Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Game 61 - CBJ vs The Toronto Maple Leafs and some trade deadline rants.

Now Legal in Colorado

The Jackets traveled to the Great White North taking on the Atlantic Division and Wild Card holding Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Center.  The Blue Jackets hand the Lifeless Leafs their third straight loss.  Ok, those aren't my words, the are those of the local scribe, the Toronto Star.  I can't imagine the nerd rage on the CBJ twitter feed if Arace or Portzline wrote a column with that title about the Blue Jackets.  But the Leafs fans are relentless.  The Jackets scratched out a  2-1 win at the daunting Air Canada Center in front of a hostile Leafs fan base.  Sometimes it's harder on the Leafs to play at home than it is for visiting teams.  Tonight happened to be one of those nights where it was tough for the Leafs to play at home.  And for those of you wondering, most folks on the outside don't think Air Canada Center is vocal enough.  Yeesh.

The first period was kind of a mess for the CBJ.  The Jackets got into some penalty trouble, goals were reviewed and disallowed, and the Jackets were lucky to get out of the first period 0-0.  But something encouraging happened in the second period, the Jackets play remained consistent as the game progressed.  Sometimes that over-zealous Maple Leaf fanbase can give the visiting team some motivation.  Boos here, some groans there, and the Rob Ford wannabe yelling at everyone from Phil Kessel to Lanny McDonald lets the visiting team know their efforts aren't unnoticed.  The Jackets fought through an ugly first while applying pressure in the second. 

The scoring broke open for the CBJ halfway through the second period.  McKenzie enters the zone wide, takes the puck off a chip pass from Calvert, and hits the breaks along the boards, sort of a poor man's Gretzky curl stretching out the Leafs Dzone coverage.  Dmac curls back towards the blue line and gives Prout a nice rink-wide backhand pass at the far point.  Prout takes two steps in and PUTS A KNEE HIGH SLAP SHOT IN THE GENERAL DIRECTION OF THE GOAL THROUGH SOME TRAFFIC and the puck finds the back of the net.  Amazing what happens when a point man takes an extra step and puts a hard, knee-high shot through some traffic into an open shooting lane.  Huh...

And just a few short minutes later, the Jackets are able to capitalize on a hobbled Maple Leafs goalie.  Reimer is caught without his goal stick and is forced to use the stick of a forward.  Anisimov and Foligno pressure the puck behind the net, and Foligno comes out with the puck.  He resists the urge to jam it in front and feeds Nitikin at the near point with a nice indirect pass off the half boards.  Then, in a split second, Nikitin reads the coverage down low, sees that Anisimov has set up in his wheelhouse (at the bottom of the offside wing circle) and hits him with a GORGEOUS cross-slot slap pass.  Anisimov wastes no time collecting the puck and buries it past Reimer's ho-hum stab of the glove.  That is a play which is a by-product of Olympic play.  You look for that play on the wider ice, and Arty has his second party since coming back from the disappointment in Sochi.  I'm going to have to happily retire my "Anisimov only scores in CBJ losses" joke if he keeps up this scoring pace of timely goals.

The Jackets team play continued to improve in the third, although it did not directly translate into goals.  Reimer had to channel his inner Hasek to keep the Leafs in the game and Nathan Horton couldn't buy a vowel from the Hawiian alphabet.  How many good chances did he miss tonight?  But, the Jackets kept doing the things that got them the lead as the game reached the latter stages of the third.  They didn't retreat into a conservative shell that only entices opposing teams to advance the puck with speed.  The Jacket's puck pressure remained constant and time on the attack was significant throughout the period.  The Leafs Dzone coverage looked lethargic and a wonky Reimer kept the score from being 3 or 4 to 1.  The Leafs eventually scored on a goofy play were neither Foligno or Gaborik seemed fully committed to the back check (remember this point) and a lazer beam gets tucked in the corner past Bob's shoulder.  The Jackets played smart coverage in the closing moments of the game.  The came back to the neutral zone and applied good pressure at the red line.  Much better decision making that didn't add any unnecessary anxiety.

Trade Deadline Stuff

And who can forget the injury to Ryan Murray.  This injury would be much less annoying if it had happened in October.  But no, it happens less than two days before the trade deadline.  I'm going to say this slowly so that people understand it.  Brick by Brick.  Brick by Brick.  Brick by MF Brick.  We dont' know the extent of Murray's injury.  We don't have a timetable for Tyutin's return.  So like a neurotic girls whose boyfriend is 20 minutes late coming home from the bar, we start making stuff up in our heads.  We start imagining that Jarmo and JD have called home and told their wives not to expect them until Thursday as they are crafting a scheme that will bring a solidifying defensive presence to the Blue Line for a deep playoff run.  We imagine right now that second pair defensemen that were never on the trade market all of a sudden become available.  Brick By Brick.  Be cool honey bunny.

