Sunday, October 22, 2017

Getting a Sense for the 2017-19 CBJ

I've been kind of quiet here at the beginning of this hockey season.  Probably because my angst level is low.  A top 5 finish the year before helps that a lot.  It's also because I haven't been real sure what we are seeing.  Most of our early season wins have been against teams that have struggled coming out of the gate (Rangers! Whew!), but these last two games against Tampa and LA I thought would be good measuring stick games against two very different teams.

Tampa, wow!  They dismantled the Penguins last night, almost extending their shutout streak to two games.  That's a fast, balanced team that has their goal tending problem solved, and are playing like a team two years removed from a Cup final that is mad they did not make the playoffs last year.  They really have it going.

The Kings presented a much different problem, that big weighty team, and I wondered how much our younger players were going to get pushed around.  And, coming into last night they had only given up about 10 goals all season, and their penalty kill had given up none (zero, 0).  The Jackets lit them up for 4 goals, including an early power play goal, so that was good.  Unfortunately, the Jackets surrendered 5 and an empty netter, with Kopitar potting a killer goal with 2:34 remaining last night.  So it goes.  It was a 'rich' game for our youngsters, and they will benefit from the experience. 

As far as the CBJ this year, we inexplicably got younger, with Bjorkstrand, Milano and Dubois all making the team and playing.  Nice to see both Milano and Bjorkstrand score last night.  One thing for sure there is a lot of room for growth in the 2017-18 CBJ, and we will see the ups and downs of that growth as the season goes on.  Having Boone Jenner return to the lineup stiffens the team, and will be very helpful going forward.  Don't judge Nick Foligno's ability to play center until you get to the end of the year.  It's possible the Jackets will make a move, but if they don't have to they may not. 

For Milano, Dubois, and perhaps to a lesser extent Bjorkstrand, you want to see how they are playing at about the 15 game mark.  That way any bump in energy they got from making the team is long gone, and what you are seeing is the best picture of what you've got.  If at that point they are playing solidly, and still generally improving (with ups and downs allowable), then we are in pretty good shape for the future. 

Everyone has Werenski circled this year, and it is interesting watching him deal with that.  Other teams know what they want to do with him, so he'll have to play through that attention.  I was interested to see Werenski skate by Drew Doughty last night.  Werenski is actually bigger, which surprised me.  He might not be thicker yet, that will come.  Seth Jones, likewise, is still trying to really get going.  I did a preseason poll of some die hard Jackets fans, and they were unanimous that you don't split these guys up yet.  I guess I see what they are saying.  They need to learn to be a dominant pair first, and they are not there yet.

Next up is Buffalo, our 'Rivalry Night' game, for some reason or another.  Perhaps they thought the Foligno brothers would have a steak riding on the game, but Marcus got traded to Minnesota.  Buffalo is an interesting team, it should be a fun game. 

Last night we didn't really get the result we wanted, but there was no doubt that it was a fun game to watch.  And a good test for our young team.  There are more of those to come!


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