Sunday, March 30, 2014

20 and 30 for 2

Last night the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime to capture two critical points in the Metropolitan Division Wild Card Race.  In a game where the CBJ counter-punched effectively, they never had a lead until the winning goal.  But when they did allow a goal, they promptly came back and tied the game.  The first huge mountain they climbed was to get the one point in the regulation tie.  The second mountain was to follow that up with another goal to get the available 2 points, on a really nice feed from Artem Anisimov to Ryan Johansen rumbling up the slot.  Joey made it count, and our sights turn to a red hot Avalanche club coming to Nationwide Arena on Tuesday.

1.  My first CBJ beer of the night goes to Ryan Johansen, who scored the game winning tally, and more importantly, became the third 30 goal scorer in Blue Jackets history, joining Rick Nash and Geoff Sanderson.  That's just a really cool thing for Joey.  The scene of the team mobbing him after the goal is just classic stuff.  I swear Dubinsky was off the bench in a millisecond.  He just sort of levitates out to the ice to lead the charge in mobbing Johansen.  Awesome stuff there.  Joey is still learning and growing which is really impressive.  He made a move sequence last night to escape trouble that was really nifty last night, but came around the net and didn't know what to do with the puck, and ended up turning it over.  He did that same thing earlier in the week, in the Detroit game I believe, and they came down and put the puck in our net.  But my point is that he is showing he is learning to use his considerable ability, and if he keeps doing that he will have enough experience with it to do something at the end of those moves.  At a stab at a poor analogy, I'd say he's like a young chess master who can only thing 3 moves ahead, but with experience he will be able to think 5 moves ahead.  Or something like that.  Anyway, it has been really fun watching Johansen develop this year, right in front of our eyes.  Congratulations Ryan!

2.  My second CBJ beer goes to Artem Anisimov, who had a goal, and the game winning assist tonight.  In addition, the goal was his 20th of the year.  Arty is having a very good year, reaching the 20 goal mark for the first time in his career.  This should give him a lot of confidence going down the stretch run.  Really nice work there Arty!

This makes the fifth time the CBJ have had a 30 goal scorer and a 20 goal scorer (00-01, 03-04, 07-08, 10-11, 11-12).  Four other times the CBJ have had a thirty goal scorer and more than one 20 goal scorer.  In the playoff year, it was Nash with 40, Umberger with 26, and Huselius with 31.  The year with the most scorers was 2009-10, where Vermette added 27 to Nash, Umby, and Juice.  The reason I bring this up, is we have 3 more players within 2 goals of scoring 20, Foligno, Atkinson, and Umberger.   Needless to say if all three of those can get over that hump it is going to help our playoff chances.

3  My third CBJ beer goes to Curtis McElhinney, for picking up a huge win last night.  I think he is looking really sharp right now, and once again playing well while Bob has been down with the flu.  Finishing off the Detroit game with a win, looking sharp except for a bit of a blip in the third period against the Pens, and looking sharp and back stopping the team to a win last night.  A quality stretch of net minding for CMac.  Well done.  He needs one, maybe two more wins on back to back nights here down the stretch and it will really serve the team well.  A great job by McElhinney this year, in a very difficult role.  Note only that, but his play has seemed to improve as the year has gone on.

4.  My fourth CBJ beer goes to Matt Calvert, for getting that all important first goal just over 2 minutes after Carolina had taken a 1-0 lead.  He came off the boards, intercepted a pass, turned and put it in all in one motion.  If Matt Calvert can get hot down the stretch that would really help our chances a lot.  Nice work there Matt!

5.  My fifth CBJ beer goes to Todd Richards, who seems to be handling this team well down the stretch.  Another scratch of Umby huh?  I guess you don't want him taking anything for granted.  If Umby can pot two more goals down the stretch, he'll be back to the 20 goal plateau.  If Umby can pot two more goals in the next 8 games it is going to help our playoff chances a lot.  Keep 'em going Richie!

6.  My sixth CBJ beer goes to us the fans, and to the CBJ players and coaches.  The agony and the ecstasy of a playoff run makes for an intense focus, and lots of scoreboard watching.  This is what it is all about.  This has been a really fun season, though the ending has yet to be scripted.  And it doesn't look any easier from here.

The CBJ sit in the first Wild Card slot, tied with Detroit at 82 points.  The other challengers are two points back.  I think the Flyers and Ranges have salted in the second and third spots of the Metropolitan at this point.