*Anecdote Alert* My second favorite sports team is the Boston Red Sox. And it is a distant second to the CBJ.  I am was a long suffering Red Sox fans.  It wasn't until Theo Epstein came to town that I could 'strikethrough' the "am" in my last statement.  It was 2006 and the Red Sox started struggling right before the trade deadline.  The Yankees had made some waves with a couple trades.  With the possibility of the playoffs slipping away, the giant beast that is New England sports media pressed young Mr Epstein.  When asked what he would do to save the season, he replied with (paraphrasing) "I will not make a short-term decision Jeopardizing long term future of the ball club."  2006 floated away into obscurity and the Red Sox won the World Series the following season.  Brick by Brick.  Theo Epstein had a plan and did not waiver from it.  You have to respect that and the plan got the desired results.

Why do I mention the Sox in a blog post about the Blue Jackets at the NHL trade deadline?  It's very simple.  While I don't pretend to know what JD and Jarmo are thinking, I do know what John Davidson has said in TV commercials, radio interviews, and through his body of work with the St Louis Blues.  I have to believe that the team is not going to make a short-sighted decision that will affect the long term sustainability of the Blue Jackets so they can claw their way into the playoffs this season.  Because if we're making stuff up and pretending that Murray and Tyutin are out for weeks, then you have to give away something of long term value to make a significant impact this season.  Maybe something along the lines of an Atkinson or Foligno to bring yet another second pair defensemen to Columbus.  Don't we already have enough second pair defensemen on the CBJ?  Advanced stat guys might not care much for Foligno, but the guy doesn't collect a six-figure paycheck every couple weeks because of his Corsi or Fenwick.

The Brick by Brick commercials (and Songs), the Bobrovsky negotiations, and the purging of the old regime's dressing room cancer butted up against the very slow approach that was taken in St Louis makes me believe we won't see much panic action at the deadline.  Could JD and Jarmo back pedal a little bit on their statement about 'rentals.' Maybe in the case of a defenseman if the Murray and or Tyutin injury is long-term.  I don't know of many teams looking to part with a legitimate second pair Dman for a 3rd and conditional 4th.  We can't assume Murry's injury is long term and based on what John Davidson has said since the day he got here, I don't see the team making a short-sighted move to claw their ways into the playoffs at the cost of long term growth and sustainability of the team's overall competitiveness.  Perhaps things are different in two or three years when the Jackets sit comfortably in one of the top two Metro spots and two Dmen are injured in the closing moments before the deadline.  And what about Gaborik?

To be honest, there are two issues with Gaborik.  Number one is how he is utilized.  Why the F**K is he parked on top of the crease screening and looking for rebounds?  He is not Tomas Holmstrom.  Is that were he just goes on his own?   Is that were he is told to set up?  Is he so baffled by the sound muffling of the Ice Haus that he's just confused?  And when Todd Richards inevitably starts destroying all chemistry with his constant tinkering of the lines after six shifts of no goals, why do we not see a Gaborik, Johansen, Horton line more regulary? Ignoring of course the Dzone coverage would be a huge liability with that line, but are they not your best three offensive forwards?  If you're going to tear apart lines, try them together a little more often. Whether Gaborik is a "square peg in a round hole" or a "Ferrari on team with dump trucks" is a question for the off season and  is that second issue you worry about in late June.  If you try your best to limp to the playoffs, do you let the potential offense he produces walk out of the dressing room for pennies on the dollar?

I don't feel that Gaborik is with the team next season, but I would very much like to see him finish the season here.  He's a little goofy, the other players seem to like him, and he does stick out on the ice.  But still, did you see that goal where he purposely knocks the puck down out of the air and then roofs it from the top of the crease? Wow. And not to have a post without some sort of irony, remember not too long ago where we lamented Jack Jackson not being on Team USA because of his international experience?  How much Stanley Cup playoff experience do we have lying around the the CBJ dressing room?  Not much.  Gaborik's last trip to the playoffs saw him net 11 points in 20 games.  And that was when he was a Ferrari playing on a team with a bunch of train wrecks.  And Dubinsky.  And Anisimov.  If Murray and Tyutin's injuries are long team, then it might be appropriate moving Gaborik if we get a second pair rent-a-Dman (assuming there are any).  I'm not heartbroken if Gaborik is gone on Wednesday, but he did seem to find score sheet during the playoffs his last full season with the NYR.  It's not a bad idea to hang onto him unless the Jackets are given an (unlikely) offer they couldn't refuse.  If the Jackets make the playoffs it will be nice to have him, if they don't make the playoffs and the Jackets don't re-sign, him people will rage that we didn't get an obscure 3rd or 4th rounder for him.  Brick by Brick.  It's a slow build, right?

The Jackets take to the ice Tuesday night at home in Nationwide Arena against the Dallas Stars.  Dallas will pose as a formidable foe.  The stretch run has started and for most teams in the Metro division, the play off hockey are well underway.

And my trade deadline Haiku

All of your trades are
Not belonging to us, please
Get here soon Wednesday

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