Friday, January 31, 2014

So DBJ watched CBJ Game 54: Washington

Columbus 5 - Washington 2
In a critical game for playoff positioning over the last third of the NHL regular season, the Columbus Blue Jackets broke out of a sub-playoff logjam with the Washington Capitals by curb-stomping them, 5-2 at Nationwide Arena last night.

Combine Columbus' win with Philadelphia's loss against Anaheim last night, and the Blue Jackets vaulted from 5th in the Metropolitan Division to 3rd...and back into a playoff seed.

The other truly notable news was that Alexander Ovechkin was a -5 on the night.  Now, you can say all you want about the meaningfulness of the plus-minus statistic, but I believe it eminently fair to say that Ovi8 had one terrible night last night...from a plus-minus perspective, apparently his worst game ever.  Props to the CBJ team defense and goaltending on that.

(Of course, Ovi8 doesn't play defense so every time he was on the ice was a de facto power play for the CBJ...but we'll let the Caps figure that out...yet again...)

CBJ goals came from Ryan Johansen (his 20th), Johansen again (his 21st), Derek Mackenzie (an awesome breakaway on a shorty opportunity, his 6th goal), Brandon Dubinsky (his 12th) and Cam Atkinson (his 17th).  Atkinson also used the phrase, "silky smooth hands" in his FOX Sports Ohio postgame interview, which in my book warrants an extra goal somehow.

Two big things for me to discuss from this game:

1. SO THIS IS WHAT EVERYONE WAS TALKING ABOUT WHILE I WAS GONE:  The Blue Jackets came out strong, kept it up and let off the gas only slightly in the third period.  In the process, they laid waste to a clearly frustrated Capitals team that surely was as desperate to separate themselves from Columbus as Columbus was in the other direction.

I saw a team that played good (enough) team defense.  They were opportunistic when the occasion arose, with enough skill to close the deal.  The special teams play wasn't fantastic, but it didn't kill the Blue Jackets, either.  The goaltending (.938 save percentage) was stout.  This isn't a team that will challenge for the Stanley Cup this season, but I think that - should they have the wherewithal to keep with the program and avoid reading their own headlines - they are meaningful playoff contenders.

Long story short: An entertaining game of hockey last night.  I'd love to see a lot more of that in the last third of the season.

2. THE KID WHO WAS HAVING FUN WITH ADAM OATES LAST NIGHT PAID FOR HIS TICKET, SO LET HIM RIDE:  I gather there was some consternation over the behind the bench antics of a Blue Jackets fan who was, well, putting up moose antlers on Caps coach Adam Oates last night:

Oates was disrespected!  The humanity!

All that was left was to suggest that this was Bad For The Game - a determination by those who codify (and don't share) unwritten rules or invoke The Code when it suits their purposes.

Guess what?  That kid paid for his ticket.  He wanted to have some fun with the coach.  He did.  He got on TV a few times.  The world kept spinning.

The NHL is a ticket-driven league.  It needs butts in seats to survive.  If it didn't, it could hold quiet little scrimmages at the Ice Hauses of the world and broadcast those.  No, the league NEEDS its fans.

So either we sit around like good little consumers, behaving as we're instructed to do, or....

...We shout "WE WANT MASON" when Columbus is pounding on Philadelphia...

...We put on spandex bodysuits and entertain visitors to the penalty box...

...We throw our cheap discount store hats out onto the ice after our guy scores a hat trick (but not the expensive team store-bought hats <cough cough>)...

...We boo our team when their performance is worse than a bad high school squad...

...We throw our jersies on the ice when, well, we're sitting in the seats in Edmonton or Vancouver (Oh wait, that was a creative Chicago fan)...

...We let the NHL Commissioner, about to hand out the Stanley Cup, have it in recognition of his efforts in locking out the players on three separate occasions during his tenure...

...We wear neon green t-shirts to express our extreme displeasure with the management and direction of our favorite hockey team...

...We stand and cheer like maniacs to will our team into making a valiant last stand in Game 4 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs...

...Or we have it out with the general manager when, well, we're rooting for Edmonton.

In my mind, it's all the same.  Fans are using their purchased ticket to express whatever the heck they want to express.

If the NHL wants its fans, it has to take what the fans give them.  Unconditionally.  You have to take the "good" with the "bad" - because, surely, everyone defines good and bad differently.  In every instance listed above, however, nobody was injured and no property was destroyed.  Feelings may or may not have been hurt, but no lasting damage occurred.*  But the fans were heard.

Last night, a goofy Columbus fan was having fun with Adam Oates.  Harmless fun.  We heard ya, kid.  Rock on.

My only complaint?  He didn't distract Oates with his antics.  For I've been part of the action in getting under a player's skin during a game (Why hello there, Pekka Rinne!  Drinks on us!) and see nothing wrong with such behavior.

NEXT UP: Saturday night, Nationwide Arena, against the Florida Panthers.  Last stop before the west coast swing through LA, Anaheim and San Jose that closes out the pre-Olympic portion of the schedule.

*That is unless you were Scott Howson, where you were frog-marched out of Columbus and landed in - ugh - Edmonton just in time to watch jersies get tossed on the ice and witness McTavish getting chewed out by a fan as you helped pilot yet another team to the depths of the NHL's sub-basement.  Good luck with that, Scott.

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