Remaining games - Avs, Flyers, Hawks, Islanders,Yotes, Stars, Bolts, Panthers.  This isn't an easy run by any stretch.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

One Ping Pong Ball Away from Kansas City

My buddy Bill uttered the classic line of the title last night.  The high feeling of entitlement among the Pittsburgh fans is not tempered by the fact that the organization faced bankruptcy, and that if Gary Bettman hadn't stayed up all night putting Penguins logos on all the ping pong balls in the Sidney Crosby lottery their team would have likely been in Kansas City.  So it goes, instead they have a Cup to show for it instead of a minor league club playing in the Igloo.

Tough game last night, for the fans and the team.  Perhaps I shouldn't get on the keyboard after games like that.  Certainly very difficult to have any perspective.  Meh.  Anyway, the team didn't quit, like I alluded to last night.  That's the adrenaline and angst talking.  Good teams take advantage of  mistakes, and put them in the goal.  The Pens pounced on the momentary let down after a disappointing goal with a 2 on 1 break.  Since the shooter had all the time and space in the world, he picked his spot and hit it.  Again, so it goes.

At the end of the day we were exactly where we started.  Sitting in the first wild card spot with a big game tonight.  If the CBJ play tonight the way they played last night, they will be okay.  But we have to take it to Carolina tonight.  Any let down will have a very negative affect on our playoff chances.  These are games we need to win as stepping stones to winning more challenging games like last night.  The CBJ want to run with the big dogs, so its time to act like a big dog tonight, and not let a rookie goal tender shut them down.  Crash the net, get in his face, and score some greasy goals.

We have 2 games in hand on Toronto.  Remaining games are Canes, Avs, Flyers, Hawks, Islanders, Yotes, Stars, Bolts, and Panthers.  Not an easy schedule, and we must win more than we lose.  I guess we'll know where this team stands by the end of April 12.  Last night I thought they looked one winger away from it.

Time to git 'er done boys!


Friday, March 28, 2014

This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things - updated

Two Fridays.  Two sell out barns.  Two losses.  JD, Jarmo, now you know what you have.  I love our team.  I left it all out there in a hostile barn on our own territory.  I don't feel good JD. I know you don't either, but.... you should not be confused by the tickets sales.  That is a humiliating experience.  Ya, sorry about my poor psyche.  Don't get me wrong.  That was not like a few years ago.

But seriously, we limp into Long Island on the back end of 3 in 4 and lose.  An extremely battered Penguins team limps into Columbus on the back end of a 3 in 4 and wins.  Of course, it was like a home game for the Pens, except for how hard the home fans battled.  I'm kinda proud of that.  How hard the home fans battled.  But that second goal.  JD.  Your team quit on you for a few seconds, and it cost you the game.  Ok.  They are young. But dang it you need to prop some of those spines up.  The second goal is the team quitting, and that's not acceptable.

Too much bile.  Can't write more.  This does not define our playoff chances.  Not at all.  We have a loss or two to spare, and I had already circled this one as a loss.  But it better be a pissed off hockey squad tomorrow night that won't take no for an answer.  And if you don't get that JD, it's time for a change.(editor's note - I was not doubting JD's perception.  I was speculating regarding whether he received the performance he desired or not.  JD 'gets it', I have no doubt.  Whether I 'get it' at the same level is up for lively and considerable debate).

Too much bile.  This is what the playoffs are about.  Technically I enjoy this.  :-|


Update:  Philly beats Toronto, Rangers lose to Calgary.  We remain in the number 1 Wild Card Spot.  Detroit plays Toronto tomorrow.  The winner jumps over us in the absence of a win in Carolina.  Can you say 'must win'?  Sure you can!!  C'mon boys, you can do it!

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!


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Not Ready for Prime Time

The Columbus Blue Jackets turned in a listless matinee performance to heavily damage their playoff chances, being shut out by the New York Islanders 2-0.  The playoff teams in the fight are playing good, intense hockey down the stretch, the CBJ are fading.  It's been a long time since they lost two games in a row, and the timing is terrible.  The moribund power play is now in a death spiral. Almost two full minutes of 6 on 4 at the end of the game, and they still really never challenged Nabokov.

How long has it been since a defenseman scored?  I think Prout has the last goal by a defenseman.  Part of the power play problem is that it is predicated on good shots by the defensemen, and teams are just clogging the front of the net and blocking shots.  Our forwards are not dangerous enough on their own to create space, and they end up working the puck around the edges out of the danger zone for the penalty killers.  This is a period where Gaborik could have really helped us, merely by being a threat.  It looks now like Anisimov's burst of scoring after the Olympics WAS related to Gaborik's return, and the extra space he created for Anisimov.  But he's not here anymore.

