|Columbus Blue Jackets 3 - The Nashville Predators 1|
9th in the Western Conference
Full many a flower are born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness upon the desert air
- Thomas Grey from Elegy in a Courtyard Church
It's the best reference I could come up with to describe how I feel right now. The Jackets played 19-5-5 since March 1st and miss the playoffs by virtue of a tie breaker. The hockey the Jackets have played the last 8 weeks is nothing shy of phenomenal. The NHL's second season is about to begin, and the blossoming Jackets will have to be heartbroken bridesmaids one more. It's easy to be one of the 19,002 at Nationwide Arena tonight and bemoan the 'what would have been' if there wasn't a disallowed goal here, or a hosing by the officials there.' Truth be told, February cost the Jackets the a chance at post season glory and nothing else. Still I, like so many others, can't help but feel nostalgic about the this past season as it is merely minutes from being over. But the focus of this post is tonight's game, and not a weepy eyed "back in 82" retelling of this season.
1. The first beer of tonight is actually a stick tap to the Arch City Army. The Dark Blue PeeWee and I were given tickets in their block of seats tonight. Zach and company made sure my son and I sat in the first row of their grouping so my son could see the game. While our collective opinions of the play in the first two periods may have been polar opposites, It was a very nice gesture of the raucous group of CBJ supporters to help make sure my son got to see all the great action tonight. Thanks again ACA!!!
2. The second Boomer-sized beer of the night goes to Brandon Dubinsky on a smart Power Play goal in front of the net. The faces and reaction of the players during the goal celebration was fantastic. It was the look of, dare I say it, Belief on their faces. Dubinsky said in a post game that he makes no promises for this team next year, but is very excited and very encourage by this team and city.
3. While it pains me to do it, Chris Mason gets a Bud Light. The Predators started Mason for no other reason than psychological warfare. He's played lights out against the Jackets no matter who he's been in net for and let's face it, the name Mason makes us all cringe just a little. Mason faced 46 quality shots and stopped 44. An effort worth noticing tonight.
4. The fourth beer of tonight goes to Jack Johnson. Jack was playing Left Wing from the shotgun every other shift, but was doing it at the right time. His inability to hit whatever it is he's aiming at led to his goal as it would seem the Nashville defenseman tipped an intended pass to Dubinsky in the back of his own net. That play doesn't happen if you're not up on the play. If the pass flutters through the crease, you got Dalton Prout and Cam Atkinson all alone to break up a 3 on 2 the other way. Again, it looked like the group of five players celebrated that goal like everyone in the crowd would have.
5. The fifth tasty beer of the night goes to the crowd that come alive in the 3rd period. The Jackets pumped 25 shots on goal that period and put life into the crowd on Dubinskys powerplay goal. From that point it seemed like it was the crowed that WILLED Jack Johnson's pass into the back of the net. No Rule 614, No Kicking, No Goalie Interference. It was a puck destined for the back of the net and the crowd willed it. The crowd was electric the rest of the period, maybe as loud as I've ever heard it before. What a great atmosphere in the third period. The crowd never said die either.
6. Sergi Bobrovsky. I'd just as soon give you this whole six pack, but.... Sometimes I think Russian players alienate themselves with North American fans for no other reason than the language barrier. But as the final horn sounded and the music played in the arena you embraced your teammates in celebration of the season. Then, as the last player left your embrace, you turned to the the crowd. You raised your leather clad hands and clapped them together, acknowledging the crowd. You were picked off the desert planet of Philadelphia, a city that hasn't been happy with or known good goaltending since Nixon was in office. You came to Columbus and played your best, and the city fell in love with you. This cynic will admit that it was a welcome sign seeing you salute the fans when you all must have been dying inside to see the score of the Wild game. And after you gave that lucky fan the jersey off your back, again you waved and acknowledged the crowd with a smile on your face and warmth in your heart. Thank you Bob. Now play every year like its a contract season.
Were the Blue Jackets out worked? Fuggedaboutit. The Jackets had their moments, and there were times that I wondered what Dalton Prout was thinking, but the Jackets brought it every shift. But this night, all the effort in the world wasn't enough to get them into the playoffs. It was the results of inconsistent execution in the first 1/3 of the season that kept the Jackets from the post season. Make no mistake, the Jackets chances of even being this close to the playoffs were extremely slim two weeks ago. What the team did to make tonight's game matter is nothing short of remarkable. The Hart Trophy likely belongs to Ovechkin, and the Jack Adams award is headed to Ottawa. But, I hope that Mr. Bobrovsky has a little room on the mantle at home for a Vezina plaque. The Vezina is a tricky award, especially this year as the GMs vote for the Vezina winner. What makes this year tougher is all play was intra-league. West v West and East v East. I'm not sure how much time the Canadiens GM spent looking at Bobrovsky game film. So lets hope that in the imaginary world of all things being equal, that the Eastern Conference GMs take some time to review film of Bobrovsky before they vote.
I have little else to say other than it's been fun covering the Blue Jackets this season and musing about them, for better or worse, on this blog. I give JD and Jarmo until 2014/2015 before a fair assessment of their managerial abilities, but I can certainly say I like what I've seen so far. Next year will be another tough one for the Blue Jackets if they can't find some scoring. And while past performance does not guarantee future results, I'm hoping the effort we've seen from the team this year returns for many more seasons.