Sunday, October 27, 2013

Morgan's thoughts on Game 11 against the Ducks

Columbus Blue Jackets 3  - Anaheim's NHL team - 4

The Blue Jackets played host the Anaheim Mighty Ducks of Anaheim who are Ducks that are Mighty.  Tonight's game offered a little bit of everything: a great first period, a "Blue Jackets of old" second period, a good hit called right, a good hit called wrong, plenty of bewildered fans bleating "Rule 614" and an overall feeling of watching this game through a "WTF just happend" haze.  Nationwide arena was sprinkled with 10,524 adoring home fans who spent the final 2 periods playing the role of quasi emotional co-dependent.  <snark alert> The Ducks came into town with an 8-3-0 record, clinging to glory years with some old dudes on their team.  They should really start looking forward. <end snark>

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wherein Gallos Steals Toronto's Mojo

My R-Bar hat with Gollum's Frodo's (oops) finger still thrust through it...
We arrived in a driving rain after a journey of more than 1400 miles (don't ask, it won't make sense) to the very heart of hockey here on middle earth.  We came for many reasons, mostly to move my buddy's boat, but also to take away that which has launched the Maple Leafs to an uncharacteristically good start this year.  It can't be the firing of Brian Burke, since he built the team.  It must be some dark power that makes them rise from the pits of suck in which they have been mired these many decades.  Thus, the journey had a level of risk that would daunt the hearts of lesser men.

By way of a diversion, my companion was not a hockey fan.  This served to confuse the many guardians of the game that we would encounter.  It would seem that all he was concerned with was moving his boat from
The baleful eye of Sauron watches the ramparts through
which we must pass...
Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. This would prove to be useful many times.

After we had transferred our gear to the boat in the driving rain, we proceeded to the restaurant to refresh ourselves.  The place seemed to be well lit and alive, which looked good.  We entered, and I looked at the posted menu.  Holy smokes!!  By amazing good luck, we had stumbled into none other than Don Cherry's Restaurant, in Port Colborne, Ontario.  A hockey bar if ever there was one.

We proceeded up the steps to the second floor restaurant, with the image of Don Cherry glaring at us with each steps.  Perhaps it was me, but I felt that his eyes followed our every step.  Fortunately, my buddy's disguise as a successful businessman helped divert attention.  I was

Fair and Balanced

Predictably the "national" hockey media's reports on last night's Blue Jackets v. Maple Leafs affair is pretty much tilted towards all the things the Leafs did wrong. In reading the recaps this morning the only thing the Blue Jackets did correctly was score a shorthanded goal. The rest of the game it seems the Jackets just watched the Leafs bumble around the ice.

Of course if you were there or watched the game on TV, you probably noticed the Jackets did a little more than watch the Leafs make mistakes. They spent a fair amount of time forcing the Leafs into situations to make those mistakes.

Coming into the game, we were warned of the Leafs' speed. How it would be just like Montreal's (it wasn't). How the Jackets better be ready for it (they were). The local beat writers even put together a blog post, "Preparing for the Pace" meant to prime us for what was about to come barreling into Nationwide Arena.

Then the game started, and for the first 3 minutes I thought all the warnings were correct. But, following the first 3 minutes the Leafs had tallied 1 whole shot on goal and the Jackets were keeping them outside quite a bit. Then the speed tables turned.

In a hurry.


In a rush.

All puns intended.

The Jackets hit the gas, hard.

1st Period, 4:16 - TOR D. Clarkson Hooking against N. Foligno

A power play goal followed that, and the natives were happy. (The few thousand Leaf fans in the stands, not as happy.) The forecheck followed. Blue Jackets all over the puck, all over the ice. Pressure, speed, more pressure, and skating.

Boone Jenner gets a step to the outside and...

1st Period, 11:54 - M. Rielly Holding against B. Jenner

No power play goal followed that one, but the first period ice was quickly tilting the Jackets way. When the horn sounded to signify the end of the first period, the Jackets had a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard and a 16-5 lead in shots on goal.

2nd Period, 13:40 - M. Rielly Tripping against N. Foligno
2nd Period, 19:51 - N. Kadri Hooking against B. Comeau
3rd Period, 17:09 - D. Bolland Tripping against M. Gaborik

That's 5 minor penalties, 5 power plays for the good guys, all resulting in classic "oh crap he's about to blow by me" calls on a defender.

Speed kills...the Jackets' speed, that is.

Clarkson's Triumphant Return

Fedor Tyutin would like to welcome Mr. Clarkson back from his suspension...

So DBJ and DBT went to CBJ Game 10: Toronto

Columbus 5 - Toronto 2
5-5-0, 10 pts, 4th in Metropolitan Division, 9th in Eastern Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets stretched their win streak out to three games with a win over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-2.  The game was put to bed in the third period, where the CBJ dropped an incredible four goals on Toronto.

Lots of quickie thoughts...

Friday, October 25, 2013

East Hatred: Toronto Maple Leafs

Next on our list of "learn to hate in the East" are the Toronto Maple Leafs. Finally a team that will be a little easier to hate.

Starting with: What is the plural of the word leaf? Come on, our friends up north already jam a "U" in colour and spell centre completely wrong. But "leafs"? You don't even get to shout, "It's the proper British way to spell it!" on Leafs.