Nathan Horton has been a non-factor of late.  I don't know if there are lingering issues, or he is struggling fitting his game into how we play (realistically, that shouldn't be a problem), or if he just doesn't have that extra gear this year.

Not a really good afternoon in Blue Jackets land.

Win to get in, tie to get by.

Get shut out while playing a listless game, and watch your playoff chances dwindle rapidly.  This is not a good time to have a rough patch.  Not good at all.  Next game is in Nationwide, a monstrously huge game against Detroit.  Please note the 7:30 start time for our only nationally televised game.


On the Outside Looking In

Not a lot of help yesterday in the NHL.  Philly won its fifth straight game.  The Rangers won their fourth straight, Washington, Detroit and Carolina won as well.  If ever the CBJ were to go on a winning streak, now would be a good time to do so.  Now that the bile from the Rangers game has settled a little, it is easy to see that it is only one game, but boy could we have used the two points.

Win to get in, tie to get by, as Mrs. Gallos says.  Lose, and, well.....

The CBJ can't afford to treat today's game with the Islanders as anything but a playoff game.  Or more appropriately, a play-in game.  Win and you vault back up into the standings.  The cold hard math side of me says the CBJ have a couple more losses that they can give, and still make it in.  Looking at the way the Flyers, Rangers, and Redwings are playing, it seems like nothing but a sweep of the remaining games will get us in.  But you have to love a playoff hunt.  It's been a long time since I have been this engaged for Blue Jackets hockey, especially at this time of year, even considering last year's run.  Hence the bile when we lose.  Oh well.  Some day I'll grow up.

Win to get in.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Up and Down

Yeesh.  The ups and downs of a playoff run.  I felt darn good on the walk to work this morning.  I'm all pissed off tonight.  That's a playoff run.  Tonight was a night that a tired team played a fresh team, and at the end of the day, the fresh team played well enough to win.  Corey Tropp.  You wanted to know how the building sounded when it was alive.  It was alive tonight.  And what did you do to make this a win?  Any goals?  No.  You pissed away a lot of good will tonight.  The crowd came and battled, and so did the team.  I'm not taking that away from them.  They played hard tonight, but not well enough to win.  Surrendering a goal a minute after scoring the go ahead goal was really, really bad.  Richie, I know you like a winning lineup.  But with this grind, and fresh and pissed off guys in the press box, you really need to think about getting fresh legs on the ice.  It might have made a difference tonight.  I think you've done a great job with this team so far, but you have the worst schedule in the NHL right now, 15 healthy forwards, and you are not acting like its demanding.  Coach, I believe you need to adjust your thought pattern on this.  

You might have had a full barn on Tuesday if you win this game.  You're looking at 15k again on a weeknight against Detroit on Tuesday.  The players don't understand how deep the wounds are in the fans.  That's okay.  As a fan, I really don't want them to know.  But they need to know that the fan base can't support a lot of games like this.  Which isn't fair to the players.  It was a playoff game.  In the playoffs, equally rested teams square off.  That wasn't the case tonight, and it showed.  Not a lot.  Just a little.  But these are very evenly matched teams, as are most of our games, and the little differences show.  Late in the third period, New York had a little extra, and the CBJ did not.  Thus, a 3-1 loss tonight, with an empty net goal.

This was a hard one to take, especially on the heels of Joey's amazing game winning theatrics last night in Montreal.  A stolen puck, walk in on the goal tender, score, win the game.  Tonight, the guys sitting in a hotel room watching that game did that to us.  While it would be helpful to my own feeble attempts at personal balance to direct an expletive laced stream of invective at those persons of questionable heritage from New York, the bottom line is that they carried the play for most of the night.  An amazing individual effort by Foligno put us on top, which only caused the Rangers to focus enough to put this one away.

Nice little tribute to Nash.  I applauded politely.  Decorum went out the door when he went after Bob.  This was totally instigated by Bobrovsky, no question.  But Nash could have taken the high road.  He didn't.  Funny thing about people from Columbus.  Did you ever notice that Kirk Herbstreit had to move out of town?  That's a successful quarterback from THE Ohio State University.  Collectively, we are a group of people that don't deal well with rejection.  Just saying.  You are the enemy now.  Don't forget it.  And by the way Nash, when the h**l did you start playing at the top of the crease??  I didn't see any of that in Columbus in the last three years you were here.  All I saw was a** first runs at the net.  That team was Rick Nash's team.  New York is not Rick Nash's team, and you are better for it.  And we are better for not having you anymore.  So there it is.

