Sunday, April 28, 2019

Dubi Calls Me Out; Bread Delivers

After last night's thrilling overtime win in Boston, Brandon Dubinsky was asked about the atmosphere in Nationwide Arena he expected this coming Tuesday.  His response was something to the tune of 'It will be a hell of a lot louder than it was here'.  Challenge accepted Dubi.  Game on!

Second round playoff hockey comes to Nationwide Arena on Tuesday for the first time ever.  It will ooze awesomeness.  I am already getting pumped up.  You don't get that many kicks at this can, and my head is right to leave it all out there Tuesday night.  So thanks Dubi.  I can relax, and let it flow now.

Last night, Artemi Panarin scored two goals.  One of them truly sublime to tie the game up in the third period.  Overall, he played a very good game, but dang, on both of his goals all of his skill was on display.  I'm keeping the blinders on, focusing on this chance in the playoffs.  The Jackets were able to gain a split on the road, and now come home for the next two games. 

I am pleased for Matt Duchene, who I think has played well in this second round.  I think all the players have had some struggles at times in this series, Boston is going to do that to you.  They are a very solid team.  There is a lot of hockey to be played yet in this series, but once again the Jackets are coming home and playing with house money.  This is going to be fantastically fun.

Meanwhile, kudos are due to the Cleveland Monsters as well, who advanced to the second round of the AHL playoffs.  The parent club has pulled a lot of talent from there on this run, its good to see the depth that we have down there.  Liam Foudy scored two goals to help advance the Jackets.  That's really good to see.   Jarmo moved a lot of assets to vault the parent club forward, but the Monsters have played tough down the stretch, and done well so far.  Here's hoping they can keep it going forward.

Second round action comes to Nationwide Arena on Tuesday.  It will be awesome.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

How the Open Scrimmage Helps me Gird for the Second Round

Jarmo Kekalainen's suggestion to open the scrimmage to the public yesterday drew about 5,500 CBJ fans.  I had intended to take some vacation and go; my wife already had the day off.  But I hurt my myself (upper body, day to day) and couldn't go.  But this break, and an event like that are helping me to get my edge back as a fan.

You see, I let it all hang out in that series against Tampa.  The notion of cheering hard when the least little thing went bad meant nothing to me.  The funny part of game 4, is that I don't even remember Tampa tying the game, we were cheering so hard.  Ears pinned back, letting it loose, particularly when things looked like they were going sideways.

For you see, no one could do anything to me that hadn't already been done in an opening round of the playoffs.  The precision of the Detroit sweep, the angst of the Penguins, the crushing losses to Washington, there just wasn't much that I hadn't seen.  The pundits predicted another Detroit-like sweep.  So I had nothing to lose.

But when the CBJ swept Tampa, I was hit with this overwhelming sense of joy and relief.  And I have struggled since then to regain my edge.  I now feel I have something to lose again in this next round, and I have to find a way to let go of that if I'm going to be the fan I need to be in this upcoming round. 

So the rest and recuperation has been helpful for me, after a trying season of fandom.  But I can feel it coming back now, the edge and the excitement.  I'll be ready to take on any disappointments with aplomb, keep my head in the game, and make Nationwide the most competitive environment I can.  I'm ready for it now, and we just need to get this Boston-Toronto game 7 out of the way so we can see ahead.

We pushed hard on Tampa, and they did not have an answer.  Our second round opponent will not be hampered by that problem, and will respond when pushed.  Likewise, we will be called on to do the same.  It is going to be fantastically fun, and I am really getting pumped.  But I needed the break for this one.  So thanks for sweeping them boys!

Round 2 starts later this week.  Uncharted territory.  It should be awesome!

GO MONSTERS!! (up 2-0 in their own playoff series!)

Monday, April 15, 2019

Stage Set for Another Epic Game 4

The Columbus Blue Jackets have a somewhat checkered
Seth Jones
playoff history.  But one thing you CAN say about their playoff history is that they produce epic Game 4's when they are in the playoffs.

Game 4 against Detroit in our first ever playoff series, when they came back from multiple deficits.  The too many men penalty at the end that sealed the sweep for Detroit, and the shower of beer cans that followed.  That's called real time performance feedback folks.

The epic game 4 against the Penguins, with Dubinsky's late tying goal, and Foligno's overtime winner replaced the Detroit game as the best Game 4 ever.  What a game that was, and what a moment.

Last year's game 4 saw Columbus waste a pretty good performance by Bob because the scoring had ultimately dried up.  Washington evened the series at 2 games apiece in that one, as their march to the Cup was just getting started.

This year's game 4 may prove epic as well.  The Jackets come into this game with 10 players having scored in the series.  It is to be hoped that the well of scoring is far from dry, and my personal hope is that Texier gets his first playoff goal to add to the list of scorers.   A dangerous and talented Tampa Bay team will come into this game looking to win a game and stay in the series.  For the Blue Jackets, the 4th game is the hardest game to win in a series.  We will get to see if they can rise to that occasion.  A win would be epic, to say the least.