Maybe hate is too strong of a word for the Leafs. The opposite of love is indifference, so for most of my time as an NHL fan I've been indifferent to the Leafs. I really never cared if they won or lost, or if they were even playing games. That type of attitude will drive a Leafs fan crazy. "Wait, what? You don't care? One way or the other?? You can't do that!" You have to have a position on the Leaves, er Leafs.

The reason that attitude prevails is because if you live in Toronto - the center of the known universe - all you hear is Leafs. It's understandable. The media coverage given to the NHL team located in hockey crazed Canada's largest city is unlike anything we can fathom here in quite, Midwestern Columbus.

Wait, we can fathom it...think Urban Meyer press conference the Friday before the Michigan game. Then multiply that by every day of the hockey season. That's the Tronna media for the Leafs.

That type of coverage leads to the team being overcovered for the rest of us, and many recent seasons its lead to the Leafs being overhyped. Follow a lot of hockey media people on Twitter and you quickly find out that Leafs news is about 80% of what they tweet. My twitter timeline got bombed with 30 second updates on the Kadri signing, the Franson signing, and the Kessel "incident" against Buffalo...and that was all before the actual season even started.

And this is all before listening to the biggest Leafs fan in the media...

As in previous East Hatred posts, those are some good reasons any hockey fan would want to hate the Leafs, what about us here in Columbus? You know, the little brothers of the NHL. The team that loses every review that goes back to Toronto. (Wes Walz pants, people!!!) The team that the Toronto based NHL schedulers still look at and think, "Oh we gave Columbus a back-to-back-to-back-to-back? It's only Columbus."

Oh yeah, getting a good Columbus inferiority complex going here. But the league people in Toronto make it so easy, especially when it comes to the Leafs.

Granted we had an unbalanced schedule in the NHL for a while, and we were in opposite conferences, but tonight will mark the Leafs 5th visit to Columbus in 14 seasons of hockey.

Four previous games.

That just seems hard to believe even with all the lockouts and such since 2000 to have only been here four times prior to tonight. The league's biggest market doesn't need to make the fairly short trip to Columbus, apparently.

And we've only beat them one time here. It's hard to accumulate many wins when a team only graces you with their presence once every 3 or 4 years.

Today, however, the Columbus Blue Jackets will be the second most important NHL team on twitter. Soak it up, Jackets fans!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wherein DBJ shills for Skyline Chili

You all know that I'm not the corporate mouthpiece (especially when the corporations want me to promote their activities with no sponsorship of this site), but this one was creative.

I'll gladly give points to Skyline Chili - or at least to their ad firm.  At least they take a couple of minutes to read the blog before shipping me a press release.  (Their chili-covered nachos at the arena ain't bad, either.)

Good morning @DarkBlueJacket:

I had a press release to send, but will rather put this in a (hacked) haiku, since I have seen you favor that form on twitter.

Blue Jackets Stinger
Will visit for fan pics at
Three Skyline Chilis

The traditional information is below, should you think your viewers might be interested.

The CBJ Captaincy Conjecture Pool is open!

The Blue Jackets haven't named a captain since Rick Nash forced his way out of town, and much has been made of who it should be.

I liked Vinny Prospal for captain and, should the Blue Jackets sign him, suggest that whomever is wearing the "C" personally tears it off his own chest and mans the sewing machine to apply it to Vinny's sweater.  Yes, I think Vinny Prospal was that transcendent of a figure in CBJ history and will be proven so over time.  But I digress.

Brandon Dubinsky takes the opening night faceoff.
Because I think the team is just waiting for the right time to give him the "C".
Let's have some fun with this whole captaincy thing.  Everyone offers a comment with their prediction on two things: 1) The person who will be named captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and 2) The date that said person will be anointed.  

Here's my best guess: It will be Brandon Dubinsky, and it will be on November 7 or March 21, the dates of the Blue Jackets' home games against Dubinsky's former team, the New York Rangers.  If forced to choose one of the two dates, I'd go with November 7.

Dubinsky is by far the most outcomes-focused postgame interview on the team from my perspective, and the "win or you're a loser" attitude is something that hopefully the Blue Jackets management and coaches realize is desperately needed from their top player-leader in order to crush the old CBJ "we lost but played real hard, guys" attitude like a bug.  He also appears to play the rough and tumble type of game that management is hyping as the character of this team, filled with nets being crashed, fists being thrown and snarls on faces all around.  Never mind that President of Hockey Operations has publicly lauded the competitive attitude that all the former New York Rangers have brought to the Blue Jackets.

So that's my take: Brandon Dubinsky, November 7.

And Rick Nash will have to sit there and watch.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Morgan's thoughts on game 9 - CBJ v NJD

We kick it old skool with our New Jersey Devil's logo

What a difference two games make.  Jackets fans were ready to jump from bridges, give up on the team, and pontification if last year's leading scoring could help the the 2-5 Blue Jackets.  The effort and consistency weren't dressed for the Blue Jackets in their four game skid that came to an end Sunday night.  The one common theme that all of these worries shared was the lack of 60 minute effort that has plagued this team the early parts of the last two seasons.