Sorry for the intermittent service.  That would be a kind description of my cable service over the last week.  At any rate, I am up and running again.

So stepping away from my deep personal bitterness about tonight's loss, and my rapidly escalating hatred for the Rangers, the CBJ remain in a playoff position.  Sitting 8th, the second wild card, we would face off against the battered Pittsburgh Penguins.  Sitting third, we'd face off against the red hot Flyers.  We get to play both teams down the stretch, and we'll have a good gauge on where we want to be.  Last night was rapturous, tonight is bitter.  Welcome to the playoff run folks,  I really haven't been this engaged since 2008-09.  And I'm having a lot of fun tonight.

To put it in perspective, the CBJ lost a battle of playoff position tonight against the <insert string of expletives> Rangers.  Maybe that is where we really want to be?!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

So DBJ watched CBJ Games 67 (Minnesota) and 68 (Carolina)

Columbus 2 - Minnesota 1 (Shootout)
Carolina 3 - Columbus 1
The Columbus Blue Jackets gave their fans a little bonus hockey while overcoming the Minnesota Wild, 2-1, in a shootout in St. Paul.  They then took a couple days off and returned home to Nationwide Arena in a losing effort against the division rival Carolina Hurricanes, 3-1 in regulation.

You get two, two, two recaps in one!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

So DBJ watched CBJ Game 67: San Jose

San Jose 4 - Columbus 3 (Shootout)
The Columbus Blue Jackets played a tight, competitive game against the San Jose Sharks right up to the end, falling to the visitors, 4-3, in the shootout.

I wrote in my preview for FOX Sports Ohio that this game wasn't direly essential, but a strong showing would do wonders for the team's confidence.  A win would have been better, sure, but this game showed me a ton about the competitiveness level of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The team got out to an early lead.  When they gave it up, they fought back and tied it up to get into overtime.  The CBJ held off the Sharks' onslaught.  They pinned San Jose's ears back and made them scramble to take the heat off of their crap-bag goaltender.

All told, I was impressed.  In my mind, San Jose is an elite team.  They're right up there with Chicago.  The CBJ did not need to lose another game to an elite team like they did to Chicago over the weekend.  And while the Blue Jackets lost in the shootout, they proved - most importantly, to themselves! - that they can take the hits from one of the best teams in the league and dish their share out as well.

Plus, they got the loser point.  Again, the win would have been great...but an overtime game is nearly as good.

In other news...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Game 66: Winged in Cbus

Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Detroit Redwings 4-1 in Nationwide Arena, in front of a raucous crowd that had its normal fairly large contingent of Redwings fans.  The Redwings fans were abnormally quiet, which is understandable given their teams injury situation.  The Redwings came out skating hard, and dominated play for the first 15 minutes, but unfortunately for them were only able to come out of the period of domination with one goal, thanks to Sergei Bobrovsky's efforts.  At the 15:11 mark of the first, Nick Foligno scored from his belly to tie his career high in goals as well as the game score.  Much like the game in Nashville, the CBJ steadily ramped up the pressure on Detroit until they broke through for 3 goals in the last half of the third period.  The deluge was started by a Boone Jenner goal, off a strong shift of fore checking and puck battles, which allowed Jenner to walk out from behind the net uncontested, and roof one over Mrazek, the Redwings goal tender.  Forty seconds later Dubinsky had one in, and five minutes later MacKenzie got the clinching goal.

This was an outrageously fun game to attend, following a solid pre-game at Gordon Biersch.  The intensity builds from here folks, so now is the time to start making ticket deals.  The CBJ stand in third place in the Metro as I type, no wild card stuff.  No first round against Pittsburgh either.  So this is all 'win and you're in' for the rest of the way, with the Jackets playing sound, fun to watch hockey.  Next up are the Sharks, on Thursday, and a chance to erase the loss on the West Coast.

The Jackets responded slowly but affirmatively to the incident in Dallas last night.  I understand that Rich Peverley is doing well, and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with him and his family.  Get well Rich, you represent the league well.