Oh, by the way. There haven't been any epic Game 3's, as our Game 3 misfortunes have usually set the stage for an epic Game 4.  Until last night of course. 

Big game coming up tomorrow, should be awesome!  Maybe even epic.  We'll see where this takes us.

Before I finish, I wanted to note that the Cleveland Monsters have clinched a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs!  Well done Monsters! 

Tomorrow the Blue Jackets go for their first series win.  Fans need to come prepared to battle for this one, I don't think it will end easy.


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Unfortunately, The Jackets Must Win at Home to Accomplish Anything

David Savard
BREAKING: Tampa Bay Coach Jon Cooper announces that Braden Holtby will take the net for the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight against the Blue Jackets.  Ha ha ha!  NOT! 

The Columbus Blue Jackets stunningly return home today, up 2-0 against a powerful Tampa Bay Lightning team.  It is well chronicled that the Blue Jackets lost the series last year against the Capitals after leading 2-0.  Even the Tampa players are trying to get the Blue Jackets to believe that this is the same scenario.  It is not. 

However, Blue Jackets fans must steel their hearts and prepare for adversity.  We must be prepared to cheer when the chips are down.  Its playoff hockey, and we are part of this fight.  Sometimes it hurts.  Oh, don't we know it.  But don't give up the ship.  Tonight we cheer hard no matter what.

Reverting to the previous subject, reasons why this is not the same as last year's 2-0 lead, it is important to remember that coming back from a 2-0 deficit is a rarity, not a regularity.  Part of the reason that Washington was able to do it so effectively last year, as my little quip above indicated, they were able to re-insert their starting goal tender who had inexplicably lost his job down the stretch.  That completely changed the dynamic of the series, and Holtby got hot and took them to the Cup.  Tampa Bay already has their starter in net. 

Tom Reed, over on the Athletic (subscription required) wrote a good article today about the Blue Jackets needing to create better home memories.  He's right.  But last year, when up 2-0, this was uncharted territory for the Blue Jackets.  This year it is not, and the angst from losing that series last year has simmered all year.  They will not approach tonight's game the same way as they approached game 3 last year.  Tampa Bay is a veteran, experienced playoff club.  They, and the Blue Jackets, know that it is not over until you win four games.  The vibe here reminds me of the 1990 World Series, when the Reds stormed past a powerful A's team that just never got started.  So it would behoove the Jackets to put these guys away.

Huge game tonight in Nationwide Arena.  The Jackets need a home win.  We, the fans, need to buckle it on and bring it, no matter what happens.  We are setting up for another memorable game 4 in Nationwide Arena.  But first, we need to take care of business tonight.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Not Your Big Brothers Blue Jackets; 3 in a Row is a Trend

Wennberg Sits for Texier
The Columbus Blue Jackets have punched their ticket to the playoffs for the third consecutive year.  That, my friends is a trend, and a refreshing one.  Congratulations to the players, coaches, and management for this achievement.  It is colored somewhat by the threat of facing the Tampa juggernaut in the first round. 

And naturally, since I have been critical of Panarin, Artemi Panarin scored a goal, won the shootout on his forehand (his forehand is lethal) and Bobrovsky's stellar play got us into the playoffs against the Rangers.  Panarin continued his good play against Ottawa.  That's fine, I am happy for him, and I am happy for Bob.  Now the real test starts, and now the real evaluation starts.  So they get a clean slate, just like everyone else.

But keep in mind the illusion these two games represents.  Panarin had space to operate.  That space will disappear in the playoffs.  Think back to the Boston game, where every time he touched the puck he was jumped by one, sometimes two Boston players.  That was playoff hockey.  But the slate is clean.

Alexander Wennberg's regular season finally ended with a whimper.  A lost year for him.  He was replaced in the lineup by rookie Alexandre Texier who showed a willingness to shoot, and scored his first NHL goal, thereby getting half of Wennberg's goal total for the year in 2 games.  Ouch.  Wennberg needs a reset.  Well, the playoffs are clean slate, and if he can crack the lineup, he has a chance to make some noise if he decides to shoot the puck.  Hopefully next year goes better for him.

So the second season has started.  All teams are 0-0, and the schedule should drop later today. 

Best of luck Jackets!  No pressure, everyone expects you to lose in 4 games, so relax, have fun, work hard, and play your game.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Notice to General Managers: Beware Panarin

Yvenko, because I don't have a picture of Panarin.
Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets were swarmed under by the Boston Bruins, 6-2.  The Jackets suffered from some bad puck luck early, when an air ball (puck) from behind the net landed on Bobrovsky's back and rolled in the net.  The next goal was a good greasy goal by Boston, and they were playing with a lead from there.

