Monday, April 23, 2018

Achilles Heel - The Power Play

LOL - Dubois and Jones a year ago, 2016
training camp.
Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets fell to the Washington Capitals in the sixth game of their play off series, allowing Washington to advance to their inevitable clash with the Penguins.  Still bitter, so don't really want to comment on that series, the wrong things will come out. 

However, the inescapable truth for the Blue Jackets is that their power play, which languished between 31st and 30th in the league cost them this series.  When you go Oh for Four Games on the power play, against an opponent with a lethal power play, you are pretty much done.  And that is what our CBJ did this year.  We could not overcome that goal differential 5 on 5. 

And tonight, in the series clinching game, the power play kill still yielded a shorty.  At the end that glaring deficiency cost them dearly, and they were never able to solve it all year.  Until the can solve it, they won't advance in the playoffs.  You can bet that hockey operations will dissect that problem over the off season, and make changes.

Nonetheless, I'm pretty proud of this group.  Not the best team in franchise history, though they left their mark. But they showed a lot down the stretch, going from the outside looking in, to making the playoffs after the trade deadline when it is heavy lifting around the league.  They won more than their competition, which is saying a lot, because all the competition won as well.  They made the playoffs, but they are not ready yet for a 3 time Metropolitan Division Champion.  So we lost. 

In future series we need Oliver Bjorkstrand and Sonny Milano to make statements in these games.  I thought both players got their feet wet in the NHL this year, and look to take further strides next year. 

I haven't listened to Torts yet.  That should be informative.  I thought he did a great job down the stretch. 

Welp.  The 2017-18 season is over.  It was a good one.  Just wait till PLD is a year older.  Wowza!


Monday, April 9, 2018

Moving the Needle; Adding Texture

Playoff Ice in Nationwide Arena
The 2017-18 Columbus Blue Jackets are returning to the Stanley Cup playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history.  In this space I opined early in the season that making the playoffs was an organizational imperative.  Mission accomplished. 

Previous iterations of the Blue Jackets have made the playoffs, only to fall back off the pinnacle, and start the struggle to return again.  Making the playoffs in consecutive years shows that you have 'moved the needle'.  That you have gotten better over time.  Stick tap to Jarmo, John Davidson, John Tortorella, and the players for this significant accomplishment.  At times it looked shaky this year, but the team powerfully drove through to the playoffs, and finished by playing some of their best hockey of the year. 

I like the match-up with the Washington Capitals.  Not that it's any kind of gift, they are a very good opponent.  Sort of an 'out of the frying pan into the fire' kind of thing.  What I like is going into a round with another team, which adds texture to our team history.  It should be interesting to see how it all plays out.  I thought Washington was going to take a step backward this year.  Instead they won the Metropolitan Division.  They are also entering the playoffs on a string of very good play; late in the season it looked like Pittsburgh might catch them, but then they pulled away and won the Division.  Good stuff.

The Blue Jackets are an interesting bunch.  The best rookie in franchise history (wow!), Pierre-Luc
Dubois, a trade for a dynamic winger, Panarin, and a Norris trophy candidate, Jones, carried the team to a successful season, aided and abetted by the trade deadline acquisitions of Cole, Vanek and Letestu.  Bobrovsky had another good year, and Zach Werenski was starting to emerge from his sophomore slump by the end of the year.  Nice slump, tied for most goals by a Blue Jackets defenseman, with his partner Jones who set the record for most points by a defenseman,.

Cam Atkinson comes into the playoffs on fire, and one of the big wild cards going forward is Thomas Vanek.  Throughout his career he has been a goal scorer, and he could easily get hot in the playoffs.  I think the chance for hardware matters to him, and I think he will play well.

Playoff bound.  How cool.  What a good time this is going to be!