1.  My first CBJ beer of this six pack goes to my man, the guy whose jersey I have been wearing since Christmas, Nick Foligno.  Detroit thoroughly dominated the first 15 minutes of the game, but Nick tied it up at the 15:11 mark of the first, scoring an effort goal laying on his belly at the top of the crease.  This goal is representative of a great effort by Jenner, Johnasen, and Foligno.  I think if Nick wouldn't have been able to get his stick on the puck, Johansen would have.  Interesting forward line for that goal, Foligno, Johansen, and Horton.  I think likely because of the work the penalty killers had done earlier in the period.  But coming out of the first period tied after Detroit's initial onslaught was a pretty big deal in this game.

2. My second CBJ beer goes to Sergei Bobrovsky.  Arguably the first beer could have gone to Bob, but after a stellar first period, where he stopped a couple of different point blank shots, he only had to make the occasional great save down the way, and his defense gave him shots he could see without much traffic.  But one thing is clear.  This is no game without Bobrovsky and he looked to be in top form for this playoff game.  Huge points on the line, and Bob came up really large.  Thank you Bob.  This Budrovsky is for you!

3. My third CBJ beer goes to Boone Jenner, for scoring the game winning goal after retrieving the puck behind the net, then walking out and roofing it.  He made a calm, but extremely energetic play to score this goal.  In other words, he worked hard to get to the puck, but once he had it, there was no rush, and no panic, but likewise, there was no delay.  Retrieve, walk out, turn, fire, goal, lead, game.  Lotsa fun to have with your teammates, and the best part was seeing how happy he was going down the line of players and bumping fists.  You should come down to the arena if only for the pure, visceral pleasure of shouting 'BOOOOOOOOONNNNNEEEE' as loud as you can.  It's great therapy.  Trust me on this.

4.  My fourth CBJ beer goes to Cam Atkinson, cause it's always good to have a beer with your nachos.  Another way to say this is that my fourth beer goes to development, and Cam Atkinson's bright future.  I think every really great player went through a stretch like this, and it's important for Cam to know that playing time is earned, and there is a level of effort that is the bottom line, because the team can be successful with that level of effort.  I expect big things out of Cam when he returns to the lineup, but its an important lesson on making sure that your team wins.  I wonder if this propels him to a 20 goal season?  Anyway, don't read too much into this 'benching' as a fan.  The Coach didn't like the results, he made some changes, the changes are working.  Feel for him, that's fine, but this is going to make him a better player in the long run.  Chin up Cam, we still love you.  Even though John Kemp is your father.  But you didn't have a choice in that.

5. My fifth CBJ beer goes to Head Coach Todd Richards.  Richie, you're a beauty.  Never underestimate how badly the playoff fever burns in his belly.  He wants this bad.  But he has done a masterful job with this team.  Look folks, I've watched a lot of Blue Jackets hockey over the years.  I have watched 'fragile psyche' try to play hockey in the NHL.  See Arniel, Scott.  The thing I like so much is that this is a mentally tough team, and I think that springs from the Head Coach.  It is my belief that this arises from the way he handles the players, knowing when they need to do their own thing, and knowing when they need pushed.  Richie walked out of his first firing from Minnesota, and learned a bunch of lessons.  Failure can be an awesome teacher sometimes, if you have the personal capacity to learn from it.  Todd Richards has that capacity, and I am coming to admire him more and more as a coach.  Atta boy Richie!!!

6.  Holy crap, am I already at my sixth beer?  What to do, what to do?  So many drivers, no passengers.  Hmmmm.  I'm going to give this beer for Matt Calvert, for redemption.  Calvert looked lost in the first period, gliding around, and when Detroit scored their goal, it seemed to paralyze his legs, and he quit skating.  Someone got in his 'upper body' (ear, face, I don't know!), and by the third period he was making a drive to the net that forced the Redwings to haul him down.  Nonetheless, he was able to pass it to Dubinsky for the all important two goal lead.  When MacKenzie scored 5 minutes later, they were done.  These goals all dripped effort, which bodes well for this team.

Wow.  Two huge points in the game win, although it is a 4 point swing between Detroit and the CBJ.  That leaves us in third in the conference, no first round game with Pittsburgh, and a lot of games to play yet.  Win and your in.  It is a great time to be a Jackets fan!


Monday, March 10, 2014

Game 65: Interruptus

Tonight's hockey game against the Dallas Stars has been postponed and will be rescheduled.  With the Blue Jackets leading 1-0 on a Nathan Horton power play goal, Rich Peverley collapsed on the Dallas Bench.  Medical personnel responded, and he was ultimately transported to a local hospital for further care.

Please direct your thoughts and prayers towards the well being of Rich and his family. The CBJ are returning to Columbus ASAP, according to John Davidson, to prepare for tomorrow's game against Detroit.

