Wednesday, March 20, 2013

DBJ's six-pack for Game 30: Nashville

Columbus 4 - Nashville 3
12-12-6, 4th in Central Division, 10th in Western Conference
12th overall draft pick (and 16th & 24th!)
The host Columbus Blue Jackets welcomed one of their longtime nemeses, the Nashville Predators as part of the CBJ's long farewell to the Western Conference.  A determined effort for all of two and most of the third period saw the Blue Jacket prevailing, 4-3 in regulation, at Nationwide Arena.

Yes, CBJ Fan.  That's 11 straight games with at least one standings point.  A 7-0-4 streak.  No losses in regulation.  We're deep into team record territory.  And remember, Chicago had a 24-game streak and made the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Word is out that the Blue Jackets are "tied" for 8th place, placing the team in playoff position.  From a raw points perspective, that's true.  Problem is, the two teams tied with Columbus, San Jose and Phoenix, have played fewer games (SJ-2, PHX-1).  So while the team is "tied" for 8th, they're sitting in the 10 slot right now.  Despite that cold water, Columbus undeniably sits in playoff contention.  That in and of itself is amazing and worthy of celebration.
Do they make 11-packs?
Officer Bobrovsky is on the case!

1. First beer goes to Sergei Bobrovsky.  Two straight weeks as one of the NHL's "Three Stars" (number one last week, number three this week), backstopping the vast majority of the current streak and a virtual brick wall in goal.

Bob stopped 32 of 35 tonight, a very mortal .914 save percentage, which probably will stop his Three Stars streak at two. He made his share of important saves, and I'll note that two of Nashville's three goals came in the last two minutes of the game when his Bob's teammates clearly let off the gas.

This team - and this goalie - isn't good enough to ever let off the gas.  Ever.  So hopefully it was an object lesson that Coach Richards can use...and the team can recommit to the team defense that has carried this team so far up the NHL standings.

2. Beer two goes to Vinny Prospal.  He does the pregame interview in a skull cap and tie.  He gets his 501st assist of his career.  He does his post-game interview with wild Vinny Hair.  Vinny don't care.

Your de facto Blue Jackets captain, Vinny Prospal
Listen closely to him.  Every single interview.  He speaks the truth.

Vinny Prospal should be Blue Jackets captain.

(By the way, Tom "Skraut" Larrow notes in this post that Prospal's already taken the captain's position in the pregame march to the ice.)

3. Beer three goes to three guys: Vinny Prospal (Have another!), Mark Letestu and Derick Brassard.  Together, they engineered perhaps the most beautiful goal I've seen this season.


And they did it against Pekka Rinne, one of the best goaltenders in the league.  I was apoplectic when it happened...
...and I'm still floored.  Such a fantastic goal...against such a great goaltender.  That's why they play the game, I guess.

4. Beer four goes to Nashville's Shea Weber.  While former linemate Ryan Suter is getting Norris Trophy mentions up in Minnesota, Weber soaked his team by signing the Philadelphia Flyers' offer sheet (which Nashville matched)...and then watched the Blue Jackets pass the Preds by in the standings tonight.

The Dear Leader is impressed,
Mr. Weber.
5. Beer five goes to the CBJ timekeeper, because he actually will have a moment to enjoy it tonight.  For the first time in what feels like forever, this game didn't go into bonus time.  Yes my friends, the Blue Jackets won it in regulation!

Seriously, this is important.  With the standings as tight as they are in the West - at 30 points, the Blue Jackets are four points out of 4th and only six points ahead of 15th - it important to not just win but to deny the other team The Loser Point.  That's the way to get some separation in these jam-packed standings.

6. The last beer goes to general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen, who has to be wondering what the heck happened to his first overall draft pick.  Beyond that, the other two teams whose first round draft picks he controls - the Kings and Rangers - have been moving on up the standings.  I'm glad this draft is supposed to be deep, because the Blue Jackets are making it very, very hard to nab a can't miss, game-changing player.

A graphic representation of the Kekäläinen thought
process going into the trade deadline.
Beyond the draft, you have to think that Jarmo and President of Hockey Operations John Davidson are in a real pickle.  The advanced statistics cadre of CBJ fans are adamant that this team's fundamentals are not good -- not good at all -- and that the team essentially is riding the hot hand of Bobrovsky.  I think that the team defensive scheme has just a little bit of something to do with the team's success (Perhaps evident by the last two minutes of tonight's game, when Bob looked human again?), but the point remains that improvements need to be made for long-term success.

That begs the question: How do you remodel a team that's on a historically incredible run like this?  The trade deadline is looming.  The general managers are meeting in Toronto, surely feeling each other out for trade partners.  What does Jarmo do?  Does he dare mess with the chemistry that took so long to form?  Does he bail on the season and sell, sell, sell?  (Would the fans forgive him?)

Jarmo's stuck.  Wouldn't want to be him.

WERE THE BLUE JACKETS OUTWORKED?  The lackadaisical last two minutes make me want to say "Yes," but I'll defer to the win.  It wasn't a lucky win, so clearly the Blue Jackets had to work hard to get it.

NEXT UP:  Friday night, 7PM against the Calgary Flames at Nationwide.

Talk about a team in Trade Deadline Hell.  The Flames are in 14th but only 4 points out of 8th.  They have a captain in Iginla that probably should be traded to finish his career.  Their team is largely devoid of top-end talent.  They have a lousy prospect pool.  They are not good.  However, they're not bad enough to cash in the chips on 2013.

If you think Jarmo has it tough, light a candle for Flames GM Jay Feaster.

2 comments:

  1. No sympathy for Calgary... the CBJ have their own stuff to deal with. No time. :)

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  2. Why worry about getting a top flight pick? Why not use the three first round picks for solid forwards with an ability to get 25+ goals a year, then play them on the same line? This year proves one thing. It is teamwork, not a superstar, which wins games. My suggestion to JK is to continue to strengthen the defense, grab some fairly talented forwards in the draft and let them develop in the AHL, get some improvment in the CBJ's forwards and get a decent back up to Bob. Otherwise, let's enjoy this run. Who knows? Maybe - not likely, but just maybe - we'll get to enjoy some post-season hockey at Nationwide, this year.

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