|Vancouver 1 - Columbus 2 (OT) 8-12-4, last in the West|
I was leery of tonight's match up versus the ever strong Vancouver Canucks, but the promise of John Davidson seemed to hold true for a third straight game when an entertaining and hardworking Blue Jackets team handed a 3rd in the West team an overtime loss. That brings the Blue Jackets to a three game (three game!) winning streak with a five game point streak. I'm not touting dominance, but it certainly is nice to see the tremendous effort on-ice being rewarded in some fashion. As of this writing, just for kicks, I'll tell you we are 4 points out of 8th place in the West. My goals for this season aren't playoff focused, but it's an interesting stat in a compressed season. It's also a unique commentary on a team that is searching for 'all star skill' and and identity.
I'm not a beer expert like some of the other DBJ contributors, so instead, I'll award a six pack of Yuengling. Not only because it's my husband's favorite beer, but also because it's a beer for the hard working, fun loving crowd. And that's the team and game experience I believe we have in front of us this season. So without further ado, on to the awarding of the beverages!
1) The first beer without hesitation goes to Matt Calvert. "Matty hustle" exploded onto the scene two seasons ago and then couldn't keep his promises last year - promptly ending up in Springfield. The young talent has shown that hard work and dedication can pay off and, when faced with a defense that promptly underestimated him in overtime, he delivered a prime game winning goal. Good on ya, Matt!
2) My second Yuenger goes to Sergei Bobrovsky. Goalie trevails in Columbus are well documented. And I'm not sure we have a number one goalie yet, but Bob continued his impressive performance from Tuesday (versus the Oilers) with a calm, strong presence in net that delivered the win. Bob faced 35 shots, allowing only one goal, and had me surprisingly not terrified with the potential of a shootout as the overtime period wound down. Couple with the fact that he faced three shots that were one-on-one opportunities due to poor decisions by the Blue Jackets players in front of him, and Bob deserves to relax with a cold one in my opinion.
3) Third beer? Well let's crack that one open for good ol' Nick Foligno. Nick brings 11 points on the season, which has him tied for third in points on this team (with Derick Brassard) but tonight the first goal was generated by his 'never say quit' attitude. Nicky fought for the puck, brought it around goal, and promptly delivered it to RJ for the tap in. Nick is growing in favor with me every game and his "all out" work ethic on ice - with more skill than our other "heart" players - is becoming increasingly valuable. Plus, the guy seems pretty cool - so give him a beer.
4) While not very active at all tonight, I award a cold one to the collective penalty kill. As of tonight, the penalty kill streak is now at 8 games. Last year, the CBJ were dead last in the PK (at 76.6%) and, prior to tonight's game, were ranked 7th at 82.5%. Tonight was a fairly clean affair so I can't imagine that percentage changing significantly, but when a team is "scoring challenged," confidence in your PK is a huge asset in fighting towards victory. It wasn't until the 3rd period when the unit was tested, but they came up strong again, and to know that strength is there is a silent weapon that can't be underestimated.
5) Here's one out of left field, but a suitable recipient for a good beer - I'm giving one to Springfield Falcons' head coach, Brad Larsen. Lost in some of the lockout shenanigans, was the discussion on the intentional similarity between the Falcons' and Blue Jackets' systems. Given the inordinate amount of injuries this season, it seems to be serving the Blue Jackets well. While talent is certainly still the ultimate differentiator, our young guys are coming up from Springfield and translating to the big club fairly well. When you look at the guys who played while there was no NHL hockey (Johansen, Calvert, Atkinson) as well as those who've come to the big club since (Erixon, Goloubef, Drazenovic, Holden, Prout, JAM etc.) having an easier transition when there's less time to become comfortable with a new system is certainly an asset. Word is that Larsen is doing a bang up job in Springy and that only bodes well for Blue Jackets now and in the future.
6) You knew it was coming. The final beer goes to Derek Dorsett, because this is the last time we'll see him mentioned in game play this season. Going for a shot on goal early in the first, Dorse seemed to go hard into the net and then continue on into the boards. Confirmation came down right before the final horn that his clavicle was broken and that, as far as #15 goes, the season is over. While Derek has long been my favorite Jacket, it's never been about points or goals scored. The guy just works his butt off, challenges his team to work as hard as they can and gives his all - however that ranks within the NHL. We didn't lose a significant piece of our offense tonight but we did lose a huge piece of our team's heart. Here's raising a glass of whatever suits ya, Dorse and wishing you a fast and healthy recovery. We hope to see you soon.
BONUS: The Blue Jackets Fans. Tonight was Ohio Health #GiveEmHealth night at Nationwide Arena, and for a second straight night, the crowd was more than healthy and seems to be rebounding from some smallish crowds a few weeks ago. It was great to see the folks who came out rewarded with an entertaining game that turned into two points.
I didn't know what to expect from this team going into tonight, but I'm starting to think we may be seeing this group of guys starting to come together and we're seeing the fruits of their labor finally paying off. The Jackets certainly were not out worked tonight. In fact they held their ground against one of the stalwarts of the league. And they've been doing this now for more than a few games - is a trend developing? Here's hoping.
Saturday and Sunday will certainly put my theory to the test as we face a home and home against the Detroit Red Wings. With the confirmation that the NHLPA approved the realignment plan tonight, the Jackets assignment to the East(ish) is all but guaranteed and we're looking at the last inter-division series between the boys in Union Blue and the those in the wheeled wing. For the first time, we're leading the series. The final two games will be a true test to where this team is as far as turning the corner.