Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Reflecting on the #unsustainabowl; Christmas blog 2018

Torts pushing buttons; mostly the right ones
Merry Christmas everyone!  Here is hoping that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season!  We are on a short hockey hiatus here, and it seems a good time to pause and reflect.  The 2018-19 Blue Jackets are in a good position, sitting a solid second in the Metropolitan Division at the holiday season. 

The Stanley Cup Champion Capitals are a few points ahead of the Jackets, the former Cup Champion Penguins are a few points behind with a lot of hockey left to play.  Needless to say it is important to keep playing winning hockey.  So what does that look like?  The Jackets kinda stunk up a game with the Capitals, and hit a reset button, focusing more on their defense.  Since then they are 4-0-1.  My point is that is what winning hockey looks like. 

Well duh, they won four straight, of course that is what winning hockey looks like.  That's not my point.  My point is that two years ago the Blue Jackets were in the midst of what became a record breaking 16 game winning streak.  Ultimately, that streak became the second longest winning streak in NHL history, culminating in the #unsustainabowl, a clash with a Minnesota Wild team on a 12 game winning streak and a Blue Jackets team on a 14 game winning streak.  The CBJ came away with a fairly convincing win, mainly because they smothered the Wild with amazing defensive play. 

It is important to remember that during 'The Streak', the CBJ were averaging less than 2 goals per game against.  In order to hold opponents to less than 2 goals a game over a double digit stretch of games, you need to have a lot of games where you only allow one, or no, goal(s).  This is startlingly effective defense, and it has been largely absent since the end of 'The Streak' until this recent 'reset'.  Of course Bobrovsky was on fire during 'The Streak', and he is showing signs of regaining that form here recently.  So if the Jackets reclaim that defensive acumen from 2 years ago, the new year should go well for the good guys.  It will be interesting to see.

Another important point for the 2018-19 CBJ is that Bobrovsky played his first back to back just this last weekend.  In the previous two years, the Jackets had used Bobrovsky like a government mule prior to the Christmas holiday as an essential ingredient to staying in playoff contention.  While I think many people feel the CBJ have not played their best hockey yet this year, it was not necessary for the number 1 goal tender to carry the team, as he did the last two years.  New goal tending coach Manny Legace effectively made good on his vow to not play Bob in back-to-back games until Christmas.  This is a stark contrast to the previous two years, which bodes well for hockey in April. 

Yes, there are some issues looming over the team for the long term.  We haven't been able to 'go Vegas' on everyone else as I had hoped back in the summer.  But going forward, the team is poised for success, and a run of play that reflects the defensive performance during 'The Streak' in early 2019 will ensure that will happen.  Since it seems certain the Bob and Bread will test free agency, as is their contractual privilege, it is important for this team to go as far as it can, as currently constructed.  We can sort out the future in June.  On the other hand, if you are going to test free agency, there is self induced pressure to perform at a high level when you play.  So we'll see how that all works out. 

Tom Reed, over on the Athletic had an interesting article reflecting on the instability for the Flyers and Devils compared to the Blue Jackets.  It has been a strange and refreshing year in that I didn't feel the team was playing that well, but continued to sit near the top of the Metro.  I was starting to get a bit worried, in that the wild card teams in the Atlantic had more points than the Jackets, but this last 4 game winning streak has changed that dynamic some.  So the Jackets do look to be a better team overall, not just a flash in the pan.  This is a novel experience for long time Jackets fans, and it is to be hoped that this team is good enough to withstand the loss of a good player to free agency.  But again, that's a future problem, and time spent worrying about it now is unproductive.

But, if I could have one thing for Christmas, it would be an effective power play for the CBJ!  Little help here Santa Claus??!!

Happy holidays everyone!