Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dat waz a big one

Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 in Nationwide Arena to vault into the first wild card spot.  Detroit sits in the second wild card spot, and Washington and Toronto sit outside the playoffs on the strength of tie breakers, as all four teams are tied with 80 points.  It was a highly entertaining game, that went back and forth.  Bobrovsky went down after one period, succumbing to a flu bug, and Curtis McElhinney took over in goal, and back stopped the team to a crucial win.  This is a huge event, because if this team is to make the playoffs CMac has to win some games down the stretch.  This team has 4 back to back games down the stretch.  The players simply need to have confidence in McElhinney.

About Detroit.  I've always been a big fan of Mike Babcock, because I always felt he handled all that talent with a firm hand.  This is a totally different cast of characters.  With the injuries they have, they are a relatively pedestrian team, but they are very able to play Detroit Red Wings hockey if you let them.  So they have totally earned their position in the standings.  I have distinctly noticed that the Red Wings fans, in spite of their great sense of entitlement based on their team's historic record, don't really believe this year.  In spite of the hefty attendance by Red Wings fans, in spite of the relatively sparse attendance by Blue Jackets fans with Spring Break attrition showing severely, they seemed unwilling to challenge the Jackets fans.  I have seen them challenge the home fans many times in the past, but not tonight.  Not this night. This is YOUR night.  You were born to be hockey play..bump..skip.. sorry, started channeling Herb Brooks there.  But with Herb Brooks in mind, this is a Blue Jackets blog.  So screw 'em.

1  CBJ beers in abundance tonight.  The first goes to Ryan Johansen, for being a young stud star.  My favorite play of Joeys was a little sort of elbow and slew foot away from the puck that toppled the defenseman who was hacking on him into Jimmy Howard.  If you are Joey, and you go to the crease, the defensemen are going to take liberties if you let them.  Joey doesn't let them.  Looking into the future of this franchise, it is very important that we have a Joey that can physically establish himself.  If you want to get greasy with him, that's what you are going to get back.  If you don't, he may dominate you physically.  He has really taken the proverbial 'step', and I'm pretty sure there are more of them out there for him.  Joey scored goals 28 and 29 tonight.  Wow.  Just wow.

2.  CBJ beer two goes to Curtis McElhinney.  It may well be that the team's playoff fate hangs on the ability of CMac to win a few games down the stretch in relief of Bobrovsky.  If you talk about making noise in the playoffs, you can't ride Bob through 4 back to backs down the stretch.  McElhinney HAS to come in and win a couple of those games, or better yet, inspire sufficient confidence to play them routinely down the stretch.

3. My third CBJ beer goes to Blue Jackets Hockey, which the team got back to playing, and pretty much made Detroit play tonight.  When this team is focused, and playing their brand of hockey, they are a load to handle.  Midway through the second period, the fourth line came in and imposed a very long shift on Detroit, long enough that the fourth line was able to change.  It really seemed to disrupt Detroit.  Yes, they did come back on another broken play to score to tie the game, but after that point is was clear that we were playing Blue Jackets hockey tonight, and if Detroit was going to beat us, it would have to be at our game.  They gave it the good try, but the CBJ wore them down.  LOTS of players in on this beer, because there were no passengers tonight.  I thought Calvert was noticeable.  And Atkinson.  And Jenner.  And Dubi.  And Nick Shultz, coming in and playing veteran defense.  That pairing was much better.  Good stuff all around.

4. My fourth CBJ beer is for the barn, Nationwide Arena.  It seemed a bit quiet early, but given the size of the crowd, I had no problem with a very good, loud fan base down the stretch.  That ol' dog has finally gotten out of the kennel.  Wait until that hound gets into full bay in a playoff hunt!! What I liked about the crowd tonight was resiliency.  It actually seemed that when the chips were down the crowd got loud, rather than waiting for something good to happen.  That is another key to performance down the stretch of a playoff.  The crowd needs identify with what's going on the ice, and respond with noise when the players have their back to the wall, or are down.  It's time for us to step up and contribute to what we want.  Starting Friday.  Against Pittsburgh.  We need to win that crowd battle for once.  Strap it on folks, and bring it for a big one on Friday.

5. My fifth CBJ beer is some Eastern Conference love.  I like this playoff format.  I like the huge increase in exposure from being in the East.  I thank whatever deity is responsible for getting us out of the Central Division of the West.  Holy cow, what a buzz saw.  Anyway, these Eastern teams seem such natural rivalries with Columbus, and we have a team that can re-enforce that by beating them.  This has been a really fun year, and looks to be a hair raising run to the finish.  Four teams tied at 80 points with where we stand to day, along with both wild card positions.   Lots of cheers and tears yet to come.

6.  My sixth CBJ beer tonight goes to David Savard.  What a year for Savard.  I was ready to write him off this year, and thought he would play in Springfield in the AHL.  He proved me wrong.  A total credit to him.  I wanted to give this beer to Dalton Prout.  Prout is back to playing like he did down the stretch, and crazy as it may seem, Jack Johnson and Dalton Prout are starting to look like a shut down pair.  Rough start to the season for the Wookie, but Prout is finishing strong in the absence of Ryan Murray, who covered for Prout's early struggles (that's team work boys!).  Which brings me back to Savard.  By pairing Nick Shultz with Savard tonight, Savard was able to be offensively dangerous, which created opportunity elsewhere.  More importantly he looked more offensively aggressive.  Nice work by Savard tonight.

Four way tie for the two wild card spots.  Awesome.  Totally awesome.  What a great year!

GO JACKETS!!

3 comments:

  1. Johnson, a shutdown d-man? Then, explain where he was on the first Detroit goal. That said, for only the third time in their existence, the Jackets are playing meaningful hockey late in the season. While I'd love for them to be in the playoffs, if they miss, I'll still be happy with this season.

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    1. So name a defenseman who doesn't get goals scored against them? Well ok, Doughty. But, I've been whining at the fancy stats people for awhile now to answer this question: Are Jack Johnson's CORSI based statistics over the last 82 games significantly different than his previous history. A simple statistical test, but I'm not getting any love on it. Thanks for reacting! :-)

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  2. Agree on the entertainment value. Just wish the downs weren't so palpable that I feel like jumping off a TALL LEDGE!!!!As to the defence; it is still the best blue line this team has ever iced. And getting better with the growth of the kids. Pretty soon now, there won't be a Wiz or J J to kick around anymore because they won't be as necessary. I hate to put it in quite those terms, but the reality is, this bunch is starting to become, and as that happens, they become less dependent on "veterans" because THEY are now the veterans. What a GREAT thought.

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