And tonight, in Nationwide Area, in front of <an as of yet undetermined number>  adoring fans, the Jackets showed that marvelous things will happen (or "marvelous pigs in satin" if you're Mrs Glowworm) when the effort and EXECUTION is consistent the entire game.  It's also nice that a few bounces went the Jackets way.  It's sublime that the Jackets have won two in a row.  There are less "Rule 614" tweets and there are far fewer cries for Vinny Prospal - which means my 'mute' button has gotten a break from squelching Dbags who laugh at people for suggesting Vinny Prospal could help this team.  It's ok to have a differing opinion, just don't drench the rest of us in vinegar or water if you feel your opinion is superior.  That's exactly what this teeny-tiny fragile fan base needs, MOAR High School in-fighting, but I digress...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

So things went awry with DBJ watching CBJ game 8: Vancouver

Columbus 3 - Vancouver 1
3-5-0, 6 pts, 4th in Metropolitan Division, 10th in Eastern Conference family's weekend road trip to South Bend for the Notre Dame-Southern Cal game went a little longer than expected.  And with the babies vocally rejecting the idea of a five-plus hour car ride home, I listened to the XM Spa Channel instead of the Blue Jackets-Canucks game.  Thus, I don't have much to say about the game.

The Blue Jackets beat the Vancouver Canucks, 3-1, in regulation.  Marian Gaborik scored first.  R.J. Umberger scored second.  Ryan Johansen slid the dagger in with an empty netter at the end of the game.

I'm very, very pleased to see that Umberger got a goal.  It's clear that he's been trying hard, what with five fruitless shots last night against Washington.  I'll give the guy grief when he deserves it, and I'll be happy to offer the attaboy when he deserves it.  Today apparently was a good day.

Is it even worth a haiku?  Sure, why not.

The road proved too long
Umby scored a flippin' goal
And I missed it.  Sigh.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Here We Are, 2-4

This should be the post where I spout off about things we should hate about the Caps. Going to shelf that one for now, we've got a few more games against our Metro rival Crapitals to get that post in.

Instead, what is going on here? Why are we 6 games into the season with only 2 wins? And one of those is a shootout win.

Unlike years past for our beloved Blue Jackets, not everything is going wrong. Not all at once, at least. Yes, some things are clearly going wrong, but a number of things are going right.

As predicted by roughly everybody on the planet, scoring has been an issue, especially 5 on 5. That's the downer. The upside is the power play is clicking along at 27.3%, good for 6th in the league, something unheard of in these parts for a while. Granted, it's early, but the power play is doing a lot of things right.

Well, other than turning the puck over for that shorty against the Canadiens last night.

The forecheck is stifling, but it doesn't seem to be there at the first drop of the puck. Last night in Montreal was a prime example. The Habs jumped the Jackets early and often, but as the 2nd period moved along the forecheck came on very strong and stayed through the end of the game. It effectively nullified the Habs speed game, and is one of the reasons the Jackets were able to battle back to get it tied up.

So what do I see as wrong?

To me, Bob has not been as sharp as last season. The two blue-line-barely-screened goals last night, and the long shot in the Bruins game are pucks he has to have. Had those been shot last April, he likely would have had them. He wasn't sharp to start last season, either, but came on as the season went along. I have confidence he'll square it away and start making those saves.

Defensively we have been scrambling, both the d-men and the forwards at times. Last night's 3rd goal by the Habs was a prime example, all 5 guys had lost their checks and the Canadiens just zipped the puck around the zone at will until they put it in the back of the net.

Additionally, our transition game has not been clean. Johnson, Wiz, and Tyutin - our veteran defensemen - have been extremely sloppy with the puck below our own goal line. They're making risky passes when the check is coming rather than eating the puck, taking the check, and then making the play. Or, they're just not moving their feet to avoid the check in the first place. Those 3 have to get better with the puck, they are the guys that get things started back there, and more often than not they can skate themselves to a better pass.

Thankfully, many of these problems can be corrected. It's not a total dearth of talent as in years past, we have the players who can win games, and we have what appears to be the right systems in place for those players. When the Jackets play fast, move their feet, and forecheck hard, they are a very dangerous team. They just need to do that for whole games.

Starting in the first period.

For more than one game in a row.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

So DBJ watched a little of CBJ Game 6: Montreal

Montreal 5 - Columbus 3
2-4-0, 4th in Metropolitan Division, 10th in the Eastern Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets took their road trip up to the Great White North and gave the game away to the host Montreal Canadiens, 5-3, in regulation at the Bell Centre.

Rookie Boone Jenner grabbed two power play goals, and contract year center Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist.  But Sergei Bobrovsky stopped only 31 of 35 shots, so the kids' effort was for nought.

East Hatred: Montreal Canadiens

Tonight we will be graced with the presence of another ORIGINAL SIX team.

[feels overwhelming sense of gratitude]

Once again we are regaled with the history of a great franchise. They celebrated their 100th year in 2009 - as we celebrated our 9th, no wait 8th season. (Lockouts. *sigh* ) That logo up there has been the primary logo of les Habitants since 1956. Think about that a NHL team outside the ORIGINAL SIX has seen a different logo on the Habs jersey. (Heritage Classic jerseys not withstanding.) When they have a throwback night, they just wear the same jersey.

