Saturday, December 17, 2016

Defense Wins...Well, Let's Not Get Ahead of Ourselves

Wennberg Cashes in his Lady Byng Trophy Chances 
The Blue Jackets pushed their customary third period dominance (did I just say that?) up to the second period last night in Calgary to pull away from the Flames for a 4-1 win.  Going into the game, the Blue Jackets had a Team Average Goals Against of 2.17, which is good for second or third in the NHL.  That number came down with last night's result.

And the Jackets put their defensive prowess on display in the third period last night.  It wasn't how they wanted to play, but it was how they needed to play.  They showed the 'stick with it' part of their character that Tortorella loves, and won their eighth straight game.

Now let's be frank.  Or, should I say, Bob, because it all starts with the goal tender.  Bob's post game comments all seem to have one theme, 'we work together, we win together' and they are really putting that together as a group.  There isn't just one defensive pairing that is getting the job done (see RE: Chicago), all the pairings are very solid.  Probably the biggest weakness of the group is the fact that Ryan Murray is only about a month and a half into the 'hey, you can play on the backhand in this league' experiment.  He is definitely getting better as he gains experience on the right side.  So if your weakest pair has a fleet footed Finn and a second overall pick on his backhand, you are in really good shape.  And the average of Goals Against shows that.  David Savard seems to be finding that offensive knack he showed two years ago, and now that he is appropriately slotted as second pairing with Jack Johnson, they are thriving.  Jack is having a great year, which I am really pleased to see, as he takes a lot of guff from people.

Our forwards as a group have always had a strong streak of defensive responsibility, and they don't mind buckling down in the defensive zone and getting to work.  And, they do a good job with getting the puck out of the defensive zone by supporting each other effectively, or using their speed to skate it out of the D zone.  Once they get across the red line, they have found scoring throughout the lineup.  These characteristics are sustainable over the long term, even though one would expect the occasional blip (see commentary from J F H Jacket on last post).

I'd like to see CMac get the net against Vancouver.  That is not a commentary on Vancouver, but it would give Bob a solid three days of rest before a stout week at home against teams that are leading the league.  I am definitely worried about the Kings game the day after travel from the West Coast.  Jeff Carter called out his mates for being fra-gee-lay earlier on their road trip, and I don't think Drew Doughty likes being called fra-gee-lay.  They beat the Pens last night 1-0.  That Kings game is one where the 5th line can't be afraid of losing a game. We need to come  with a purpose and make sure that it is a tough atmosphere on the Kings.  Please don't boo Jeff Carter.  It makes him play better.  Time to move past that.  Strap it on and come to cheer for our guys.  They have earned it.

The Jackets are on pace for 124 points right now.  That probably isn't going to happen.  That implies that they will lose some games in the latter two thirds of the season.  But if they stick with the way they are playing, they won't lose too many.

Vancouver at 4:00 pm tomorrow afternoon.  Should be a good one!

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

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