Go Jackets!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Game 64: Moxy

The strangest thing happened tonight.  Late in the third period, my cats disappeared.  Haven't seen them since.  I don't think they've quite adjusted to an Arty Party yet.  In a clash of Goal Tending Titans, Pekka Rinne and Sergei Bobrovsky battled.  Fortunately, each of them had a team of committed defenders in front of them, but Nashville was unable to put a wicked backhander off a power move on Bobrovsky, so the CBJ win 1-0.  

Gosh darn, What a great hockey game!  Two hard nose, hard working hockey teams face off, each with a hot goal tender.  It's like taking two grinding wheels and jamming them together to see which one wears down first.  Nashville dominated the first period, but building on the momentum of a Corey Tropp fight and a double minor high sticking power play, the CBJ dominated the second period, which ended with the score still 0-0.   But the Blue Jackets roared out of the gate, and the first ten minutes of the third period were like a power play.  The Predators fought it off, and started to re-establish themselves, when Anisimov stole the puck, did a quick give and go with Wisniewski and drove the net, scoring off his red hot backhand,.

Moxy is a funny word.  It's an old word (moxie) and a new word if you look in the Urban Dictionary.  Simply translated, it is 'intestinal fortitude'.  Look, here's the deal with the Chicago game.  We are unable to run with the elite teams.  Pittsburgh, Boston, and ...Chicago.  Maybe some day.  But not now.  But, you are looking for a response to getting dominated.  The Blue Jackets got back to their roots, strapped it on, and went toe to toe with a physical Predators team, and had just enough more skill to come out with the win.

This NHL schedule is one of counter-punching.  If you finish with a  .500 winning percentage in the Western Conference, then you only need to finish ahead of your division rivals to make the playoffs. Tonight's win cancels out a November loss at home, which minimizes the degree to which our slow start affects our finish.

You know, when Kathryn Tappen says 'the Jackets skate away with a win' it makes me kind of breathless.  Must be the beginning of allergy season, or something.

1. My first CBJ beer goes to Sergei Bobrovsky.  This award flipped a few times in the third period, but when your goal tender pitches a shut out, you win, and so does Bobrovsky.  If Bob doesn't play insane, the game is over in the first period.  Shots at the end of the first period were 14-5 in Nashville's favor.  Bob fought this off, which got him to the time when the rest of the team began to dominate play.  Following Renne's test through the second and third period, Bob was called on to seal the win, and the precious two points.  In the last two minutes of the game, Bobrovsky's play was stellar.

2. My second CBJ beer goes to Artim Anisimov.  What I like the most about his beautiful drive to the net was his ability to let his teammate James Wisniewski give him a pass at something like 90 mph and to softly gather the puck at full speed in stride. Renne was in trouble at that point, considering how fast Anisimov was going.  Arty unleashed his lethal backhand at point blank range.  The only reason that Arty got the second beer was that Bobrovsky turned his goal, the only one of the game, into a win and a crucial two points.

3.  My third CBJ beer goes to the Jacket Backers, who had a huge contingent in Nashville for another win.  I would be the last person to point out that the CBJ have a winning percentage in the games that they attend in Nashville, which illustrates the beauty of the Eastern Conference thing.  Now these games are a once a year holiday instead of a divisional curb stomping game.  I was gonna give this beer to Pekka Rinne, for his unbelievable performance in goal, especially in the second period, but he plays for Nashville, we won, and the Jacket Backers rode all that way having an outrageously good time, at least as reported by twitter. So they get the nod.  Seriously folks.  This is a trip to circle in August when the schedule comes out.  I've been to this arena, and it's nice.  A fun and affordable road game.  And what happens in Nashvegas stays in Nashvegas.

4. My fourth beer is to letting the Wookie win (see the never ending segment from DKM hockey).  Our defense is under siege, but the real Dalton Prout is on scene.  Prout had off season surgery, missed most of training camp, and got injured again.  He finally was able to get healthy and play in the AHL over the Olympic break, and is now in the form he displayed down the stretch last year.  This is a big 22 ounce beer of issues we are talking about here tonight.  With the news of Ryan Murray's season ending (unless we make the second round of the playoffs) knee surgery, the defense is now different.  I personally believe that Dalton Prout is going to emerge in the games down the stretch as a force to be reckoned with.  I saw it tonight in his willingness to take the shot.   When the cycle of play dictates that the defenseman takes an available shot, I saw him embrace that role and let his best shot go.  I think some of those will find the net in the games to come.  This team has needed a shut down defenseman all year.  He's finally healthy.

