Sunday, March 26, 2017
Yesterday's 1-0 win was a slugging match with the Flyers, the type of game you have to be able to win in the playoffs. For the moment the Jackets have home ice advantage in the playoffs, a position that is sure to vary over these last two weeks of the season. With a 3 game stretch next weekend of Chicago, Washington, and Pittsburgh, the President's Trophy competition will sort itself out on the ice, which is all you can ask for. It should be a fantastic learning experience for our young team, where mistakes, and lessons from those mistakes, don't translate into playoff losses. You can't really ask for a more fitting ending to an outstanding season for the Blue Jackets.
More than anything you want to go into the playoffs playing good hockey, and the Jackets are working on solidifying their game. Day off today, I believe, a chance to practice tomorrow, and then the Sabres are coming to town, the first of the three remaining home games. Not many chances to get out and see the best team in franchise history at work getting ready for the playoffs. You may want to take advantage of that opportunity.
Last two weeks of the season, and then girding for the playoffs!
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
One team wanted to play well tonight. One team wanted to win. The team that wanted to win did so, as the Jackets were obviously focused on tomorrow's match-up with the Capitals. If you do that in the NHL you get burned. That's what happened to the Jackets tonight. Since looking past an opponent rarely benefits a team, they may well lose tomorrow as well. The Jackets were a one line team tonight, with lots of passengers. I didn't like the hit on Bjorkstrand when it happened, but I never got a real good look at it. The refs had already let the game get away from them, so calling a major when it got out of hand seemed appropriate I guess. The league will review it, but had the refs taken a stronger stance on high hits earlier in the game it might have never happened.
The Jackets played tonight like a team that had clinched the playoffs that was playing against a team that is still fighting to hold its playoff position. Since the team needs to take some losses down the stretch, this isn't such a bad loss to take. Like any loss it is galling, but at the end of the day, it is not the focus of this team any longer. Tomorrow's game against the Caps is more important, though it is hard to think of ways that tonight's stinker somehow prepares you for tomorrow's game that counts. This game was winnable for the Jackets. They just couldn't reach out and do it. So the team that deserved to win ended up winning. That doesn't always happen, but it did tonight.
We gotta lose some games. It might as well be that one. We certainly don't want a 16 game winning streak now (as if you can turn that on), we would want that in the playoffs. So there it is. Losing sucks, and kinda burns. But it has to happen. Better to feel the pain now to make you stronger in the future.
Monday, March 20, 2017
|Josh Anderson is rolling.|
I am really happy for the team that they have the President's whatchamacallit to chase. It keeps them playing good hockey as the playoffs approach. Failure to win the President's Trophy could not possibly take away from the pleasure I have had in watching this team succeed they way they have this year. This group has stomped all over the franchise record books in a way that will resonate through years, and that makes me feel really good. This group of players are always going to be remembered as something special, no matter how this all turns out. Because the sledding is about to get tougher.
But before we go there, reflecting on the fact that this team has 100 points in the books, have clinched a playoff spot, and there are still 10 games left in the regular season just blows my mind. And they have a unique opportunity. You can have a very good team, have a very good year, but not be in a position to have a chance to take a run at the President's Trophy. So you want to take full advantage of that opportunity. But the Blackhawks seem to be wanting to make this a four team race, However, we get a crack at them up in Chicago, the same way we get a crack at the Pens, and two more cracks at the Caps. That ought to be some really fun hockey down the stretch.
As far as the playoffs, it seems to me that the match-up with the Penguins is somewhat pre-ordained. We've been staring at it for months now, and it seems inevitable. The bad thing about this playoff set up is that a really good team, one of the Caps, Pens or CBJ is going to lose in the first round. But the hockey will be compelling. And for sure you want home ice advantage if you have any way to get it. So we will see where the chips fall in these next 10 games. But the team seems to have some momentum right now, and that is really good to see. Now is the time when the lessons of The Streak, and the aftermath become the most beneficial. They know what it is like to look toward a big thing, they know what it is like to see it end. The one game at a time mantra that they preach and seem to practice will help them here.
