Sunday, April 27, 2014
Progress In Pittsburgh
Before the game, I wondered to myself if there was something to the notion that we might lose the battle, yet win the war. Indeed, we lost that battle, with the Penguins pouring 50 shots on Sergei Bobrovsky. They were the better team, they deserved to win. Which creates an interesting dynamic, because they beat us by playing the same type of game that we do. It stands to reason that Pittsburgh, with superior talent on its top lines, should be able to play Blue Jackets hockey better than we do, so long as the bring the same intensity and commitment to the hard work that our system entails. And they did that Saturday night. But I wonder if they can sustain it?
The long term impact of Saturday's loss is that the CBJ have managed to dictate the terms by which this series will be won. The winning team will win by playing a Blue Jackets style of hockey better than the other team. Pittsburgh certainly ramped up a Blue Jackets style of hockey Saturday night. Our team played that style to win its way into the playoffs, and also managed to take the style on the road, winning a franchise record number of road games. In short, Columbus has shown that it can sustain Blue Jackets hockey over a whole season under a variety of conditions. So far the Pens have cranked that style up for game 3, and game 5, but otherwise have been unable to sustain the level of commitment. Whereas Columbus has shown that it can sustain that level of play under pressure.
So the take away message is that the team that plays Blue Jackets hockey (high intensity, strong forecheck, tight defensive checking, great goal tending) will win this series. It should be interesting to see if Pittsburgh can repeat their feat of Saturday night on the road, in a hostile arena.
On the other hand, this Pittsburgh team was expected to win multiple Stanley Cups. They have only won a single Cup, and thus are under achievers. Ironically, if they really think to get by Boston in the Conference final, they need to be able to perfect 'Blue Jackets Hockey', because that is the only hope they have to prevail in that series.
On a personal level, I am going to go out and cheer this team tomorrow with all that I have. No more worries, no more neuroses, just hard core support for our team. No matter how it turns out, I will be proud of what this group has done. But it's not over yet. No, not by a long shot.