These last few games from the Jackets have seen the puck luck change for them.  The pucks that hit the pipe on the Western road trip went in these last few.  Tonight, they went in for Boston early, most of which they earned, and it snowballed from there.

According to Bob McKenzie, reporting on Artemi Panarin prior to the trade deadline: Panarin is an elite offensive player, who can drive your offense.   To which I would add the qualifier, "unless you really need it".

Tonight the Blue Jackets got down early, through no fault of Artemi Panarin,  Down two goals early, with a playoff berth on the line, Panrin was a non factor.  He launched shots from the blue line, as if he was a defenseman, but don't look for him to get down to the crease and score the dirty one when your team needs it to make the playoffs. 

If I seem bitter about this, its because I am.  He did these things last year.  He won't do them this year, because he is not committed to this place and this organization.  Rest assured Mr. General Manager.  He will be more committed to your organization when you give him the long term money that he wouldn't accept from this organization.  Oh yes.  If you had pro scouts in the barn tonight, you would have seen your year 3 of your 7 year $10 million dollar contract.

Panarin set a record this year for points for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Chances are, Mr. General Manager, the bar is a little higher for your organization.  Don't get fooled by this.  He will have set that record, and we may yet miss the playoffs.

Tonight was a team loss for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  It was not an individual loss.  But there was no ability to come back once they were down.  That's when 'elite' players are supposed to make the difference,  Tonight, they did not.  And I felt, watching the game, that Panarin's effort faded as the game went on.  Boston felt they could physically shove him out of his game.  They succeeded.  That was a much less frequent occurrence last year, hence my frustration.

It will be interesting to see if Montreal makes the playoffs because of Shaw's dirty hit on McQuaid, as he would have been very useful in this game.  That would mean the Player Safety Committee had a direct hand in who did, and did not make the playoffs.   That's a scary thought.  Nonetheless, McQuad wasn't available tonight, 5 days after a blind side head shot that wasn't deemed worthy of a suspension.  And they Blue Jackets coughed up goals right and left near the crease, where McQuad makes a living. 

Bad juju all around.  I'm good though.  I told the beer vendors good-bye, see you next year.  We have a long and close relationship.  With so many passengers like Panarin, it's hard to believe this team can win its way into the playoffs.  In reality, tonight should be treated as a "that's hockey' night.  It was Boston's night, they got some bounces, made some good plays, and came away with the win.  In a seven game series, you figure that will even out.  But the Jackets are not in a seven game series.  They were looking for 'elite players that can drive offense' when they were down 2-0.  You could find them easily.  Unfortunately, they were all wearing the Bruins colors tonight.

Maybe the Monsters will make the playoffs.


Monday, April 1, 2019

Winning The Game in Hand

Boy, what a week.  The CBJ have now won 5 games in a row, and are situated in the first wild card with 3 games remaining.  What a dramatic change from the western road trip, where they seemed unable to do anything right.  They righted the ship in the Vancouver game, and have been playing superlative hockey since then.  Their current style of play reminds me strongly of 'the streak' when they won 16 straight games.  During that time they were allowing LESS than 2 goals a game, an amazing feat.  At present, they appear to have recaptured that mentality, and if they can run it into the playoffs (not yet a done deal) they will be a handful.

I really didn't know a 8 days ago where this was all going.  Well, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth, and the rending of garments all ceased with the Vancouver game.  I whined at the goalies.  Bob dropped 3 shutouts in the last 8 days.  Yowza!  He looks very determined.  I am very happy for him.

I whined about Panarin.  He seems to have rediscovered what ever it was he misplaced, and has been playing increasingly effective hockey over the last week.  He is once again hard to take the puck from, and has been incredibly effective.  Props to the Breadman. 

The return of Nick Foligno to the team seemed to steady them.  And Torts may well have found 4 lines he will be comfortable rolling.  During 'the streak', Torts had 4 lines he just rolled.  He would come into the post game presser and say, Naw, we aren't looking for any particular matchup, we're just rolling our lines.  To go far in the playoffs, you need to have a fourth line that will dominate its match-ups.  The Nash, Foligno, and Dubinsky line is doing that, and Torts will throw them out against anyone.  This puts them in a very strong position.

Most importantly, they won their 'game in hand', which is when you have played one fewer games than the other guys.  A game in hand will help tie breakers, but ultimately will burn you if you don't win it.  They went into a trap game against Buffalo, on a back to back, and turned in a very solid performance.  The impact of the game in hand is shown in the standings, vaulting them up into WC1. 

Three games left.  They are all very important.  A tough Bruins game, and two trap games.  It's important to outwork the opposition in each of these games.  They may be able to do that.  This next week will tell us a lot.  More to come.