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.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

So DBJ watched CBJ Game 53: Ottawa

Ottawa 3 - Columbus 2
The Columbus Blue Jackets lost their third straight game in regulation, 3-2, to the visiting Ottawa Senators at Nationwide Arena.

I'm going to keep this short due to illness (Yeah, I caught something after returning from paradise).  But that's OK, because this is a pretty simple one to break down.

Monday, January 27, 2014

So DBJ watched CBJ Game 52: Carolina

Carolina 3 - Columbus 2
The Columbus Blue Jackets came out guns a-blazin' in Raleigh tonight, putting two goals past the host Carolina Hurricanes, then the game settled down into a mishmash of...well...not much before the Hurricanes exploded with three goals over a span of less than three minutes in the third period to stun the CBJ and win the game, 3-2, in regulation.

Where to begin.

OK, I've been on vacation for two weeks.  It's down south of the border, a nice place full of warm memories:

Don't know if you can see the score box on the GCL screen, but that was me watching
Scott Arniel's last game as CBJ coach.  Good times, good times.  Pass the chips and salsa!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Game 50: Buffalo Buzz Kill

Turning in a total team loss tonight, the Blue Jackets under achieved in all facets of the game to allow the Buffalo Sabres to earn a 5-2 win tonight in Nationwide Arena.  I thought for the most part the Buffalo players won the puck battles all night, and in spite of having long stretches of possession, the CBJ had a hard time getting the puck past the shot blockers in a meaningful fashion.  This is the type of game that illustrates how hard it is to maintain a serious winning streak in this league.

This game was disappointing on so many fronts, but for me it was mostly as I felt the team squandered a lot of the good feeling they had built up with the casual fans in the City.  A Saturday night game, a big crowd, in which the Blue Jackets fans had to contend with many loud, and occasionally obnoxious Buffalo fans.  Meh. The team didn't show them much tonight.

David Savard was out of the line up with an illness and Cody Goloubef apparently had enough travel difficulties that he did not get to the game in time to play.  So the CBJ rolled 5 defensemen all night long, and they all appeared out of synch with each other.  The special teams were a steaming hot mess, with the power play going 0-4, generating 2 shots, and yielding 2 short handed goals.

No six pack tonight.  No beers were earned by the home squad, and I'm sure not handing them out to the Sabres.  That's not a very good team, but its an NHL team, and if you let them out work you, they are going to beat you.  And that's what happened tonight.

So.  They laid an egg tonight.  It happens.  Move on to Carolina Monday night, and a chance to redeem themselves from this stinker.  If they move on from this, and play better, and win most nights, things will be fine.  If this stinker morphs into something larger, they may have a problem.  Still don't know what the deal is with Bobrovsky.  So long as it is a momentary problem, no worries.

Move on, get ready for Carolina on Monday.


Friday, January 24, 2014

A very DBJ type of quandry

I'm wrapping things up and starting to think about heading home - with many thanks to Gallos and Morgan for covering for me during my extended absence - but then the questions hit: Is it time to take one for the team?  Or tempt fate?


Got any more pico de gallo?

Go Jackets!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Game 1000: Flyers, Eight is Great!

Tonight, in the 1000th game in franchise history, the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 to wrench the third place playoff spot in the Metro Division from Philly.  The Flyers are pushed down to the wild card spot, fourth in the Division, by virtue of the first tie breaker, head to head competition, as the CBJ go to 2-1 in the season series.  The Jackets got on the board in the first period with a little luck, the teams traded two goals apiece in the second period, and the Jackets pulled away in the third period.  This was a very satisfying win, that pushed the franchise record winning streak to 8 games.

This was a sloppy game, and neither team played well in the first period.  I thought Philly carried the play in the first half of the second period, but the Jackets carried the play in the second half of the second period, sparked by solid play from MacKenzie's line.  Awesome to see MacKenzie rewarded with a goal, and even though the Jackets ended the second period on the wrong end of a 5 on 3 power play, they killed it off, and took it home from there.

1.  My first CBJ beer for tonight is a playoff beer.  Can't decide if it is a phantom or not, but I don't think so.  This team has great work ethic and great depth, great goal tending, and more importantly, great spirit.  MOST important is the fact that they should be in the playoff race the rest of the year, which should make it a crazy fun bunch of games to go to.  Like the team, the crowd seemed to wade into this one, but by the end of the game, the crowd snark level was very high, with numerous 'we want Mason' chants.  Presumably they want to see the nice video they have put together for his return.  At least I'm pretty sure anyway.

2.  I'm going to go with this second CBJ beer to Matt Calvert.  He had a goal, and an assist, but when they announced him as the second star after the game they said he had only an assist.  The CBJ box score gives him the goal off the Wisniewski shot, so one of them is going to get it anyway.  I'm giving Matt this beer, instead of giving it to the next player on our list because of the following historical re-enactment:

Ref:  Hey we think we have a distinct kicking motion on this goal.
Toronto:  Hmm, sure looks like it, I'd say no....oh, wait a minute, let me check the list.
Toronto:  Hmmm, hmmm, <scans list> Calvert, hmm, Oh Jeez, we screwed the dickens out of this guy last year, he's on the list.
Toronto:  Good goal!!
Ref:  After further review, the call on the ice stands, good goal!!

I love historical re-enactments.  Don't you?

3. The next CBJ beer goes to Brandon Dubinsky.  He had a goal and an assist tonight to continue a really strong stretch of play.  His line was a dominant force in this game.   This was scored on a great shift, because Dubi came through the slot and took a shot, but he was on his backhand, and missed the net.  His linemates corralled the puck behind the net, and sent it back out to him.  This time he made sure he had it on his forehand in the slot, and buried it.  From our spot in the stands it looked like Ray Emery thought he was going to pass it and started to cheat, but Dubi made sure of it by taking the shot.  That was a big goal to push it to a two goal lead.  I love the way that Todd Richards dumps Dubinsky's line out there as the third power play line at the end of the power play.  That's how Calvert got his power play goal.  So Dubinsky's line ends up with 2 goals tonight.  If I'm the Flyers, and I looked at the tape of the Kings game I'm saying "I've got to shut down the Johansen line", which they did.  Unfortunately for them, Dubinsky's line took up the slack.  Nice work gents!