As if that wasn't enough, the Habs are the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup. That's not a big deal now, but just wait until April and we'll get beat over the head with it once again. The hockey media (read: Canadian media) loves to bring that one up every spring. (This is not to be confused with "the last team with Canadians on the roster to win the Cup," because that would just mean the Blackhawks.)

And oh the Cups they've won. Most ever! EVAH!!! I don't feel like looking up the exact count, hopefully some Habs fan will leave it in the comments.

So those are general-hockey-fan reasons to dislike the Canadiens a little bit. But finally, we as fans of the Jackets have a reason to get a little hate on against a team from the East.

The date was December 18th, 2000. A plucky little team from Columbus was making it's first trip through the NHL, and it's first ever trip to Montreal. Two days earlier, the Jackets were in Vancouver...oh the NHL schedulers, they were jokesters back then, weren't they?

But I digress...

December 18th, 2000 the Jackets vs. the Canadiens for the first time ever. I remember the evening well, I was at a concert at Nationwide Arena and in the days before smart phones I had no idea what was the score was. After the show was done, I turned on the radio in the car to learn we'd won 2-0. "Holy crap! 2-0!! Tugger must have been on FIRE!!" And he was. First shutout in franchise history.

On the road.

In the hockey Mecca of Montreal.

Headline in Montreal the next morning: "Canadiens suffer worst loss in franchise history."

"Worst loss"?? Seriously? They'd been around for almost 100 years at that point, and dropping a 2-0 game to lowly Columbus was the worst loss EVER, according to the paper. Worst loss, though? Embarrassing on December 19th, sure, but worst?

I remember thinking back in that first season that every team expected to beat us, but even an expansion team isn't going to go 0-82, so somebody is going to be bummed out they lost to the new kid. (Turned out to be 28 times a team and their fans were bummed they lost to us.) So, seeing the occasional newspaper headline reflect that wasn't too surprising, but the headline in Montreal was the best. Worst loss ever. "How could anybody take it that hard?" I thought.

Oh yeah. Canadian media.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

So DBJ watched CBJ game 5: Detroit

Detroit 2 - Columbus 1
2-3-0, 4 points, 4th place in Metropolitan Division, 9th in Eastern Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets made their only visit to the Motor City tonight and avoided the blackout that delayed the big baseball game.  That good fortune was not enough, however, as the host Detroit Red Wings beat the CBJ, 2-1, in regulation.

We're all looking for the team to win every game - admirable, but unrealistic...I know - and, as such, nitpick a team that doesn't win every game until they start winning consistently.  Here's my problem, and it's been a problem since I pointed it out in the preseason: The Blue Jackets' passing is just incredible.  Don't believe that I've been on this issue, you say?  Let's go to the tape...

OK, forget that Boone Jenner stuff for the time being.  We'll deal with that some other time.  I'm talking about passing here.

Patrick Kaleta's No Good, Very Bad Day

First, the Buffalo Sabres' Patrick Kaleta tosses an elbow to Jack Johnson's noggin.  Then he gets the short end of a fight with Jared Boll en route to a terrible Sabres loss at the hands of the Blue Jackets.

Then he gets this love letter from Brendan Shanahan.  

Sucks to be you, pal.  Enjoy your time off.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Is Columbus a Hockey Town yet?

I've been having some back-channel dialogue with a friend about this past Saturday's Columbus Blue Jackets matinee home game against the Boston Bruins and thought I'd share to get your thoughts.

If you're reading this blog and don't know the lengths to which the Blue Jackets marketing folks built up the game experience for Saturday, I'd be very, very surprised.  Taking advantage of the Ohio State football bye week, the team moved the game from the usual 7PM puck drop to 2PM.  (Cue the reminder email from CBJ Central about the time change.)  They also had a pregame 'tailgate' starting at 11AM on the Front Street plaza outside Nationwide Arena, complete with food, beverages, games and a little music - but I can't recall if that was live music or piped in over the Arena District outdoor speakers.  Beyond that, the team was going to do an autograph session around the arena after the game.  (Cue the reminder email from CBJ Central about the party and autographs.)

Around the middle of last week, said friend shoots me a quick note, the text of which being this:
So, the Jackets have to 1) tailgate 2) pick-a-seat and 3) autograph session it up for a Saturday game against the Bruins? #HockeyTown

So DBJ went to CBJ Game 4: Boston

Boston 3 - Columbus 1
2-2-0, 4 pts, 4th in Metropolitan Division, 9th in the Eastern Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the visiting Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins during a Saturday matinee at Nationwide Arena.  While the Blue Jackets put up a spirited effort, the Bruins simply wore down the CBJ en route to a 3-1 win.

Jack Johnson had the only Blue Jackets goal, a power play shot.  Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside 27 of 29 shots (the third goal was an empty netter), a .943 save percentage; I really liked his composure throughout the game.  And, of course, 5'7" Cam Atkinson tried to post up on 6'9" Zdeno Chara, providing a wonderful memory that I'll not soon forget.  If only I had a camera on him when it happened!

