Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Game 42 Recap: Ranger Danger

New York Rangers 3 - Columbus Blue Jackets 4 - F/SO

The Jackets visited the the hostile confines of Madison Square Garden to square off against the Blue Shirts of New York.  The Jackets battled the elements and arrived safely in New York.   The Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations, who is also a fixture in the team's television marketing campaign, was in attendance for the game as he was returning to North America from the World Junior Championship.  Something tells me that JD doesn't miss an opportunity to get in the booth at MSG. It is his old stomping grounds after all.   In addition to all the hoopla that goes with the CBJ vs NYR games this season, tonight's game was also marked by the return of Sergei Bobrovsky - the Jackets' Vezina winning goalie from a season ago - or as 'The CBJ Artillery" said on the DKM Podcast, the Velveeta Trophy.  #Smooches.

Tonight's game was both a pleasant surprise and a confirmation that winning, or playing with the lead, is the best cologne.  On the one hand, Sergei Bobrovsky looked absolutely brilliant in goal tonight.  It was Vezina trophy winning Bob in net tonight.  Sound positioning, calm composure, and quiet confidence.  I was not expecting him to be as crisp as he was tonight.  Whoever gave Dubinsky the first star tonight needs slapped - Bob won the game for the CBJ tonight - period.  I don't care what his stats were.  He won the game for the Jackets.  I'll get a Mike Milbury tramp stamp tattooed across the top of my butt before you talk me out of that.

A worrisome note for the Jackets' is the injury to ever-popular Fedor Tyutin.  Tyutin was boarded by Chris Kreider 21 seconds into the 2nd period.  The hit was a dangerous play by Kreider, but In my opinion not a dirty hit or intent to injure.  Boarding in the NHL is one of those weird calls where the severity of how the player goes into the boards determines the penalty you receive. Injury determines if you get ejected. And yet, injury is not defined in the NHL rulebook.   Tyutin went into the boards in a very awkward angle, and was injured on the play.  Ding Ding! here comes the five minute major and a game misconduct mobile!  Tyutin leaves the ice under his own power, but leaves the bench and doesn't return with what the team discloses as a lower body injury.  Getting popped from behind is no picnic and weird internal injuries can happen.  Let's hope Tyuting has a simple back strain or something like that.

Ding! Ding!  Here comes the s**t mobile!

In one hand is Bob's stellar play.  In the other was the Jackets' sloppy play that was frustrating most of the game. Having a 2-1 and 3-1 lead in the second can mask most smells of rotten play.  Bobrovsky playing out of his gourd helps you blame the smell in the room on the dog or the nearest fat guy.  We have a saying in hockey, coaches tell players this before every big game: WIN YOUR BATTLE. That doesn't just mean puck battles along the boards.  It means winning your faceoff.  It means getting the puck out of the zone.  It means back-checking your tail off even if your 85 feet behind the play.  The Jackets didn't play a solid game in all three zones tonight.  Seldom did they win their battles, but it doesn't mean they played like a steaming bag of dog pooh either.  Did the Jackets play terribly?  No, they didn't do a lot of little things they needed to and "Bob being Bob" bailed this team out.  Winning your battle all game is how you close out big road wins like this one in regulation.

Those guys look so happy when
they score goals now, huh...
The Jackets were able to capitalize on the Ranger's mistakes and turnovers.  You have to do those things if you want to win close games against better opponents.  This is a good trait and something I'm seeing this team do more of.   But the Rangers could smell the weakness in the Blue Jackets game and kept pressing.  The second half of tonight's game had a playoff feel to it.  Every shift mattered, every shot felt like it could go in.  The next play felt like it could be the one that meant the game.  Then the Rangers scored and the Jackets lead  was 3-2 in the third.  MSG was buzzing on a random Monday night following as snow storm that some nerd named and the arena got as loud as any big game ever played in NWA arena.  I heard that racous crowd cheering on the home team, willing it to victory after Boyle scored to make it 3-2, and I was jealous.  I want Nationwide arena to sound like that on a random Monday night in Columbus.  The complacency of tonight's win makes me think this fan base is still a little ways off from that - soon my pretties, soon.