4. This fourth CBJ beer goes to Arty Anisimov and his line, with Nathan Horton and Boone Jenner on the wings.  Seriously, Jenner drew 4 penalties tonight, keeping the CBJ power play in practice.  While technically only the Dubinsky line scored on the power play, Arty's line pumped one in just seconds after a power play ended to push the third period lead to 3 goals.  Another example of Richie dumping a regular line out there for the last shift of the power play.  I thought Arty had a really strong game tonight, and Horton scored the goal right after the power play on a sweet feed by Ryan Murray.  Philly struggled to contain this line all night long.

5.  My fifth CBJ beer goes to the MacKenzie line, with Corey Tropp and Mark Letestu on the wings.  In the middle of the second period, with the game tied a 1 goal apiece, this line turned in a dominant shift in which they had puck possession for something like a minute.  The Flyers finally cleared the puck, the next line gathered it and started the rush, but Letestu was unable to clear the zone on dead legs.  This stopped the rush at the blue line, the Flyers went the other way and ended up drawing a penalty.  Richie rolled MacKenzie and Letustu out on the penalty kill with dead legs, the kill wasn't effective, and the Flyers scored to take a 2-1 lead.  The next time the MacKenzie line hit the ice, they turned in another dominant shift, and Derek ended up scoring a goal to bring it back to a tie game at 2-2 (Note, Arty had come on the ice, and got the primary assist on this goal).  Nice work by these guys tonight.

6.  My sixth CBJ beer goes to Jack Johnson, for being a stalwart.  He got the scoring going tonight by banking one in off a Philly defenseman's leg.  In his post game interview he went right to the 'it's better to be lucky than good', but the guy has had a bit of a rough period here, with the Olympic snub still stinging I think.  I also think the winning helps, and he munches minutes, and makes a good pairing with Fedor Tyutin, who continues to play very, very solid hockey.  Good stuff.

I think JD and Jarmo wanted to see what their team could do once they got healthy.  8-1 is not a bad sampling of its capability.  This team really needs to make hay while the sun shines, as they have a lot of home games still to play before finishing with 3 games on the west coast to end the pre-Olympic part of the NHL schedule.  That should give JD and Jarmo a chance to see how the team deals with adversity.  My buddy Bill was saying that only one team had gotten points in more than one game in the LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks version of Death Valley.  That was New Jersey, that lost two games in overtime.  Everyone else has been limited to maybe winning one game.

The scoring depth roll call continues:
Game 1: Atkinson, Wisniewski, Johansen, Letestu.
Game 2: Savard, Calvert, Dubinsky.
Game 3: Umberger, Johansen, Horton, Anisimov
Game 4: Johnson, MacKenzie, Calvert/Wiz, Dubinsky, Horton

Different people stepping up at different times means lots of wins.

We are sitting in a playoff berth.  We need to win to continue to occupy that spot!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Game 48: LA Kings; That was a Beauty

Tonight, the Columbus Blue Jackets won a franchise record seventh straight game with a 5-3 win over a powerful LA Kings squad.  Always nice to get these guys on the back end of something like 4 games in 6 nights, but I have a feeling Coach Sutter isn't accepting that as an excuse, in spite of the reality of the situation.  The Jackets did not let the fact that LA drew first blood perturb them, and drew even on their first power play of the night.  Better yet, they scored late in the first period to take a two goal lead.  Having seen how that deflated the opposition, they did one better, and scored two late in the second period to put the game away, in spite of the fact that the Kings had evened the score earlier in the second period.  It is tempting to call this a signature win, but the visiting team had enough disadvantages that I think that is a reach.  We play the Kings again out on the coast right before the Olympic break.  I'd like to suggest that the Kings will have a burr under their saddle, and the outcome of that game has a lot of bearing on the significance of this game.

Bottom line, any time you can write your names in a franchise's record books with a win, it is a good night for the team.  This group of players deserves it, and I would like to see them set the bar high for future Blue Jackets squads.  So keep it going!

1.  My first beer of tonight's six pack, a hoppy Columbus Brewing Company (CBC) IPA goes to none other than the Umbeak, who had a lot of hop in his game tonight.
Ummbeak!!  Ummmmmbeaaaaaak!!
   It was obvious that RJ Umberger had his game going tonight, as did his line mates Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno.  Accounting for three goals, this line was a force all night long.  Yeah, LA got away with some dirty tricks tonight, especially against Joey.  This line paid them back on the score sheet, which is the only score that matters.

RJ is playing as well now as he has for several years.  The decision to take some weight off over the summer, and come in at a lighter playing weight is really paying off now (yes, I know I said it before, but its so freaking obvious that it deserves mention again), and RJ's game is in top form.  He could have cost me my coveted Ryan Murray era draft hat, a birthday present from my son, but no, he didn't take the empty net hattie, holding on the the puck and killing time instead.  Which is okay, considering that his second goal was one of those odd shots that hit the pipe and went in rather than hitting the pipe and deflecting out.  It's what happened after that goal that counted most.  Nice work tonight RJ.  Well done!

2.  My second CBJ beer, an Elevator Dirty Dick's Nut Brown Ale, goes to Nathan Horton.  His goal with 16 seconds left in the second period was the second goal the CBJ scored in the last two minutes of the second period.  This was a dagger in the King's heart, and put them away.  The CBJ are now 8-1 with Horton in the lineup.  Which is not about Horton, so much as it is about the whole team.  And, as my son pointed out, it doesn't hurt to have a red hot Bobrovsky come back from injury right at the same time you join the team.  Which made me laugh.  Nonetheless, Horton has had an impact on team confidence, which is a big, big thing.

My favorite play of Horton's tonight was in the first period, when he had rotated up to the point to cover for a pinching defenseman, and the puck came out an he bobbled it.  Jeff Carter stole the puck and had a clean break away, except for one thing.  Horton had his stick so completely tied up (legally), that Carter took off, but his stick did not come with him.  Great third effort by Horton, breakaway shut down.  I loved that play.