Amazingly, as much as this team has accomplished this year, it still has a lot to prove, and in my opinion the players recognize that. Watching some national outlets go out of their way to take shots at this team because they do not fit the predetermined narrative has been a real surprise for me. I've been stomaching poorly researched, poorly executed, and just plain biased writing from outlets I formerly respected. It is interesting to see that at work. And there has been a little tooth grinding as I had to stomach this stuff. It is quite possible that the Jackets will bow out in the first round. It looks like they are playing the Caps or the Pens in the first round, and both of these squads are formidable opponents. That doesn't mean I am conceding these match-ups, far from it. But the final outcome is certainly in doubt, that's why you play the games. I reiterate. One of three really good Metropolitan Division teams is going to lose in the first round. That's the way these playoffs are structured, and the purpose is to generate steaming hot rivalries. This is precisely what the rivalry geeks wanted, and they are gonna get some dandy games out of it.
But I have to say, I don't fear the outcome of the playoff series. I think our team is poised to acquit itself well, as a fan I plan on leaving it all out there 'on the ice' so to speak, and I don't plan on having any regrets regardless of the outcome. We shall see.
The second season looms. I have never felt better about a Jackets team going into the playoffs. I plan on being one scruffy looking dude before this is all over. Third playoff series in franchise history. Who knows? Could be third times the charm!
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Sergei Bobrovsky has given up one goal in 4 games, the lone goal coming on a ticky-tacky call in overtime to create a 4 on 3. He has back to back shut outs, and it is my earnest hope that Torts benches him for Friday's game, bringing in 'the kid', Joonas Korpisalo, to give Bob the extra day of rest. Joonas also had a shut out in his last game, and deserves to see the net, as the Jackets have a Friday-Saturday home and home against the dangerous Buffalo Sabres.
The Blue Jackets are re-writing the franchise record books at a furious pace right now. Zach Werenski has tied Rick Nash in the rookie points category, and has a mere 17 games in which to get an assist and eclipse that mark. You never know what will happen in this sport, but it is satisfying to be able to view him as one of the most significant rookies in franchise history, even though the Toronto Press will award the Calder Trophy elsewhere (not without justification, but still).
It is a real delight to see Cam Atkinson join the 30 goal club in the Blue Jackets history. He is very deserving of this, and it will help the team, as his teammates will be less focused on trying to get him that goal. I think he will score quite a few more down the stretch now that the thirty goal monkey is gone.
And finally, Sergei Bobrovsky, in spite of being the best goal tender in franchise history for several years, has finally claimed the 'most wins in a season' spot from Steve Mason, and tonight extended that record to 35 wins. That Mason's 2008-09 winning performance stood up this long is a testament to how well he played that year in propelling to the CBJ to its first playoff appearance. He had nothing left in the tank when the Red Wings came to town in the playoffs. It is my earnest hope that it is a rested Bobrovsky that faces the CBJ's playoff opponent this year. I think that can happen, while keeping Bob hot. We'll see.
The team sits at 90 points on the season, with 17 games remaining. The franchise record for a season is 93 points. That gives you an idea of how good this team is. They will re-write the record books in their own image before this year is done. I could point out that they did that type of thing last year in a negative direction, but I would only do so in order to show the point that the pendulum swings both ways. Hockey is a funny game.
On a night when they didn't have their game, the goal tender did, and bailed them out. The team got their legs, and made the shutout into a winner in the third period. A very big win, and evidence that the team is playing well, and heading in the right direction.
But before I leave, I want to make mention that TJ Tynan made his NHL debut tonight. I was really pleased to see that, as he has performed well for the Cleveland Monsters, and has earned that chance. Way to go TJ!!
A home and home with Buffalo this weekend. This is a good Buffalo team, that got up 3-0 on the Penguins, but couldn't close the deal. The Jackets will need to bring a good game Friday night. they actually get to have a practice on Thursday, which should help the team.
A good win tonight. That's enough to think about.