I'm happy with two points the team got tonight, especially following the steaming heap they dropped in St Louis on Saturday night.  3rd in the Metro is what it will take for the CBJ to make the playoffs.  The point the Jackets gave away tonight is one I wish we had back, or one the Jackets gave up in OT.  Because...  ROW, ROW, ROW your boat, gently down the stream.  Merrily, Merrily, Merrily playoffs are a dream.  (get it, "ROW") I hate the three point game, and I hate when the Jackets give away that third point.  Seriously NHL, there is nothing wrong with a tie. 

Despite the emotional treachery that comes along with watching a team playing sloppy earn itself a 3-1 lead, it felt good to get an emotional charge out of watching tonight's game.  I imagine that there were doubts swirling in every one's head.  Would the CBJ blow another lead?  Would Bob be able to keep the game close?  Would Nash get a hat trick?  Where do babies come from?  This was an exciting and fun game to watch, and the Blue Seaters added to the audible excitement of the game.  One shift the Jackets looked good, the next shift they looked bad, the next shift every bounce goes the Rangers way.  But the Jackets can't give any divisional opponents daylight.  The "other" 7 teams in the metro are going to muck it out the rest of season for 2nd and 3rd place.  It's a log jam between 2nd and 7th in the Metro division.  Giving away points like the Jackets did tonight will certainly linger until the spring - this is game 42 people, the season is half over.  Yet, the Jacket's found a way to win.  Bob was strong and despite giving up the lead in the 3rd, the Jackets goals were all quality goals.  But this team won't be able to gain ground in a tight division if they can't hold onto regulation wins.  If last season taught us anything as fans, it's that winning games while the team sport of hockey is being played is very important.

And one CBJ player did draw my ire tonight - Ryan Johansen.  Yes, he went all "Dangle Snipe" on Lundqvist in the shoot out BECAUSE HE NEEDED TO.  He wasn't his usually sharp self in the faceoff dot tonight.  But on Brian Boyles' goal in the 3rd to cut the Jacket's lead to one - I saw glimpses of the old, er young, Johansen. Admittedly, everything breaks down on that play.  All three CBJ forwards get sucked down low on the rush.  The Rangers see this and get two bang-bang head man passes and break in their offensive zone 1-on-1.  The play is corraled to the corner as the Jackets race back to get on defense.  The Blue Jackets forwards come back into the play to help out, then Dzone coverage hell breaks loose.  Johansen lets UMBERGER beat him back into the play on the backcheck.  As Foligno gets back into the play, he decides to take a horrible checking angle to try and smash Nash.  Umberger, who busts his butt to get back in the play is then mesmerised by Nash's 15 foot pass to Moore.  Johansen is slow to get back into the play, and as a CENTER doesn't pay attention to defending the Red Zone (aka the house or home plate) and lazily covers the least dangerous player on the ice from the weak-side wing position while skating away from the play.  When Dzone coverage breaks down, you are taught to collapse to the Red Zone.  Foligno gets sucked against the boards trying to blow up Nash.  Murray is taking the center's checking lane to cover Moore who's shot get's through anyways.  Umby is frozen in time and Savard is the only one who remembers to collapse to the Red Zone when coverage breaks down.  Savard is left alone down low to cover two rather large Ranger fowards with the puck rolling downhill.  Ryan Johansen watches everything unfold while needlessly defending the least dangerous guy on the ice as nonchalantly as possible.  Johansen should know better and it irritated me.  He has to recognize that there are barely two defenders in the red zone and there should always be three.  Was the second Ranger's goal Johansen's fault?  No.  Does a center need to read that Dzone coverage better and crash when Murray, Foligno, and Umby are out of position?   Yes!  If Johansen crashes theres a good chance he's there to get a stick or body on Boyle.  Even your advanced stat gurus will look at the data and say that you to abandon the point and collapse to the red zone when calamity ensues.  The goal is not Johansen's fault, but there's a strong possibility he can break up Boyle's chance down low if he crashes, especially once Moore's shot hits the other Moore.  Ugh...  There will be a little film study on this play for sure.  What does Dubinsky do in that same situation?  #WWDD

Displaying photo.jpg
Everybody in white races to get back into position after getting burnt.  RyJo says, "Ima hang back and watch... just in case."

 Game in one Haiku

Win your battles boys
The season is half over
Of course, Nash gets two

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