3. Close behind my second beer is the third beer (ever notice that this is the point in the evening where foreign languages become easy?), a smooth, easy drinking Marzen from Gordon Biersch, which goes to Arty Anisimov.  It was funny.  Arty took a penalty for delay of game, and seemed really bummed about it.  After that, he made a number of very, very stout plays on defense.  Finally, he made a very stout play, shut down a rush, and took off the other way with the puck, and calmly puts in perfectly on Horton's stick with 16 seconds left in the period.    His game seemed to gather momentum as the evening went on, capped off by his goal in the third period.  After that it was 'stick a fork in them, they're done' for the Kings as they trailed by 3 goals midway through the third.  This was a really nice game by Artem Anisimov.

4. My next beer of the evening, a long, tall, yummy stadium beer, goes to Ryan Johansen.  His goal late in the second period helped solidify a momentum shift from the Kings to the Jackets.  Ryan Murray fed him with a sublime pass, and Johansen did not waste the breakaway opportunity, getting in close and roofing the puck past the Kings goal tender.  It was a sweet, sweet play.  Joey was a dominant player in this game, in spite of some of the abuse he took at the hands of the Kings.   His growth continues apace.

5.  My fifth beer, a solid yet spectacular Sam Adams Boston Lager, goes to the defensive pairing of James Wisniewski and Ryan Murray.  Simply put, you don't get a seven game winning streak without these two playing excellent hockey.  The cool thing is the synergy of this pairing.  The whole is greater than the parts, but both parts are contributing excellent hockey within their own strengths.  You don't see this kind of thing all the time, and we are really lucky to be able to watch it.  I heard a bit of George Matthew's post game, and he was a bit surprised at seeing Murray.  He has been away from the team, and if you weren't used to it you would be shocked by young Murray's contributions.  But Wiz provides the perfect counterpoint to Murray's game, and the pair excels.

6. My sixth beer, a homey beer, goes to the home crowd tonight, for booing the h**l out of Jeff Carter, even when he scored the goal we set him up with.  Neither the team or the crowd was deflated by that, and the crowd continued booing Carter every time he touched the puck.  And of course the Arch City Army reminded him that he suc*ed all night long.  A little bit more snark in the crowd than I've seen before.  I don't think that is a bad thing at all.

Wow.  Nice win tonight.  We need to keep winning to keep pace in the competitive Metro Division.  On the other hand, we are making real headway now.  Any future results are magnified at this juncture, because we are playing Eastern Conference opponents for the most part.  Holding on to a playoff spot for another night or two.  Future occupation of this spot is contingent on future results.

Scoring depth.  Game 1 goals: Atkinson, Wisniewski, Johansen, Letestu.  Game 2 Goals:  Savard, Calvert, Dubinsky.  Game 3 goals: Umberger (2), Johansen, Horton, Anisimov.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Foligno is due, as is Jenner, and a couple of defensemen.  It's not like this is not sustainable.

Lots of tears and cheers yet ahead this season.  This is what it is all about, enjoy the ride!!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Errata, RE: Wildcard

Oops.  I just pushed the publish button without writing anything. That's embarrassing to say the least, and now I am in a hurry.  I did want to note that in yesterday's post I used an incorrect table of the standings to fuel my musings.  It turns out the CBJ are sitting in the Metro Division wild card spot and the doggone blog editor is fighting me every step of the way.

This is pretty cool, that they have fought their way back into the discussion after a slow start.  But now they need to keep winning, if they want to actually stay in this thing.  With all the teams in the race, someone, somewhere is going to be winning games.  So this upcoming stretch of home games is going to be critical to the outcome of the season.  But they are in the hunt in January, which is nice.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Game 47: Buffalo

The Columbus Blue Jackets waded into their Eastern Conference tilt with the Buffalo Sabres last night, but Buffalo came in skating hard like a team with pride and little to lose.  While the Jackets gave up two quick goals to Buffalo, they got their legs going, skated hard, and equalized the score at the end of the first period.  The CBJ almost made a second period goal stand up as the winner, but lost the lead late in the third period when Buffalo came out 6 on 4 and tied the game.  After a wide open overtime, the game went to a shootout, in which Ryan Johansen scored the only goal with a really sick move on Ryan Miller and secured the win for the CBJ.  A game in which they did not play well for stretches, yet played well enough to come away with the win and the coveted 2 points.  Their sixth consecutive win apparently ties a franchise record set in 2006 according to the Fox Sports crew.  Sweet.  So let's run through a six pack!

1.  My first cold, frosty brew goes to scoring depth.  After the first Buffalo goal I started thinking that it would be very plausible for the CBJ to hang up some goals and not have any of the guys who scored against Washington get a goal.  Sure enough, Savard, Calvert, and Dubinsky all scored, to complement the scoring of Atkinson, Wisniewski, Johansen and Letestu the night before.  Dubinsky's goal was his 10th of the year, making him the 6th player in double figures for goals.  I love scoring depth, because it is leading to wins.

2.  My second, ice cold, yummy, CBJ beer goes to Ryan Johansen.  Not really for the shoot out goal that won the game, but more for the dominant shifts his line turned in during the third period.  Although they didn't solve Ryan Miller, the Sabres goal tender, they kept the third period ice tilted in our favor for a lot of the period.  And then of course, there was the shoot out winner.  Nice game by Johansen.

3.  My third CBJ beer of the night goes to R.J. Umberger.  Umberger still has the 'manos de piedra', but he is skating at a clip that we have not seen for many years.  His off season decision to take off some weight has payed dividends, and he is skating really well, and disrupting other teams efforts to bring the puck up the ice. R.J. didn't show up on the score sheet, but the shifts that he, Johansen, and Nick Foligno turned in during the third period were epic.  When you possess the puck for long stretches in the other teams zone, they can't shoot at your goal tender.  And I noticed that while Buffalo was getting shots off on Bobrovsky from the doorstep in the first period, they tended to be from the top of the face off circles in the third period.  I think that means that Buffalo had to work so hard to get it out of their zone that they had nothing left when they got to the offensive zone.  Watch to see if we don't have this problem against L.A. on Tuesday.