I'm not upset about the loss.  As I said in...ummm...some blog post recently, average teams should be expected to beat bad teams.  Good teams should be expected to beat average teams.  Great teams should be expected to beat good teams.  The Blue Jackets, coming off a season where they just missed the playoffs, are not a great team.  The Bruins, coming off a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, probably have to be considered great.  Thus, I wasn't expecting the CBJ to beat Boston.  They didn't.  Columbus did, however, put in the effort.  The box score was reasonably even (score excepted).  The Blue Jackets didn't get their rear ends handed to them, and they lost to the defending conference champs. And it's not like the CBJ blew a huge lead, melted down or was outclassed by an obviously better team.  How can one be upset?

But I get that out of the way to share my personal experience of the game, that of a loving parent who...well...does his best to be a good parent.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

East Hatred: Boston Bruins

The first of our new Eastern Conference foes to visit is the Boston Bruins. Now we can finally start to work up a little anger. Still, not because our teams have much history, but because this is the BROOOONS!! Old time hockey, defending Eastern champs, Bobby Orr, etc, etc, etc...

Oh the reasons to dislike the Bruins...

Let's start with the easy one, Jeremy Jacobs. Architect of Lockout '12. (No, not lockout number 12, we're not that far along in the NHL yet.) Jacobs didn't shy away from being the band leader of last year's Owners Lockout. Big market and big money already, he needed more. He even went all big, bad bully on one of the Jets' alternate governors during the lockout informing the "new kids on the block" when they would be allowed to speak in the NHL board room. All teams in the league were equal in the lockout, some were more equal than others.

Enough lockout...but, thanks for that, Jeremy!

As you may or may not have heard the Bruins are a member of the ORIGINAL SIX. Not a Bruins specific gripe, but they are the first ORIGINAL SIX team that the Jackets face this season. Ah yes, the NHL Marketing Machine which has trouble marketing itself most of the time has no problem marketing the ORIGINAL SIX. The history of the league should be celebrated, and these six franchises are clearly the cornerstone on which the current league is built. Regardless of the debate as to whether or not they are the original six franchises in the NHL, they are the ORIGINAL SIX. The league has now had more than six teams for 46 years, so some 12 year old in a Bruins jersey this afternoon gets to spout, "We're an ORIGINAL SIX team!" even though at best his grandfather is old enough to remember it.

Another reason we're going to get annoyed by the Bruins will be their fans. "This is Boston, BABY! Red Sox Nation!!" Oops, wrong sport...but still applies. They love their teams, they're loud, and they are in your faces about it. They're an old, established hockey market, too. So they automatically know the game better than you ever will. (But even Bruins Fan has less hockey knowledge than a new born in Canada, but that's a different subject.) And there will be plenty of transplanted Bruins fans at the game today. I know a few myself. They've lived in Columbus for years, they even sound midwestern now. The Bruins show up, they get this strange look in their eye, and the Boston accent comes rushing back to them.

Finally, we landed one of their players in free agency. With the Horton signing, we get a little bit of history with the Bruins and their wonderful, well spoken fans. The reaction after the signing was of course predictable as it was a long term, big money deal that media members love to pick apart as the first one of its kind. Internet commenters have a rich history of being at the top of the writing world, and Horton going to little Columbus brought out some of the finest. "What is he thinking?" being one of the kinder ones. Others such as, "Columbus has a team?" or, "Columbus should just fold already," were some other great insights from the mouth breathers who all have the login name Anonymous.

So with the Bruins visit to Nationwide, we will finally feel like we're in the Eastern Conference. Even though we have played ORIGINAL SIX teams fairly often in the old Central, Bruins Fan will act as if this is the first time it's ever happened to our little team, and that we should be grateful for it.

Enjoy the matinee, Jackets fans!

Friday, October 11, 2013

So DBJ caught a little bit of CBJ Game 3: Buffalo

Columbus 4 - Buffalo 1
No overtimes, no shootouts.  Just a clean, regulation win.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, after four days off (which I maintain makes zero sense in a supposedly Olympic-condensed season), flew into HSBC Arena and blew the doors off the place - including the $8 million home team dressing room highlighted in my preview post.  A 3-goal first period apparently led to a game of keep-away and clock-killing, and the host Buffalo Sabres were ready for the game to end when it was decided at 4-1.

Blue Jackets goals came from Marian Gaborik (nice start to the season, Mr. Magic Stick), Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky.  Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 26 of 27 shots.  Minutes were reasonably evenly distributed.  Jared Boll, apparently healthy enough to play, swapped in for rookie Boone Jenner and did what the team pays him to do: Fight.  Rookie Ryan Murray notched a +3 on the night, something I think pretty respectable even if plus/minus is a discredited statistic.

I won't lie to you folks.  I was on tap to do this recap, and the evening got away from me.  I tried following the game on my phone and listened to most of the third period on the radio while hanging out at the airport waiting for my guests to arrive.  The feelings I inferred from the game were that of, say, an Ohio State football game: Guns a-blazing in the opening stanza, then everyone in the stands sit back in their seats and smokes victory cigars while drinking gin and tonics for the balance as they catch up on the latest news from each others' families.

This is good.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

East Hatred: Buffalo Sabres

With tonight's game against the Sabres we get our next edition of why we should hate this-team-we-barely-know.

With the Sabres comes a team that we have a little bit to build on to get to hatin' them. Mainly due to the bus loads of drunken Sabres fans that have spilled onto Front St. for their few visits to our fair city.