5.  My fifth CBJ beer is for a Mulligan.  A Mulligan is a golf shot that you line up perfectly, but nonetheless goes awry.  You take a Mulligan, and do it again.  Well, I give Nick Shultz a Mulligan for the Chicago game.  I thought he played today like he had been on our defense all year.  While I am still trying to understand the pairings, all three were solid in the face of the injuries the team has sustained.  The next few games will be a fascinating look at the team's defensive depth.  At this point I see it as a monster opportunity for Cody Goloubef, who has not looked bad at all in his opportunities.  The addition of Shultz gives us three pariings of veteran-young player, with Johnson, Wisniewski and Shultz as the veterans.  It is interesting to watch Savard skate with Jack Johnson.  That might be a natural pairing.  The reality of the situation is that while the defensive pairings are now completely different, that doesn't mean we could not make the playoffs with these pairings.

6.  My sixth CBJ beer is to us, the fans.  We are lucky enough to have a supremely entertaining playoff hunt on our hands, a team that is worthy of our support, in that their work ethic makes them worthy, and that tonight's game was one of the ways you can tell.  Nobody's perfect, and they laid an egg on the road (much different from laying an egg in your own barn) and they responded.  I feel kind of liberated, as this is a pattern with this team.  As a long time fan, I carry the weight of simple 'we worked hard but we lost' which turns into a 5 game losing streak.  This team absorbs the loss, and responds with a win.  None of the current players were around for the above mentioned losing streak.  So I am going to let go of it.  Which of course is why my cats are hiding, but that is simply a manifestation of the phenomenon I described above.

The Jackets skate away with a win.  Did it just get hot in here?


Thursday, March 6, 2014

So DBJ watched CBJ Game 63: Chicago

Chicago 6 - Columbus 1

No, no, no.

Uh uh.


We shall not speak of this game again.

NEXT UP: Saturday night, 8PM at Nashville.

Wherein DBJ scratches his head at Jarmo's trade deadline presser

That's the post-2014 NHL Trade Deadline press conference with Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen.

Was that not one of the odder media events you've ever watched?  Aside from Scott Arniel telling Lori Schmidt to "keep piling on," granted, but I digress.

This presser had an odd tone, punctuated by some strange language.  I mean:

1. "Protecting the future of the franchise" - A term used at least three times in the presser, something obviously prepared.  What a grim statement, and what a strange way to justify trading Marian Gaborik for a salvage project and a couple of picks.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

DBJ's Marian Gaborik post-mortem

Marian Gaborik was unloaded traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Los Angeles Kings for forward Matt Frattin and some conditional picks.  

Kings uber-blogger The Royal Half asked me to pen a few words about Marian Gaborik for his readers, which I gladly did.  I share them with you here:
It was like it was but a year ago... 
"Marian Gaborik and his groin were traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets."   
And that's how it started.  We saw him but for a scant 34 games.  Sure, the Blue Jackets played 74 games while Gaborik was under contract here.  But, and it came not as a surprise, he missed 40 games due to injury.  That was the broken collarbone.  The one that made Gaborik sit out the Olympics. 
It gets better Kings Fan.  We in Columbus also experienced "the soreness" at the end of last season.  You know, the one that forced Gaborik to undergo abdominal surgery, rehab all summer, etc. 
So two killer injuries in 74 games.  34 games on the ice, at least 12 of which were played with guts held in by duct tape.  Consider yourself forewarned.  
That all said, I can almost guarantee you this: You will get teased by Marian Gaborik.  He still has an incredible burst of speed.  He still can shoot.  He still can avoid physical contact with the best wingers in the game (apparently with good reason).   
You will, at some point in this season, sit back, rub your eyes and ask, "Did he really do that?"  And you will see the Marian Gaborik of 2005-2006. 
And then Marian Gaborik promptly will get hurt. 
I wish Gaborik the best.  He's a classy guy.  He can be fun to watch.  He's also a walking M*A*S*H unit.  
So what about this Matt Frattin guy?

So DBJ watched CBJ Game 62: Dallas

Columbus 4 - Dallas 2
The Columbus Blue Jackets destroyed the Dallas Stars early, nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and then pulled out an exciting, end of game clincher to send the fans home frazzled but happy with a 4-2 win in regulation at Nationwide Arena.

It was like hockey "Inception".