R.J. is playing really well.  Please keep it up, we like that.

4.  My fourth cold CBJ beer goes to Sergei Bobrovsky.  Bob didn't have real great numbers in this game, but he actually played really well, keeping the CBJ in the game in the first period, and calmly sealing the two points in the shoot out.  His first back to back since his injury, he seemed to have done pretty well.  He made some really great saves to keep the Jackets in the game after they tied it at two.  We are seeing Vezina form Bob, and that's a great thing to see right now.  Well done Bob!

5.  My fifth, smooth, fulfilling CBJ beer goes to Todd Richards, for not being content, and wanting to be in the playoffs.  Richie has his detractors, as do we all, but he seems to be doing a really nice job with the team.  Congratulations on that 300th game coach, and I hope things continue to build for you this year.  How about we knock that NHL playoff goose-egg off your record this year?  What do ya think?

6.  My sixth CBJ beer goes to Matt Calvert, for getting on the board in the first period and tying the game.  I'm happy to see Matt's hustle being rewarded.  The Atkinson-Dubinsky-Calvert line is extremely disruptive to other teams, creating turnovers all up and down the ice.  It's nice to see that line showing up in the scoring, as all three of the players have potential to put it into the net.

A big, big road win.  The Rangers and Philly both won last night, so all we did was keep pace with third in the Metro remaining 5 points out.  Still lots of work to do.  But the wild card spot is a mere 2 points away, the Metro having reclaimed its spot from the Atlantic.

The LA Kings come to town on Tuesday, a weighty, heavy team, that just finished shoving Hitch's boys in St. Louis around.  We are going to have to have a top notch game to get one against them.  It ought to be a fun game.  Sometimes these week night games have kind of a small turn out, but with a team like LA, you don't get lot's of opposing fans, and you tend to have the die hard fans in the crowd, and the smaller crowd can get pretty loud.  Think about coming down and getting loud.  It will be a lot of fun!


Friday, January 17, 2014

Game 46: Washington

Nyet, Mr. Ovechkin
Mano y mano.  Bobrovsky and Ovechkin, 1 on 1, with Ochovechkin at the top of the crease.  And Bob denies.  The game was 3-1 CBJ, but Washington had recently scored a goal to get into the game.  A goal by Ochovechkin in that moment makes it a one goal game with half the game to play.  But Bob fought him off, and the CBJ rolled from there, beating the Capitals 5-1 to win their fifth straight game.

Wow.  What a fun game to go to.  The Arena District was rocking tonight, and lots of quiet Caps fans were in attendance.  It was a really fun game.  The first half of the first period the Capitals came out skating hard, and the first 10 minutes was counter punching which favored the Capitals.  But the ice tilted after the 10 minute mark, and Cam Atkinson drew a tripping penalty.  Wisniewski buried a slap shot to give the Jackets a 1-0 lead, and the CBJ never looked back.

That doesn't mean the Capitals rolled up and died.  They made several pushes, especially in the second period, but the CBJ had an answer, and finally got into the win column this year against the Caps.  This was a highly entertaining game.

This one's for you LTL.  Just cause.
1. Tonight's six-pack begins with a frosty cool CBJ brew to Cam Atkinson, for a two goal night.  In Cam's words in the post game, the first goal was Dubinsky taking a shot, Calvert taking a couple more, and the puck finally bouncing to Cam, and he buried it.  The second goal was 2 maybe 3 seconds after a power play ended.  Ovechkin was in the box on a cross-checking penalty which was ending.  I swear 85% of the arena looked to the penalty box, just as he stepped on the ice to collect a minus for his +/-, but Cam had the puck, and he turned a laced one in for the Jackets 5th goal and to ice the game.  Cam had a couple of cracks at the hat trick tonight, but it wasn't meant to be.  With his 14th and 15th goals, Cam, barring injury, is on a pace to be a big time 20 plus goal scorer this season. Nice work tonight.

2. It's nice to hear Kathryn Tappen get enthusiastic on the CBJ on the NHL network.  Definitely going to make it a point to buy her this CBJ beer at the All-Star game.  Why not?

3. Ahem.  Where was I?  Oh yeah.  Joey.  Nice goal.  A good pass to Umberger, a good hustle play by Umberger to set him up for the snipe goal to make it 3-0 CBJ.  But that's not what this beer is for.  With 2:15 left in the second period, Matt Calvert takes a too many men penalty (a no brainer), so the Capitals had an abbreviated 5 on 3 power play.  Joey comes off the bench to win a critical face off, and promptly gets off the ice.  Shortly thereafter, with about a 2 seconds left in the 5 on 3, an obviously tired Johanson comes on the ice, and wins the face off for a quick rim around that hits Boone Jenner coming out of the penalty box.  Washington was looming with their 27% power play, but Joey won those critical face offs on the penalty kill that got us out of the second period with a 3-1 lead.  Stout play Joey.  Stout play.  Let's make this a 22 oz tall boy for you, because you earned it.

4. Bobrovsky.  Seriously?  This amazingly cold, smooth, delicious CBJ brewski goes to Sergei Bobrovsky.  He has been on fire since he returned from injury, NHL network just flashed up a .958 save percentage since he returned.  He made the big save to shut down Ovechkin, and consistently made good saves.  He is looking to be on top of his game.  Which is nice.  Go Bob!!!

5. Wiz get's this next cold beer for scoring his first power play goal on a slap shot on a lovely 4 on 3 power play.  Lot's of room and time, and Wisniewski hits the net.  That was the all important first goal, and launched the CBJ down the path of a win.  A hot power play for this next little while would be a handy thing to have, and Wiz has a lot to do with the success of those units.

6. This last CBJ beer is going to go to Jack Johnson.  It could have gone to Matt Calvert for an extremely scrappy night which included an assist.  But early in the game, as a Capital cruised through the crease, Jack just lowered the boom with a very clean, shoulder to shoulder hit that just buried the guy.  The Caps were a bit more tentative around the crease after that.  Jack has been playing pretty good hockey of late, though what motivates him, I don't know <inserts tongue in cheek>.