Before we go full on "DIE SABRES!!" this evening, some notes on their fans: These people are loyal to a fault. Unlike some other fan bases that we'll get to later in the season, Buffalo fans don't jump on and off the bandwagon with each win or loss. These people love their Sabres and have for years.

Credit where it's due is over...

Six hours of drinking on a bus for a road game is a lot of fun, I've done it. Buffalo fans have it down to a science and arrive at maximum inebriation an hour or so before puck drop. The last time they visited, it lead to some very interesting, um, encounters in the concourses.

But, drunken visiting fans isn't enough to go full hatred on them. A good start, but every team has drunken fans.

Hating the team itself will take some work, and some time. But, we have a few places to start.

1999's "Toe in the Crease." They didn't call it, changed the rule the following year, and we're still hearing about it 14 years later. It was Game 6, so it wasn't like the Sabres would have skated the Cup that night. Besides, if you're going to be upset about inconsistent officiating in this league, you won't have time to do anything else. No, this isn't a Blue Jacket specific reason to hate the Sabres, more a general thing, but we need something to work with here.

OK, maybe this is a good reason to dislike the Sabres...

Since RJ is now a Blue Jacket, we'll count this as a good reason. Even though...GET YOUR HEAD UP RJ!!! And Campbell is long gone. Either way...that's former Sabre crushing current Blue Jacket, work up some disgust folks.

Finally, the biggest stretch of all to dislike the people of western New York, they were probably the biggest beneficiary of MacLean's bone head draft pick in 2003. You remember the 2003 draft, right? The one where you couldn't make a bad pick? Yeah, that one. The one where MacLean made the brilliant choice of Zherdev. Falling directly into the Sabres lap was Thomas Vanek. You're welcome, Buffalo.

Which brings us to...

TWO captains? Really? This is more of a reason to laugh at them than hate them, but we'll add it to the pile of shenanigans we're compiling here. Why not.

So, easier to hate than the Islanders at this point, but still tough to work up some good bile against the Sabres. This move to the East is going to need some extra help to really get upset with our opponents.

Oh, look, there's the Bruins on the horizon...

Put me in coach, I'm ready to win

The 2013-2014 NHL season is about a week old.  The Blue Jackets season in particular is only two games old, playing their third game Thursday night in Buffalo.  To make any long term predictions about the team based on the meaningless preseason and two regular season games is asinine.  But looking at the coach, and how he's managed his team in that same time span, does lend itself to the ever-so-subtle eyebrow raise.

There hasn't been any earth shattering roster moves in the off-season.  The team from last year is still largely intact.  The only new faces of note are Murray and Jenner, while the 30 year-old rookie McElhinney backs up CBJ life blood Sergei Bobrovsky.   "Horton hatches a bone graft" is still a couple months away.  As a coach, you know the skill set you have on your team early on.  You know who is going to work hard, you know who you can trust in each situation, and you know who takes being a professional to heart.  You know who can handle speed, you know who can play physical, and you know who doesn't turn the puck over.  Most importantly, you know who can do the scoring.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

On "League of Denial"...and the NHL

I watched PBS' two-hour "Frontline" documentary, "League of Denial," last night.  If you haven't seen it, the whole show is available for streaming here.

Not surprisingly, seeing my interest in the growing story of traumatic brain injuries in contact sports, I have a few thoughts to offer.  This is a blog largely dedicated to offering thoughts and opinions, so I can't think of a better place to do so.  

If you've come this far only to hear an alarm go off in your head screaming, "HOW DARE YOU INTERRUPT MY ENTERTAINMENT WITH REAL LIFE?"...well...not sure I can help you.  You might want to move along.  If you're interested in what hopefully will be a reasoned discussion of a serious topic with a number of different aspects, read on.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Frontline" on NFL/CTE airs tomorrow

I'd be remiss in not bringing this up, fellow hockey fan.  Tomorrow night, on PBS's "Frontline" news documentary show, the National Football League is going to get raked over the coals for the manner in which it has (or has not, depending on how you look at it) handled the issue of traumatic brain injuries.  Here's the trailer for "League of Denial":

It's a two-part series, and you can go to this link if you want to see a few more teaser videos about the subject matter.  The doctor who analyzed the late former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster's brain and Leigh Steinberg, agent for oft-concussed Troy Aikman, offer particularly compelling first-person commentary on the state of affairs in football.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Game 2 in Review: CBJ vs New York Islanders

Columbus Blue Jackets 3- NY Islanders 2 Shoot Out
The Columbus Blue Jackets earned their first win of the 2013-14 season, as well as their first win in the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference in a third period comeback shoot out win.  A character win for sure, because they looked 'stick a fork in 'em they're done' cooked in the second period.  As much as the Islanders skated them off the ice in the middle of the second period, they stopped the bleeding trailing 0-2.  Then at the midway point of the third period, Mark Letestu punched home a power play goal to get the Jackets on the board, and the team gathered momentum throughout the second half of the third period.
Letestu, not Gaborik

Offensive cycling which had been nonexistent in the second period began to emerge, and then the tying goal came on an RJ Umberger rush, where he put the goal on net, and Nick Foligno bumped the rebound back at the net, and it rebounded off an Islander crashing the net, and the game was tied.

