Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Student Versus the Teacher; Seth versus Shea

Seth Jones, circa 2016
As the 208-19 NHL season winds down, the Columbus Blue Jackets are on the bubble to make the playoff, after sitting comfortably in the mix for most of the year.  The team has been inconsistent since the trade deadline, and since consistency is one of the hall marks of a contender, they are dropping out of contention. 

After being healthy all year, they now have the injury bug.  As a season ticket holder, I am gnashing my teeth and directing a lot of my anger at Panarin, who appears to be playing to not get hurt.  A guy who was formerly very hard on the puck, is the easiest giveaway in the league now, and absolutely 'not competitive'.  But no, while I feel a lot of anger there, I'm not gonna go there.  Perhaps my interpretation of the situation is wrong (never!).   Perhaps he is injured, and we'll find out later.  Perhaps he is confused by the sudden leadership void.

Nick Foligno is doing what he needs to do, and is not available.  No criticism from this viewpoint, but it does create a leadership void, and a question.  Is Seth Jones ready to make this his team?  If so, he can't tolerate performances like Panarin's?  I saw an interview with him the other day where multiple reporters were asking him about getting in someone's face, or putting your arm around their shoulder.  It does take different things for different people.

These last 8 games are about us and the Montreal Canadians fighting for the 8th playoff spot, and the right to be eviscerated by Tampa.  Any other ship has sailed as of this posting.  Which is intriguing in that it is an 8 game contest of leadership between Seth Jones and Shea Weber.  Jones spent his formative years under Weber's tutelage, and now needs to draw on that experience to lead this Blue Jackets squad forward.  One would think in a short 8 game playoff that the teacher has the advantage there, but the pupil has some tools to work with. 

Make this your team Seth.  And then let's see what happens.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

If You Want To Whine When You Lose, You Have to Crow When You Win

We have watched Bobrovsky have bad puck luck lo these many games.  And in times of weakness, we have blamed the result on the goal tending (meaning me).  This may not have always been fair.  Two posts ago I called for a change in the goal tending, and indeed, Bob got a rest on the away game against Pittsburgh.  But he has been lights out since.  And indeed, before that, review by people I respect, namely Tom Reed of the Athletic thought that all of the deflections that pissed me off were darn good hockey plays, and don't throw your goal tender under the bus for those. (BTW, your dad used to subscribe to Sports Illustrated.  Really, the Athletic is the modern equivalent, and you should subscribe if you can afford it).  So, in many ways, Bob was due a little puck luck.  He got it tonight in spades, with a superlative performance in a crucial playoff Metropolitan tilt, shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes.

Tonight the Blue Jackets shut out the Hurricanes 3-0.  I thought the Jaekets' play was reminiscent of Carolina's, where we got ahead early and then stifled them.  Yes they dominated on the shot clock, but they weren't high danger chances, and those high danger chances that they generated, Bob snuffed.  

When I talk about this, I think about the times recently where our defense gave a shooter a bit of space, and they invariably hit the corner top shelf far side.  The Islanders game is a good example.  One defenseman gets space on a blown coverage, he hits top, far corner (instead of pipe) and the game is over.  Tonight we jumped on them early to get a two goal lead, and Bob no longer feared those miracle shots, and stuffed everything accordingly.  Nice work by Bob.

HUGE, HUGE, HUGE win tonight.  We don't know how it will turn out, but our boys played stifling defense tonight.  That's what it takes to win in the playoffs.  A performance to capture in their minds.

Jackets win!  A tough road ahead.  One game at a time.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Dear Boone, Thanks for the New Hat

PRETEND THIS IS AN IMAGE OF BOONE JENNER Because google drive can't seem to pull up the real thing.  It's an old image, from 2016 training camp, but i took it so i have the rights to it without offending someone.  Since I do this for fun, no one is out any money, so its all good.

Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Boston Bruins 6-4.  A huge win for the Jackets, and a long journey from my last immature rant after the Winnipeg game.  If you don't like immature rants, go ahead and close the link.  I like to think I am better than that, but I fail to attain that mark sometimes.  In many ways, that's hockey, so I don't sweat it a bunch.  I admit my failings, and move on.  Which is one of the beauties of the game, in a way.  You are forced to confront failure, and rise above it.  There could be no better metaphor for tonight's game.