The CBJ get to 50 points.  They play Buffalo, a team that has struggled, in Buffalo tomorrow night.  Two more points are on the line.  Buffalo may be one of the worst teams in the league, but if you don't bring your game, you will lose.  The CBJ really need to bring their game again tomorrow night.  Great win tonight though!!!  Yee Haw!!  This is the cheers and tears of a playoff race.  It is to be enjoyed.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Game 45 - Catching Lightning in a Bottle

The Columbus Blue Jackets welcomed the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning to the comfy confines of Nationwide Arena looking to do what good ol' Lou Brown would call starting a Winning Streak.  Tampa Bay was 5-3-1 in their last nine coming into tonight's contest.  For a change, Nationwide Arena was a strictly partisan crowd, with barely a smattering of Lightning Jerseys in attendance.  There was the occasional Stamkos jersey to be found, and why not - he's got a 40, 50, and 60 goal season barely 6 years in the league.  But tonight's crowd was all about the Jackets and the team did not disappoint by delivering a satisfying 3-2 win in regulation.

A friend of mine was kind enough to offer me his tickets in section 110. My son and I got to see Dan Kamal and Brian Giesenschlag do their thing all game, they were right next to us. My son even got a chance to chat up Dave Maetzold briefly - further endearing the prospects of sports journalism as a career possibility for my son.  After the novelty of the broadcast happening next to us wore off, we were focused for the start of the Jackets game.

The Jackets came out in the first with the ice tilted towards the Tampa Bay net.  I don't think the Lightning were expectig the game the CBJ brought early in the first.  The Jackets had plenty of scoring opportunities in the first 7 or 8 minutes of play.  Lots of pucks ended up on the ice between the crease and the slot, but the Jackets couldn't seem to put them in the back of the net.  Lindback wasn't necessarily all-world, the Jackets just couldn't seem to punch one through.  As the period wore on, you couldn't help but feel that those missed opportunities would be sorely missed later in the game.  To heighten the anxiety, the CBJ Power Play was rockin' a Club Tril t-shirt in the first period going 0 - for - everything.  The Lightning did an excellent job of putting bodies in the shooting lanes when the puck was high, and putting sticks in the passing lanes when the puck was low.  The puck movement wasn't crisp enough to confuse the Tampa Bay penalty kill and the Jackets headed to the locker room after one period with the score knotted 0-0.  Advantage, Lightning.  One thing really stood out to me in the first - Mark Letestu was going to get a goal.  He was in all the right places, he was doing all the right things.  The goalie was having to make saves on all his shots.

If Wisniewski isn't careful, he and his honesty are going to have to sit over in the corner with the DKM and DBJ crew at this year's Cannonfest. 

The second period saw about 3 minutes of scoring and 17 minutes of Bob being Bob.  The Jackets get one board at 3:47 on a Ryan Johansen slap shot from way downtown thanks to Umberger screening down low.  But in less than three shakes of a lamb's tail, the Bolts score a couple goals to take the lead 2-1.  Bob makes some tough saves look routine and keeps the Jackets in the game.  The Jackets play was not horrible in the 2nd, it just lacked the "hey, these guys look sharp" feel that the first period had.  And my, oh, my - Martin St Louis is good at hockey.  I would hate to have to play d-zone coverage with him on the ice.  Some guys are good with the puck, some guys have speed, some guys are sneaky.  St Louis plays so smart without the puck and away from the puck that I kinda wish most people noticed that.  *EDIT In 2002, USA did a puck possession study during they Winter Olympics.  Essentially, they discovered the worlds best players are on the ice  20 18 minutes a game and have the puck for less than 45 67 seconds.  Considering that information, the great ones HAVE TO BE smart away from the puck.  All those advanced stats account for 5% 6% of the time you're on the ice, but I digress.  Oh, and if you're Jarmo Kekalainen, you just sign Ryan Johansen to one year deals, right?  I mean what a contract season he's having, huh?  He puts on 20 LBs during the off season and becomes really good?  Re-verify range to target - One year extensions only, please.

One Ping Only

The third period of this hockey game was one of the most satisfying periods of Blue Jackets hockey I've seen in person for some time.  It was one of the rare moments when I stopped watching the Blue Jackets and started watching the Lightning try to contain the CBJ.  The Jackets go on the power play after Sylvain Cote (or whatever) goes off for hooking.  With Anisimov screening in front, everyone's favorite 20 goal scorer steps in from the left circle and buries a wrister inside the far post.  BOOM, Horton hears a PPG. The game is knotted at 2 less than 4 minutes into the 3rd.  I had no worry in the 3rd period - it was a peaceful calm I get sometimes coaching youth hockey.  You just know when the players are "on it" and all you have to do is sit back and make sure the clock doesn't get screwed up.  The Jackets just kept rolling, even on the PK.  The Bolts looked frustrated and couldn't get much going in the 3rd.  The Lightning turned the puck over A LOT and there wasn't a moment that I didn't feel the Jackets weren't in control.


I am a die-hard Blue Jackets fan.  The Blue Jackets are my favorite team in any sport.  The Red Sox are a distant second for personal reasons.  And somewhere between my well-documented transition of my relationship from the Bruins to the Blue Jackets in 2000, I had an affair with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the mid to late 90's.  And part of that sordid affair saw me take custodial ownership of a rare piece of hockey history, rather contraband - an early development of Tampa's initial third jersey.  The story goes that the owner and director of scouting each designed a third jersey and had a set made for the team.  The winner's would go on to be mass produced, the loser's design would be destined to a blog piece over 15 years later.  Here is a picture of the jersey that didn't win. 

courtesy of Mark Esposito
Can you believe this lost because it wasn't LOUD ENOUGH. This thing should come with an epilepsy warning. Could this be a jersey foul - a Blue Jackets blog posting a rare Lightning Jersey? We might need Puck daddy to weigh in. Seriously though, who's jersey do you think the owner chose, his or someone else's? Alas, this jersey may have been the coolest thing to grace the ice of any summer league team anywhere in the late 90's.  Oh, and he's the abomination that won...