The teams traded chances down the stretch, and both teams had power plays in the last two minutes of the game.  The Islanders power play persisted into Over Time, but the CBJ seemed to have momentum.  OT remained scoreless, and the game went to the shoot out.

That's when 'snow-gate' happened.  Fox Sports did a good job of capturing the CBJ bench, as Craig Hartsburg noticed that the zamboni left all the snow in front of the Islanders' goal.  Todd Richards got the attention of referee Paul Devorski, and the officials inspected the ice.  The then made the zamboni come back out on the ice, and a HUGE pile of snow was removed from in front of the Islanders' goal.  Thus, the shoot out conditions were rendered fair.  Matt Moulson scored for the Islanders in the shootout, but Letestu and Cam Atkinson scored for the CBJ to secure the win.

My take is that this was what will be a typical Metro division game, a back and forth affair.  The Islanders scored on a heavily screened Bobrovsky on a power play that they earned with sustained offensive pressure.  On their second goal our weak side defense was mesmerized by Tavares' puck handling, and Moulson came all alone on the backside and Tavares hit him with a beauty of a pass.  But the CBJ shut down the rushes they were giving up at that point, and the game turned for them.  Once the CBJ got some offensive cycling below the goal line started, instead of launching pucks at the net from the perimeter, they eventually drew a penalty, and got the power play goal that turned the momentum.  Dogged hard work paid off in the win.  That bodes well for this team recapturing the spirit they had at the end of the season last year sooner rather than later.

The CBJ are on the  board for the 2013-14 season, with 2 Metro division points.  A good response from last night's disappointment.

Game Haiku:
First win in Metro
Tavares is the real deal
The test tube strikes


East Hatred: New York Islanders

Here we go!

We're finally in the East, and as promised in my first post, I'll try to get us Eastern Conference n00bs primed for hating a whole new slate of teams.

Since the NHL Schedule Gods opened us with the familiar Calgary Flames, we have to wait until game two to get to hating one of our new Metropolitan Division brethren: The New York Islanders.

OK, let's be honest, what is there to hate about the Islanders? That logo? Their four Cups? They won those back in the early 80s, those are historical now, not annoying. All those years chanting "Nineteen Forty!" at the Rangers? Hell no, that was AWESOME. (And sadly came to an end in 1995.)

Their owner? Their GM? Um, no...they've been more comic relief than anything else. Even through the MacLean and Howson debacles here, when Jacket Fan had to defend themselves, they could always come back with, "Yeah, sure...but did you see what Wang/Milbury/Snow did with the Islanders?!? Can you believe it??"

It is certainly not because they beat up on the Jackets over the years. We didn't lose to the Isles until December 23, 2006, our 8th meeting with them. Overall the Jackets are 9-4-1 against the Islanders and have lost to them in regulation since...wait for it...December 23, 2006. (If you're scoring at home, the Jackets have gotten a point out of every game against the Islanders in franchise history except for that one sad day on December 23, 2006.)

So, historically speaking, it's really, REALLY hard to hate this team. They've been so nice to us since we came into the league. I have a feeling truly hating the Islanders is going to take some time, and a few more losses to them. Maybe a playoff series against them. Though if the Jackets and Islanders are in the playoffs in the same year, it may be akin to crossing the streams.

I don't know if those losses will start with tonight's game, but the chances are there. First off, we'll play them a lot more now. Secondly, they're on the rise just like your beloved Blue Jackets. The Islanders got into the playoffs last year with 55 points...

Wait, wait, wait...they got IN with 55 points? We missed out with 55 points! OK, we have a slight glimmer of a reason to be marginally perturbed with the Islanders.


These guys play an exciting game. They skate hard, they skate fast, and they come at you in waves. It's not always defensively responsible, but it is fun to watch. Their first round with the Pens last year was some of the best hockey of the playoffs. They just kept coming. Over. And over. And over. It was great to watch.

So we open our Eastern Conference play against a team that I'm not sure any of us can really hate at this point. Guess we'll have to let this one simmer for a while and see if we can work something up.

Seriously, can ANYBODY share a reason to outright despise the Islanders?

Game One in Review - Columbus Blue Jackets vs Calgary Flames

Columbus Blue Jackets 3 - Calgary Flames 4

Western Canada, home to Atlanta's last two NHL's franchises.  One of those two teams paid a visit to Nationwide Arena Friday Night - the Calgary Flames.  The Flames were playing in their second road game in as many nights.  Ever the good soldier, enduring Home opening events as visitors for a second night in a row.  The Flames played spoilers to the Blue Jackets home opener, beating the home team CBJ 4-3 in regulation.  The League was kind enough in welcoming the Blue Jackets to the Eastern Conference by scheduling us with the Flames.  Thanks Bettman.

If I were a blogger, I would sum up tonight's game for the Blue Jackets in one word as 'sloppy.'  Your older brother's Blue Jackets were on the ice tonight.  But, I'm not ignorant enough to say this one game defines the fate of the team this season. I watched the game in total seclusion at BW3 in Dublin.  I did not want to hear a broadcast of this game as to make my own observations on the team.  So here they are, my observations

Friday, October 4, 2013

2013-14 CBJ overture: Welcome to the Boonetown

I couldn't help but adapt one of my favorite songs from my younger days when I saw the CBJ's Captain Of The Future made the team.