Sunday, March 5, 2017
|One goal in 3 games. 'Nuff said.|
The Jackets continue to stay in the hunt for the second place finish in the Metro, winning 2 out of 3 again. The Jackets have 88 points with 18 games remaining. This is significant when you consider that the franchise record for points is 93, a record that seems certain to be eclipsed. It is also an important number as it is the sort of acknowledged minimum number of points necessary to make the playoffs. So the Jackets are well positioned, and in a battle with Pittsburgh for home ice advantage in the playoff clash that looks inevitable at this point. One of the two teams needs to collapse, or the Caps, and I don't see any of that happening.
I don't mind telling you that I have fully embraced the notion that the Jackets and the Pens will square off in the first round. You have to get through them if you want to do anything anyway, might as well get it over early. However, this just doesn't feel like the last time we played the Pens, or when we were facing off against Detroit. In those I was hoping we would win some. In this go around, I feel a great deal more positive. Its the playoffs, The teams will get an opportunity to fully explore each others strengths and weaknesses, and the best team will win. It could well be Pittsburgh. But the two teams are a lot closer in this go around then they were in 2013-14.
It's time to start ramping up for the playoffs. You want to be playing well in all facets of the game (power play, I'm talking to you), and the Jackets seem to be playing very solid hockey. They have played tight games against top teams in the NHL and are succeeding at a pace that would result in advancing in the playoffs. This is not the playoffs, to be sure, it is the grind of the season. But it's good prep work.
The Jackets return against New Jersey on Tuesday at home in Nationwide Arena, and face Buffalo on a home and home starting Friday night at Nationwide. The next 3 should be interesting.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Nonetheless the Jackets played a very tight game, buoyed by spectacular Sergei Bobrovsky, in what was actually a game full of adversity. William Karlsson turned up ill before the game, and coupled with other forward injuries, they were short a forward all night. So they used 3 centers, which tended to scramble the lines a bit. But they played through the adversity in a very tight, 0-0 game. The only redeeming value about the ending was that it was not a shoot out, but other than that, the Jackets deserved a better fate.
Thus ends the season series against the Atlantic Division leading Habs. Two wins, and an overtime loss, a 12-2 score differential in the Jackets favor, and they never trailed in regulation. So while the ending of last nights game might not be what we wanted, the notion that the Jackets would sweep Montreal this year seems like a stretch. We are not there yet. Two years from now, when Seth Jones is making Shea Weber feel his age, maybe. But not now. This is a very good Montreal team, and the acquisition of Weber has made it even stronger. And don't look to the 10-0 blowout to give you any insight, as Montreal came prepared to play the 2015-16 Blue Jackets for that one, and paid the price for their mistake.
However, it was clear that Tortorella, while diplomatically unhappy with the outcome, is pleased with his team. Even though he was kept off the score sheet, Oliver Bjorkstrand was all over the ice with speed and tenacity in a fairly physical game. This is the Bjorkstrand we have seen in the past, and he is going to be making lineup choices tough down the stretch.
And seriously. Gagne is never going to score again, right? Man the guy can't buy a goal.
I liked the depth acquisition of Zach Dalpe, currently assigned to Lake Erie. Tortorella knows this player from Vancouver, and having plucked him off the waiver wire, the CBJ front office showed they knew the rules. Normally a waiver acquisition has to report to the NHL club and be on the roster. That wasn't the case with Zach. He has had a tough season, with 2 surgeries on a beat up meniscus, but he is in form now, so time on ice at the Monsters is what he needs. He could easily play a role down the stretch. Don't be surprised if he bolts from the Monsters over the next few days as he and his wife are expecting their first child, and she is still in Iowa. I'll have to dig through my old OSU hockey pics and see if I have one of him.
After a period of unfocused play, floating around .500 in the win-loss column, the Jackets seem to have come out of the bye week playing really good hockey, and seem focused for the stretch run to the playoffs. This morning, we have home ice against the Penguins, who lost last night, on tie breakers. It is really going to be fun down the stretch!