"I have worn arguably some of the ugliest third jerseys in the world, and Tampa Bay's, it was better".
Seriously, Silliger wore this, the Vancover abortion, and the Flying Duck 3rd. Yeesh.

Ok, back to the CBJ...  with just under 3 minutes left to play in the 3rd and some tweaking on the back end of the PP unit, James Wisniewski, I mean Jack Johnson, I mean MARK LETESTU tips in a beaut to put the Jackets on top for good.  And in the closing moments of the game, the Jackets were ALL OVER the Lightning.  They didn't go into a "play not to lose" retreat to the neutral zone prevent defense.  They pinned the the Bolts in their own end and everyone in Nationwide was on their feet for the final two minutes of the game.  The Lightning had to pull Lindback with the puck still in their own end to get the extra attacker onto the ice.  That's how unrelenting the Jackets were in the closing moments of the game.  It was a quality win for the Blue Jackets.  The Jackets owned the tempo in the first, leaned on Bob in the second, and brought their A game in the 3rd.  I noticed a little less MStL in the 3rd.  Coincidence, I think not.

The Jackets have their first four game winning streak of the season and let's hope they have a few more left in them this season.  There's all this buzz about the Metro division the last couple days.  Well there's a log jam between 2 and 7th place which makes for a compelling playoff story line the next 3 months.  Let's face it, it's boring to talk about who's going to make the playoffs in the West.  But in the Metro, it changes day by day.  It will be fun to watch how the Metro division shakes out over the next 90 days and the Jackets will be right there in the thick of things.  Does that mean the Metro is better than the Atlantic?  I don't know.  Does it mean one division is better than the other if both Wild Card teams come out of it?  No.  But the Jackets have to keep the 'above .500 pace' if they want to make the playoffs.  That sounds painfully obvious to some, but gone is the old playoff format - where some times the 6th seed in the East is better than the 3rd seed thanks to the former Southleast division.  It should be clear that every point counts and the slow start the Jackets got off to can only be overcome by above .500 hockey the rest of the way.  Dear lord I can't stand the three point games.

And back to what first got me into blogging two years ago this month:  right now, what you're experiencing as a Blue Jackets fan, is the minimum you should be willing to accept from this team.  If you can get past the portion of fandom that makes you feel like you're a part of something, you are investing your time and disposable income into the Blue Jackets.  Does this mean you get all ragey when the Jackets lose two in a row?  No.  Does it mean the ownership group is tasked with staffing a front office who can assemble a competitive team year in and year out?  Yes.  This feel good sensation we have right now as CBJ fans is the minimum threshold of expectation any fan should have.  So don't rip the casual or bandwagon fan for not coming out until the team starts winning.  These aren't your kids out there playing house select, this is the NHL where a decent seat to the game starts at $55 a pop.  It's an investment of time and money.  I'm at the rink 4 days a week September thru February as it is, so the precious few times I make it to the arena I want to see a competitive game.  I want to know that the Blue Jackets, aside from the occasional stinker every team has, is competitive in 85% of their schedule.  And you know what, with 14,000 in attendance tonight at least 5000 of them were 'bandwagoners' and you know what, everyone was engaged all game.  The arena felt great in the 3rd period.  If Grant Clitsome is to be believed, it's not always fun playing at home in Nationwide Arena, the crowd can be docile.  But the crowd was INTO it tonight and it really felt good.  We cheered the kill, booed good calls, booed bad calls, and the place went nuts on a close offsides!  SO MUCH FUN.  We need the casual fan if we want Nationwide Arena to be rocking.  Dear lord knows we need the casual fan if we ever want to try and host a Winter Classic at the amateur football stadium here in town.

And I like the tone I got from Head Coach Todd Richards in the bits of the post-game presser I heard.  I've always believed that when the team is struggling and can't get over the hump, so long as the effort was there, you nurtured and mentored the team as a coach.  And when the team is hot and playing really well, you ratchet up the reasonable expectations on your group of players.  You don't become a tyrant, but you don't allow the the intensity, preparation, or focus to slip one bit.  And I got that tone from Richards in his post game press conference and I liked it. The power play needs work.  No matter weather they are starting the cycle down low, setting up an umbrella from the points, or flooding an overload from the half boards, the puck movement has to be much quicker.  You need deception and movement to confuse the PK that hasn't been there lately -  The whole room knows it.  I don't expect these next three practices before Friday night's game against the Capitials to be cake walks.  Look for high-tempo practices for the players and some film study on the Washington PK by the CBJ Staff.

Game in one Haiku:

What a feel good game
I broke up with the Lightning
Nationwide was home

I remember this jersey fitting much slimmer
15 years ago...  SELFIE TIME

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Game 44: Winnipeg Six Pack

Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets exploded for 4 goals in the first half of the second period to pull away from the Winnipeg Jets to win the game 6-3.  In playing their first regular season game in Winnipeg, the Jackets parlayed a short handed goal, a power play goal, an even strength goal, and a penalty shot to turn back Winnipeg and win their third consecutive games.  The Jackets fly back to Columbus tonight to be ready to play the Tampa Bay Lightening on Monday.  And now for our six pack!

Points, beautiful points!
1. For my first, CBJ brewski is awarded to Mark Letestu for his 2 goal game.  The first critical goal was a short handed goal after the CBJ took an early penalty in the second period.  Derek MacKenzie brought the puck down the ice on the 2 on 1, and made a sweet pass to Letestu for the shortie.  For his second goal Letestu picked up a rebound off a shot from the point by Wisniewski to snuff out any hope the Jets had on making a comeback.  A real nice game for the Test Tube.