Don't worry if you don't get it, kiddos...the original 1986 version by David + David (which peaked at #37 on the Billboard Hot 100) is at the end of this post. 

Thanks to Gallos for helping me tighten this up! - Tom

Mr. D plays his Callaway four
Relaxation oozes from his pores
He lets Jarmo man the phone

Running the draft floor, drafting kid after kid
Trades to be done, he keeps his ear to the phone
He keeps his ear to the phone

So I say, I say welcome, welcome to the Boonetown
Choose a leader, we got plenty to go around
Welcome, welcome to the Boonetown
Your ticket dollar makes such a comforting sound
Welcome to the Boonetown

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Not another fighting fight

Like a bunch of mommies screaming from behind the glass, we make a big deal out of what amounts to pretty much nothing.  We react with irrational emotion when we see something bad happen to one of our babies.  The nice part about the glass, is typically the players can't hear what their mommies are squealing about.  Mommy saw something bad happen to her baby, and apart from the squealing, she must legislate any harm done to anyone out of the game.  The screaming doesn't amount to much.  It sounds like noise - loud, but really inconsequential.  If it's anything, it's a distraction from what you need to do the rest of the hockey game.

The speed, physicality, and emotion of professional hockey require an element of instant accountability.  I support fighting as a means of the players policing themselves.  A cheap shot artist needs his face punched when he cheap shots somebody.  Lines will be crossed, players with an edge will go over that edge.  I'd rather a player swings fists when reacting out of emotion and not swing sticks.  However, I do not support fighting for the sake of fighting.  I roll my eyes when I see two guys mosey on up to the face-off circle, nonchalantly say to each other "wanna go" and drop the gloves for no other reason that they're bored.  Coaches should be fined when they send players out to do nothing but fight. Eliminate the needless WWE aspect of fighting in the NHL and the amount of times a pugilist can subject their brain to repetitive trauma will be significantly reduced.  As fans, you can't romanticize about the brutality of the sport and toughness of hockey players, then irrationally deliver emotion when there is a brain injury.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Preseason is long last...

I always have mixed emotions about the preseason. It's hockey. Real, live, in an NHL rink (usually) with NHL players type hockey. The first preseason game is fun, the second one is ok, the third one is boring, and the fourth one is the last chance to get a discount on your fan bucks if you're a season ticket holder.

You have to watch the games looking for certain things, and usually not the final score. I tend to watch specific players, maybe see how the special teams are looking, how the "not quite there yet" kids look playing with the big boys, etc. With that in mind, here are a few things that caught my eye in the three, home preseason games I went to...and left after 2 periods each time.

Scoring, what scoring?

Let's get the nasty one out of the way first. The preseason predictions are rolling in from every corner of North America, and all of them pretty much agree on the Jackets set up this season: Solid D, can Bob do it again, need goal scoring.

Agree on the scoring.

We have guys who are capable of putting it in the net, but the lack of finishing in some of these games was concerning. Granted, the games take place at half speed with all the checking of an All-Star weekend, but they still take shots and try to score at times.

What I think concerned me more than anything was the amount of possession we'd have without any shots on net. We'd get the puck in, move it to the points, battle in the corners, throw it to the slot, dig it back out of the corner, then turn it over. All that work for no shot on goal. I'd watch thinking we're doing OK, then look at the scoreboard and we're getting outshot 13-2. I'm not that "SHOOT IT!!!" guy in the stands, but put the puck on net fellas.

Puck movement

On the heels of the last bit, we did have some pretty good puck movement throughout most of the games I watched. No more dumping it into the corner and praying we can get it back out. The East is reportedly built for more carrying it in and less dumping it in, then our game plan is in decent shape for the our move to the Metro.

The power play, while not converting a lot of goals yet, was much better at possession and moving the puck. There was a lot more play from the point and the half wall on the power play than last season. Step 1 to a good power play is possession and puck movement, the boys seem to have a good jump on that. Step 2 is to put the puck in the net off all that possession and puck movement, so we'll see how that comes along as the season gets started.

Ah, the forecheck

It appeared in most games we had a 2 man forecheck going. As a fan...YES!! I love me a good forecheck. This will be a helluva lot more fun to watch than the 0-man "We'll just be here at the blue line waiting on you" type system. Atkinson, Calvert, Foligno, Boll, MacKenzie, and Jenner all have the abilities to make that work. This will be entertaining.

We may blow some chances, and give up the occasional odd-man rush, but we finally have the defensive corps to make that work. And let's say they blow it occasionally, and they will, Bob is waiting.

So, why not play to our forwards' speed and push that forecheck deep? For a team that will have trouble scoring, getting the turnovers in your opponents end of the ice will make up for some of that pretty quickly.

So what does all this mean?

My opinion of the team didn't really change much through preseason, I think we're a playoff team. Honestly, I think there are only two teams in our division better than we are, the Pens and Rangers. I think we'll go back and forth with the Isles all season for 3rd in the division, and I don't think there's any way in hell we finish below the Devils, Phylers, Caps, and Canes.

The Jackets have the reigning Vezina winner in net behind a defensive unit built for the grind of the West. Scoring is a question, but defensively our 8-7 track meet type games will be limited. Can our group of forwards score us enough goals to get into the playoffs? I think so.