The Blue Jackets raced to a 5-1 lead based on the pent up shot percentages, and some damn fine play.  There is not a thing wrong with the CBJ play over the last 3 games.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, that's hockey.  The Bruins, being a powerful team this year, substituted in an outstanding goalie in Halak, and proceeded to whittle away at the lead in short order.  It's who they are, it's what they do.

Nonetheless, the Blue Jackets withstood their comeback, in spite of the score closing to 5-4 by the end of the second period.  And Boone Jenner scored the hat trick goal to salt the win at 6-4, and I lost a damn fine hat.

But, I got to go shopping, and found a really sweet black and white CBJ hat.  its a great thing to go Minnie Pearl and go out of the arena with the tags still on your new hat!

I like to think I am a glass half full kind of guy.  I'm not sure its accurate, as far as the CBJ are concerned,  but I like to think it.  We are in an ears pinned back dog fight to make the playoffs.  Perhaps to face Tampa.  If, and I mean IF we make the playoffs, we are going to be playing some really good hockey.  IF we make the playoffs, and IF we face Tampa, we won't be the same team they played before.  But first things first.  Friday, it's Carolina, and we need a win in the worst way.

Okay, maybe it's me, but Duchene, Dzingel and Anderson are kinda scary,  In  a good way.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Three Strikes and You're Out: Time for a New Goal Tender for the #CBJ

Bob Can't Not Give Up That First Period Goal.
Since the trade deadline, one thing has become amply clear.  In spite of great opportunity, Sergei Bobrovsky is not a goal tender who will get the CBJ into the playoffs.  Maybe it's bad karma.  Maybe it's bad luck.  Maybe its that fact that the other goal tenders in the league don't think he is better than they are, and routinely outplay him, ESPECIALLY AT HOME.  I'm not shouting.  I'm not.  Well, maybe...

Before you read too much into this rant discussion; I want you all to recall Philipp Grubauer.  He is the goal tender who carried the Washington Capitals to the playoffs last year.  Then, a motivated Braden Holtby took over the net and carried the Caps to the Stanley Cup.  I think we are watching at least part of this dynamic play out in front of our eyes.  As a long time fan, at this point I have zero (0) confidence that Bob is going to win during the gauntlet of games we have coming up.  I don't think the team does anymore.  My Dad is a big fan of karma, after watching 8 plus decades of sports, and I don't think Bob has good karma.  Good karma is something that can be earned.  It's time for Bob to do that.

It's time to turn the reins over to Korpisalo (hereinafter Korpi) and Kinkaid (hereinafter Kinks).  Jarmo tried to change the dynamic of the team at the trade deadline.  This has yet to play out in the goal tender position, although Jarmo made provision for it by acquiring Kinks.  It is time.  Kinks should get the net against his old mates the Devils, so they can salute him and move on.  It's the right thing to do.  If he wins, he keeps the net against the Pens.  Because he has a winning record against them.  And they definitely won't know what to do with it.  If he loses the away game, Korpi should get the home game. 

In case anyone hasn't noticed, we are in a playoff race now, and it's not going well for the home squad.  Since the goal tender routinely spots the other side a goal in the first period, it's time to change.  The currency to keep the net from here on out is to win.  You lose, you lose the net.  You win, you keep the net and keep playing,   It's time to make this move now.  There is enough time left to let this play out.  But it needs to start now. 

Realistically, it doesn't make sense to even have Bob be the backup.  We need to know which of these two are going to carry us to the playoffs.  If Korpi gets the net with regularity he can be very good.  Kinks is an excellent guy to fill in, but don't wear the tread off.  These next three games should give us a good idea of where we stand. 

The CBJ left the easy points laying on the table by losing their home games.  Sometimes, that's hockey.  It happens.  But right now, EVERY opposition goal tender comes in here to prove he's better than Bob, and backups and regulars have been making it happen this year.  It's time to change that dynamic, and introduce some uncertainty into the calculations of the loyal (but hated, I'm talking to you Pittsburgh) opposition.  Bob has had his opportunity, and I believe he has squandered it.  I also believe he is a pretty darn good goal tender, who can't buy a break right now.  It's time to earn some of that karma.  It's time for the other guys to play in the starters net in practice, because that comfort zone is not serving Bobrovsky well at this time.

Humble pie is a tasteless, sometimes sour, meal that nonetheless must be eaten at times when we least want to partake.  That time has come for Bob.  It's better to have this now, than in the playoffs.  If we make the playoffs, which at the moment is certainly in doubt.  This team is not playing like a playoff team a the moment, and part of it is because the goal tending position is fragile.  And that is awkward at best this time of year.