm not trying to call out Ryan Murray here.  He's a good player, a young player, and he has a right to ask for that.  What I am trying to say is that the fan base thought we had buried that when Lori Schmidt 'piled on' Arniel by asking a simple math question, and finally exorcised that demon.  Now here we are staring it in the face once again.

Definitely a good thing for the new coach to be on the road, even though it is a tough west coast swing.  There will be a less hostile crowds, as those crowds are focused on their own teams, and not ours. Last year, this team's home record was nothing to crow about.  Its one of the easiest things in hockey to fix, is that atmosphere, and the well has already been poisoned this year.  This start is going to haunt this organization in a big way at the ticket booth.  And for the second time in franchise history, when we put a cap team on the ice, the coach gets fired.  Oy.

But, hockey's a funny sport, and its a long season.  Right now the team needs to keep improving and see what they can come up with.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

An Interesting Observation: 3rd Periods

We now have a 10 game sample to examine the Blue Jackets performance. While the advanced stats continue to get more advanced, one thing holds true - goals against.  Despite the Blue Jackets losing, they were still scoring goals.  This was a positive sign, however something was wrong with the defense, and something was wrong with the goalie leading to a lot of pucks in the net. What's even more fascinating is the timing of when the goals were allowed.

It's a little early to be comparing the 7-game sample of Coach Richards with the 3-game sample of Coach Tortorella, but one thing has definitely stood out for me and that is the 3rd period. If one were to buy into the notion that most people are as lazy as they can get away with, then the 3rd period is when tired legs start to lead to goals against if not held properly accountable.

Many believe that Coach Tortorella is able to demand more out of players, and to get them to play to at a high level even while fatigued. So while the men in Union Blue allowed an average of over 2.5 goals per 3rd period under Richards, they have only surrendered 1 goal under Tortorella in the 3rd. The one that they did allow was near the end of the game with a 3 goal lead.

We shouldnt forget that it's only been 3 games. So while John Tortorella is currently the winningest coach in Blue Jackets history, let's not erect a Broze statue outside of Tim Horton's just yet. It's just an interesting observation, and something I'll enjoy watching unfold as the season goes on.