Sunday, January 20, 2013

DBJ's six-pack for Game 1: Nashville

Columbus 3  - Nashville 2 (SO)
1-0-0, T-1st in Central Division, T-1st in Eastern Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets kicked off their abbreviated 2013 season with a nail-biter of a win over the Nashville Predators, 3-2, after a six-round shootout in front of 17,113 fans at Bridgestone Arena.

The past season or two has used the 5 Thoughts format as a means to organize our post-game thoughts here at DBJ, but - as you may remember - we've humbly adopted the "6-pack" motif of our retired colleague, Light The Lamp.  So let's crack one open and see how it works.

1. In a move that probably surprised someone...somewhere...the game-ready Sergei Bobrovsky - fresh off an 18-3-2 opening act for the Kontinental Hockey League's SKA St. Petersburg (1.94 GAA, .932 save percentage) before coming back to Columbus after the lockout ended - got the start over incumbent starter Steve Mason.  After a stumble out of the gate with a first-minute gimme to Martin Erat (and to Bob's credit, the team defense never set up on the goal), Bob locked down and gave up only one more goal the entire game.  32 saves, 1.85 GAA, .941 save percentage...Give us a season like that and we'll be one happy bunch of campers in Columbus.

2. Especially as the game went on, Bob's performance was supported by our second of the six-pack, team defense.  When things got hairy in the third period when things were tied and the Preds outshot the CBJ 12-6, the Blue Jackets finally figured out a way to collapse around their netminder and keep him from sitting out on an island.  Not the sexiest form of team play, but I think it safe to say that keeping the puck out of your own goal is a more likely path to victory than throwing caution to the wind and, say, keeping only one man back (Oh, hi Scott Arniel).

3. Artem Anisimov announced his presence with a bang (Sorry, I had to) via a sweet goal on Pekka Rinne in regulation and another undressing of the 2012 Vezina Trophy (for NHL's best goaltender) nominee.  Funny how Anisimov was treated like the throw-in with Brandon Dubinsky and Tim Erixson...and then makes himself worthy of one of the FOX Sports Ohio three stars right out of the gate.  Hockey works in mysterious ways, my friends.

4. Gotta crack one open for the coach, Todd Richards.  The poor guy had six whole days to get this team ready to play the Preds and with a simple game plan that emphasized protection of the goal above all, grabbed two standings points in Nashville.  He's clearly still learning what his squad is all about - his post-game comments (starting at :53) suggest that he was throwing wet noodles at the wall with his picks for the shootout...which helps explain why Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski were given a crack at it - but hey, a win is a win is a win.  And when you're the coach of a team that has a barrel-full of monkeys to get off its back, that's what matters.

5. Derrick Brassard nabs the game-winner in the shootout after a relatively quiet game.  Hopefully that will be a confidence booster for a guy who seems to experience the peaks and valleys more acutely than most.  Considering Brassard is the top-line center, a little confidence wouldn't hurt.

6. We'll close out the six pack with one for the Blue Jacket fans.  Sure, a few went all "I haz a sad" and pouted over how they were never going to spend a dollar on the CBJ or the NHL again (only to be at the front of the line to celebrate when the lockout ended), but many - most? - kept a Churchillian stiff upper lip and waited...somewhat patiently...to see their team on the ice once again.  How great is it to be rewarded with a win!  I'm still deeply concerned about the precipitous drop-off in the season ticket holder base but cannot overlook my growing feeling that the hardcore base of fans might even be growing a little (EX: the packed Ice Haus for the prospects scrimmage over the summer and the opening of training camp) and cetainly are doubling down in their loyalty.  This one's for you, CBJ Fan.

NEXT UP: Monday's home opener at Nationwide Arena sees the Detroit Red Wings coming to town.  The Wings got thumped, 6-0, by Ken Hitchcock's St. Louis Blues in their opening night game, so I think we'll find out pretty quickly whether the boys from up north are for real or not.

3 comments:

  1. Boy did you miss the point many of us "I haz a sad" people are trying to make. It has nothing to do with hurt feelings and everything to do with sending the league a message. We're taking as our example MLB. Have you noticed that there hasn't been a strike or lockout in baseball since the 1994 strike? That's because MLB revenues STILL have not returned to pre-1994 levels.
    The NHL has just had it's 3rd lockout in less than 20 years. I have a prediction for you. If we, the fans, don't send a message to the team owners by hitting them in the only place they care about, their pocketbooks, when this CBA ends, there will be another lockout.

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    1. Respectfully, I think I have an appreciation for NHL fan anger at least as well as the next guy. If I made an error, I used "and" when I could have used "and/or" in the sentence which offended you so. There certainly were petulant "fans" who never vowed to spend money on the NHL, and there certainly were fans who promoted the notion of a boycott without being petulant. Yet the Venn diagram circles DID overlap.

      But to address your point: I agree, Major League Baseball won't allow a work stoppage because the fans DID walk away in sufficient numbers to meaningfully affect the bottom line. And they have taken a long time to come back. It's arguable to say that they ever have come back in such numbers.

      As to hockey, the NHL hired noted public opinion pollster/shaper Frank Luntz to convene a focus group on Friday, October 12 to determine how to best shape its message. I think it safe to make a presumption that combining this knowledge with the fact that the NHL has had three lockouts in 20 years (as you mentioned) suggests that the NHL needs to be mindful of the language it uses yet can rest reasonably assured that the fans would indeed come back.

      This makes intuitive sense to me as the NHL (at least in the States) is a niche sport with a small but rabid fanbase. The NHL appeared to bank on the fact that they could stretch the lockout at least another three months (I still maintain that the end of the lockout one week before the start of the NBC broadcast television season for the NHL was not a coincidence) with an acceptable loss of fan support. Point being: The NHL gambled that their fans are hardcore to the point that they can be taken for granted.

      So yes, I'll buy your argument that an economic boycott is A WAY (but not the only way) to grab the owners' attention. But I'll also maintain that the apparent nature of the fanbase makes an economic boycott very, very unlikely. Thus, don't be surprised if there's another lockout in eight years.

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    2. Okay, I'll grant that you could have mistakenly typed "and" when you meant "and/or". We all make mistakes. I simply do not wish to be lumped in with the whiners.
      As for the rest of your reply, you do present a strong argument (In the Socratic sense.) and we could certainly debate which of us is right/mostly right/could be right with some changes/what have you. I will disagree, to a small degree, about hockey in the U.S. being a niche sport. Yes, it has been and, at this time, still is a niche sport. But when Nashville, Tenn. can rightfully be called a hockey city, when the Carolina Hurricanes can be a major sports draw in their area, when the San Jose Sharks can distract Bay Area residents from the 49ers and Raiders, then it is fair to say that hockey is growing in popularity. It will certainly take awhile, but I can foresee the day when hockey supplants basketball as the third major American sport.

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