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.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Game 60: Pee-an-thers

Did you know that Junior High School Cheerleaders can make a two syllable word into a 3 syllable word?  It's an amazing thing to hear, no doubt.  But I need to jump it up a couple of notches from amateur junior high school sports to professional hockey.  The Columbus Blue Jackets didn't do a lot 5 on 5 tonight, but capitalized in most other situations to pull away in a 6-3 victory on home ice that was really much closer than the score indicates.  The CBJ capitalized on three power play goals, a short handed goal, and two empty netters.  Florida capitalized on egregious blue line turnovers that led to odd man rushes the other way, beating Bobrovsky with three of them, in spite of the fervent prayers of the trailing defensemen.   In a tie game, at 3-3 late in the second period, Arty Anisimov scored a short handed goal with 10 seconds left in the period to sap the Panthers of what momentum they had.  This play was all about individual effort, and Arty never gave up on the puck, and scored a nice shortie.  That seemed to take the starch out of Florida, and though they never gave up, that was the turning point.

1. My first cold CBJ beer for tonight goes to David Savard.  Big game by Savvy tonight.  With Tyutin out of the line up, the demands on Savard are much higher, and he answered the call tonight, with essentially two power play goals.  The first was a nice shot from the point that Cam Atkinson reached out and deflected.  Props to Cam on the good positioning and hand-eye coordination, but Savard laid it right on net.  His second point, a goal, came on a strong move to the net.  Gathering the puck at the point while on the power play, Savard made a strong move to the net, with just enough deke to get him into the low slot unmolested, where he buried a nice backhand through traffic.  This was a real nice play, with a well deserved result.

2. My second CBJ beer for the night goes to RJ Umberger.  He got the scoring going early, converting a James Wisniewski point shot on the power play into a goal, by virtue of his aggressive positioning in front of the net.  With his 16th goal of the season, Umberger seems on a path to return to a 20 goal scoring plateau.  That's a good season for RJ, and he leads the team in power play goals.  Good hard work to capture the momentum early.

3. My third, ice cold, delicious, CBJ beer goes to Artem Anisimov.  Arty scored the game winning goal, in a much more meaningful sense than the statistical sense, by potting a short handed goal with 10 seconds remaining in the second period of a game tied at 3-3.  This was a back breaker for Florida, similar to the shortie that the CBJ coughed up to the New Jersey Devils.  This play was all about effort, and it started with Arty not quitting on a puck, which went from behind the goal to the sidewall.  Arty chased it down there, took it from 2 Florida players, then headed for the net.  This was a huge, momentum turning goal, with a work effort base as a foundation.

4.  My fourth cold CBJ beer is for getting back on the winning track.  This is a crucial stretch of games in a tight playoff race.  Tonight the CBJ kept pace with Philadelphia, who beat the Rangers.  To advance, this team will need to string wins together.  Nonetheless, you have to start somewhere, so the win enables them to try to cobble together a streak.

5. My fifth CBJ beer goes to empty netters.  After coughing up the first one to Nick Foligno to give the Jackets a two goal lead, most teams would surrender to the inevitable and leave the goaltender in the net.  Not Florida, who pulled the goalie so that Matt Calvert could get on the board with an empty netter.  Calvert may have been squeezed down to the fourth line by Marian Gaborik, but that doesn't mean Richie doesn't trust him, so he was out during the crucial waning moments of the game.

6.  My sixth CBJ beer goes to Gaborik, for the dimension he brings to the team.  He is most definitely not back in form after missing so much time, but he looks quicker than I have ever seen him since we traded for him.  He showed some explosive quickness, and played a reasonably responsible game.  He's not in there to bang with people.  One really nice thing he did defensively was back check.  In one instance right at our end of the ice, so I saw it well, Florida regained possession.  As they started up the ice, Gaborik reached out with his stick, and attacked the puck and stick of the Florida player with the puck.  The upshot of that was that they were unable to clear the zone, and the CBJ were able to establish a significant offensive cycle, that finally lead to a penalty.  And when the CBJ were on the power play, they were scoring tonight.  It was a little play of not quitting on the puck, but it turned into big things.  So long as he does those things, than all will be well.

Good win tonight as the Blue Jackets try to establish some post Olympic break momentum.

I am so glad we are not in the West.  Holy Moly.  LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, St Louis Blues, and Chicago Blackhawks all stand in your way if you want to be a playoff team.  Yowza!  Them's some good teams!  The East is so much more comfortable!

Up next, Monday night on the road against Toronto.

Go Jackets!!