Boone Jenner
2.  My second CBJ beer goes to Boone Jenner, for HIS 2 goal game.  Jenner's first was a penalty shot, earned by blocking a shot and getting hauled down on the subsequent break away.  He looked very decisive and quick on the penalty shot, which provided that all important 3 goal lead.  Even though Winnipeg kept trying to climb back into the game, the CBJ answered their goals, and Jenner's second was a punch in of a rebound in the low slot.  Good play, going to the hard places. Jenner now has eight goals, and looks like he is serious about joining the ranks of the double digit scorers on the team.   Boooooonnnnnnnnnnneeee!!!!

3.  My third CBJ cold one goes to the second goal, a really nice give and go by Cam Atkinson, who entered the zone with speed, dished the puck to Ryan Murray, who quickly passed to Wisniewski, who found Cam streaking to the net for a wide open look and the goal.  A real nice tic-tac-toe play by the boys, that put the CBJ into the lead for the first time.  Take a couple of good slugs on this one, and pass it around to your teammates Cam.  Atkinson now has 13 goals, his lucky number.  If he can maintain this pace he will put together a very nice season.

4. My fourth CBJ beer goes to the getting points on the road.  The time is now to make a push in the Metro.  The team has accomplished its first half of the season objective of staying in the hunt until Horton was back.  Now he's back, and slowly but surely getting rolling.  You can see how much he adds, and I think he has more to offer when he achieves mid-season conditioning.  Now is a time to shove our way up into playoff position.  The CBJ have eight of their next ten games at home, so its a good time for a push.

5.  My fifth CBJ beer goes to the Metropolitan Division.  The Metro is so tight, this is going to be a great hockey season, and it will be tons of fun down the stretch.  I wonder if because it is so tight, that a lot of Metro teams are going to be playing really good hockey, and if the relative meekness of these Metro teams early in the season turns into something else during the last half of the season.  That will be fun to watch unfold.

6. My sixth CBJ cold one goes to team work.  Tonight, McElhinney played in goal to give Bobrovsky a break after last night's shut out.  CMac didn't have his best game, and was fighting the puck a bit early, but he kept the team in the game during the awful first period.  His teammates helped him out by exploding for four goals early in the second, giving him the cushion he needed to play a little more loosely.  Good stuff.

The CBJ bring home an important road win, but have to turn around and go again Monday night.


Game 43: Carolina Six Pack

Last night the crowd chanted Bob! Bob! Bob! and the number one star of the night came out and applauded to the crowd. Sergei Bobrovsky posted a shut out, his second of the year, in beating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 in Nationwide Arena.  The Jackets jumped up early on rapid fire goals by Jenner and Dubinsky. Bobrovsky got a chance to settle his game, and Atkinson finished off the scoring late to seal the deal.  A very solid game by the CBJ against a hot opponent who was on a 5 game winning streak.  And now, for tonight's six pack:
Keeping Pace in the Metro
1. My first cold, clear, delicious CBJ beer of this six pack goes to Nathan Horton.  After long labor, there is nothing better than a cold beer, and Horton, who ended the night pointless, but +1, labored long and hard in making this a successful game for the CBJ.  It is true that on Jenner's first goal, the puck came off the stick of a Carolina player.  What doesn't show in the score sheet is the degree to which Horton had the player tied up, so that a slow, weak, pass right to Jenner's tape was the only option for the Carolina player.  Jenner deserves credit for not wasting the opportunity, and for pumping the goal home after Horton's play allowed him to get the puck in the low slot.  Horton is slowly getting himself into game shape, and I thought his progress showed, especially early in the game.

2. My second cold beer of the night goes to Brandon Dubinsky, who followed Jenner's goal with one of his own a mere minute and 10 seconds later.  Dubi got a path to the net, and put a shot home that seemed to befuddle the Carolina goal tender.  Assists go to Cam, who was really rolling tonight, and to Fedor Tyutin.  Dubi was all over the ice tonight and a disruptive force in addition to scoring his goal.  A good game by number 17.

3.  My third, cold, frosty, CBJ beer goes to Cam Atkinson.  With a goal and an assist, Cam is developing a lot of confidence in his game.  You don't want to give this guy time and space, because he will burn you with it.  Scoring his 12th goal of the year, Atkinson is among the 5 CBJ skaters with double digit goals at the half way point of the season, and Dubinsky has 9.  If we finish the year with 5 or 6 twenty goal scorers, we should be in decent shape.

4.  My fourth CBJ beer goes to Bobrovsky.  I thought Bob looked a little scrambley early when Carolina was putting on a lot of pressure, but he settled down quickly and looked VERY sharp in net.  The team did a good job of  making sure that he could see the shots, and Bob took care of the rest.  A hot Bob would do a lot for our playoff position, during this stretch of play.  

5. For my fifth beer, I am going to cycle back to Boone Jenner, who potted his goal from the low slot against a red hot goal tender.  Jenner now has 6 goals, a very creditable first half of a rookie campaign.  If he maintains that pace he will end up with double digit goals, and a definite contribution to whatever success the team ends up achieving.

6.  My sixth beer goes to the fans last night.  Once again, a visceral, unplanned cheer erupted, a staccato Bob!Bob!Bob!Bob! chant when Bobrovsky made one of his several good saves.  That is a real cool thing and it is really fun to hear.

All in all, a really good game experience, lots of fun.  The CBJ claw their way back to the .500 mark.  Now they need to put together a solid run and try to get up into the playoff picture, instead of being 'within reach'.  The Metro is starting to pick up its play across the board, and the CBJ are going to need to put together a streak to stay in the hunt.

Tonight the Jackets are in Winnipeg, and there are rumors that the big buff, Dustin Byfuglien will be moved to forward from defense.  Otay.  Whatever.  Should be a fun game.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Part IX: The Dark Blue Jacket's Definitive History of the CBJ; Blow the Whistle Craig

Today, I learned from the DBJ that Craig Patrick had departed the Columbus Blue Jackets organization.  After some checking, and with the news now conveniently posted by the Columbus Dispatch here, I was able to confirm his move.  It is very difficult for most fans to appreciate just what he brought to this organization, but this is a very good move by the Buffalo organization, and it is a harbinger of good things to come over there in the snow belt.

The Dispatch article called him a steadying presence, which is fair.  I think Craig Patrick opened Scott Howson's eyes to a number of things that enabled Howson to lay the foundation for the current team.  With John Davidson's arrival, there was competition for what Craig Patrick can bring to the table, which is a credit to both men.  JD and Patrick go way back, so while not a point of conflict, I think it is fair to say that Craig Patrick will do his best work at this point in his life in situations where there is a dearth of hockey knowledge, and his enormous perspective is at it's most valuable.  It was certainly that way when he came to the Columbus Blue Jackets, though I think it is fair to say that there has been a dramatic turnaround in the hockey operations department in terms of pure hockey knowledge.  So this move makes sense, and I wish him only the best in his new endeavors.

I think that unless you were among the hundred or so season ticket holders who heard him speak when he first joined the organization, as I reported in this post, that it was difficult to appreciate the weight his word would have behind closed doors.  Also, based on an anecdote he told about Phil Esposito, I wrote this post about leadership.  Having just re-read that post, I realize in retrospect that Patrick found the leadership situation wanting.  And, as with Phil Esposito's team, the Columbus Blue Jackets weren't going to be able to do anything while Rick Nash was still here.  Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step forward. Sometimes you just have to turn the page.  Patrick's perspective would be critical in the next steps.  Even as the organization was able to stabilize itself financially, by taking on a significant minority partner and with a better lease deal on Nationwide Arena, the stage was set for changing player personnel as well.

I think Patrick's contribution to the situation was the ability to think of Nash and Carter as assets for the organization, not just immovable fixtures.  And I think he helped Howson immeasurably in early 2012 as

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Game 42 Recap: Ranger Danger

New York Rangers 3 - Columbus Blue Jackets 4 - F/SO

The Jackets visited the the hostile confines of Madison Square Garden to square off against the Blue Shirts of New York.  The Jackets battled the elements and arrived safely in New York.   The Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations, who is also a fixture in the team's television marketing campaign, was in attendance for the game as he was returning to North America from the World Junior Championship.  Something tells me that JD doesn't miss an opportunity to get in the booth at MSG. It is his old stomping grounds after all.   In addition to all the hoopla that goes with the CBJ vs NYR games this season, tonight's game was also marked by the return of Sergei Bobrovsky - the Jackets' Vezina winning goalie from a season ago - or as 'The CBJ Artillery" said on the DKM Podcast, the Velveeta Trophy.  #Smooches.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

So DBJ watched CBJ Game 42: St. Louis

St. Louis 6 - Columbus 2
The host St. Louis Blues scored 6 unanswered goals to turn back an early Columbus push and send the visiting Blue Jackets on their way with their tails between their legs.

With all due respect to Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu, who scored tonight's goals for the CBJ, I think there's only one way to handle this whole six-pack thing:

These Buds are for you,
St. Louis
That's right.  One beer for each unanswered goal by the Blues.  They drank our beer, ate our chips, passed gas on our couch and left the seat up in our bathroom.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Game 41 Six Pack: Coyotes

Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 2-0 in the desert.  Nathan Horton played his first game as a Blue Jacket, and scored the game winning goal on a power play right in front of the net.  Very, very nice.  This one was a big win at the half way point of the season, and sets the stage for a push.  We have two more rough road games on this trip, St. Louis and Rangers.  So having this win helps, it helps a lot, so on with the six-pack!

Got the 6 pack graphic this time!
1. Are you kidding me?  Nathan Horton plays his first game as a Blue Jacket and scores his 199th career goal on the power play.  This was a goal that was scored from the top of the crease.  Horton was moving so well around the net that the 'yotes defenders lost track of him, Wiz puts a shot on goal, and Horton cleans up the rebound.  Lather, rinse, repeat please!!  This is one icy cold, CBJ brewski to Nathan Horton for finally getting to play.

2.  My second CBJ beer goes to the team, for how they reacted to the return of Horton.  After the game, it was fun to see that the players were genuinely jacked up for Horton, and how happy they were for him.  Spirit counts a ton in this whole thing, because you need that when times get tough.  Horton's grin seemed infectious.  It was some good stuff.

3.  Of course the special teams deserve a cold, frosty, CBJ beer for changing up their performance.  Special teams have determined the result of the last 3 games.  The first two games, the Jackets penalty kill was sub-standard.  Tonight the turned the 'yotes back on 4 penalty kill challenges, and cashed in for the two goals on the power play opportunities.   You can steal some games with the power play, and we will need that going forward.

4. My fourth CBJ beer goes to R.J Umberger.  Scoring that second goal was huge, especially when we went on the PK with the Phoenix goalie pulled, so a 6 on 4 situation with about 38 seconds left in the game.  It changed the tenor of that situation.  Good for RJ.  Keep crashing the net like that.  It's a good thing.

5. My fifth CBJ beer goes to Curtis McElhinney.  If the goalie is your most important penalty killer, and the penalty kill goes 0-6 through two games, it is clear that the goal tender is not making any above average saves.  CMac turned that around to night, and pitched a shut out.

6. My sixth CBJ beer foes to the lads over at Full Tilt Rangers.  I ended up talking on their radio show/podcast about Rick Nash.  If I can figure the link out so that it shows something other than machine language, I'll post it.  It was fun.  Ha, ha.  What would YOU do if a Rangers fan asked you about Arniel?  Hoo boy.  It was a lot of fun, and we'll mess with it some when we have some down time.

The CBJ pick up two huge points in the desert.  We need these points to keep pace in the Metro while people get back off injured reserve.  Then it is time to go on a run.

1-1 on the road trip so far, undefeated in 2014 for the time being. It's all good.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Wonderful Winter Classic

The NHL's Winter Classic.  With the perfect conditions, this is hockey's penultimate fan experience.  Hockey played outdoors in front of large crowds with sponsors lined up to fork over millions.  If you listen to the players interview before the puck drop, you hear how many of them played on backyard rinks, outdoor ponds, and even some of them from the smallest of towns played most of their organized youth hockey on outdoor rinks.  Players and fans alike get to connect with their youth when they dreamed about playing on the biggest stage while on the smallest sheets of ice.