Yep. The Preds are a notch above the Jackets pretty much across the board. The biggest factor, IMO, was Saros. He's a very solid goalie, and made some tough saves look routine. CBJ had quite a few good scoring chances in game 2, but Saros is the type of goalie you really need to get him out of his comfort zone. CBJ can beat the Preds, but they will have to out work them for a full 60 minutes. The biggest concern for me was the sloppy turnovers, especially Werenski. Going back to last season, it seems to be a habit of losing focus or misreading the situation. I hope he can clean that up, he needs to be a leader on defense. I feel good going forward, though. I think we'll look much better against most of the Central, apart from TB and NSH, with CAR and DAL probably close to an even split. If we struggle against DET and FLA, then I'll start to worry.
Yeah, I think Bjorky's shot is even better. He's one of the guys I think just needs to let loose and not wait for the perfect shot. Those two on the same line would be crazy, especially on the PP. I agree w/ the notion that they may have went too high w/ the 1st round pick. I saw some articles that said Chinakhov would have probably still been on the board for our 3rd round spot, or even lower. Maybe it was Jarmo making a statement that the team really wanted him and think he is that level of talent. Could be a show of confidence or an extra incentive to leave the KHL.
I know everybody's highlight reel makes them look like an all-star, and it's not NHL competition, but that shot looks legit. He's not afraid to rip it as soon as a lane opens up, which would be a welcome addition to the offense, IMO. One of the things I see that contributes to the lackluster offense is players waiting until they think they have the perfect play. Most of the time that just gives the goalie more time to solidify their positioning. A guy who can shoot w/ velocity and decent placement from 15-20ft out can catch the goalie before they're set. Plus, it gives them something to worry about and makes them more vulnerable to backdoor plays. I've learned to be a wait and see guy in regards to any new player, though I can't believe Jarmo would take that much of a chance unless he was very confident that the only pick of the first 2 rounds would address the team's greatest need, which is putting the puck in the net by any means necessary.
This strikes me as a better move than I had expected. What I've seen of Domi is a tenacious, gritty forward w/ a decent all around skill set. Brings some emotion to the game, competitive. I think he'll be a good fit, and let's face it, any C that produces >30pts a year is an upgrade at this point. Anderson's combo of size and speed made him a unique commodity, but he lacked consistency, and unrealized potential is only worth so much. I hope he stays healthy and finds success w/ the Habs. Domi should bring some grit and energy to the scoring lines and PP, potentially a big boost for the 2nd line. He seems like the type of player that Torts would like, but of course that depends on how well he adheres to the system. I would have considered it a good straight up trade, the 3rd rounder makes it feel like a winner for CBJ.
Both times the Leafs beat Korpi, it started w/ CBJ defensemen (and at least 2 other players) caught deep in the offensive zone while the Leafs quickly transitioned the other way. I get that Jones and Werenski are both exceptional skaters who can pinch in, and then get back on defense most of the time. But that's the thing; most of the time isn't all of the time. And when those few times result in breakaways or odd-man rushes w/ some of the best finishers in the league, it becomes too much of a risk, IMO. The Jackets probably need some offensive production from defensemen if they hope to win the series, but they can accomplish that from the point. All of the CBJ D-men were playing down low frequently, which just seems odd considering how much emphasis is put on maintaining the defensive structure. I hope they dial it back for the rest of the series.
Whatever happens w/ the defense, the team needs to do something to get Andersen off his game. Maybe put Boone and Fligs on the same line to crash the net, screen, anything to get him out of his comfort zone. Gerbe would be a good option, he always brings energy and effort. Perhaps most importantly, PLD and/or Bjorks need to get on the scoresheet, one way or another. Pretty, ugly...they all count the same.
There's often a fine line between nervous and excited. Whatever it is, I can barely sit still! I just want to see the Jackets play w/ the same intensity and discipline as game 1.
This becomes very evident watching the replay. The Jackets never overextended themselves in this game. I seem to remember Torts making a comment this week about not chasing the puck. That's exactly the issue that had given CBJ troubles against the Leafs and other teams w/ lots of young, skilled forwards. Against both BOS and TOR you could see the defensive gameplan: keep the puck to the outside, play tight in the slot (and generally on the superstars like Matthews), and trust the goalie to stop everything he can see. I only recall one shift against TOR where the Jackets looked out of sorts, when they failed to clear the zone a couple of times. In both games, most shots were coming from the outer edges of the circles or high slot. Korpi is also playing very conservatively, covering pucks whenever possible, and not hesitating to hold for a faceoff.
It's a mature strategy, and so far the team has been very disciplined. I think it will be an effective strategy in general, and especially against a young team like the Leafs. If TOR can't get more high percentage chances, they will start pressing, which will likely lead to giveaways, breakaways, and penalties. CBJ looks comfortable playing their system, even if it feels like a stalemate for most of the game. TOR was already under pressure after a string of early exits, and game 2 will be a must win for them now. CBJ was also the much more physical team in game 1. You could tell the top Leafs' players were already getting frustrated, and they're not a real mature bunch to begin with. Nobody likes to lose and get beat up in the process. We will see how the Leafs respond in game 2, but I think if the Jackets can stick to the plan, they have a great shot to advance to the next round and feel confident going forward.
BOS was a good tune up opponent. They have better defense and goaltending than TOR, and they're likely one of the top 3 teams in the East. Beating them 4-1 is very positive, and there were multiple shots that beat the goalie, but hit the iron. It was difficult to tell if BOS was flat/disinterested, or if CBJ defense is really that good to keep their best players contained. Both teams were rather sloppy at times. Good for CBJ that they won convincingly, but still have some isues to work out. I was relieved to see how many offensive chances they were getting. Zach's goal was beautiful. His stroke looked absolutely effortless. I hope he lets it rip early and often against TOR.
I don't know if there's a right or wrong decision. I think both are capable of being very solid. One thing about Korpi is that he is extremely even-keeled. He just doesn't have notable ups and downs. Perhaps in this environment, where there will be no effect from the crowd one way or the other, Korpi will be better suited because of his consistency. Elvis is obviously able to catch fire and become nearly unbeatable, though there are still some moments when you can tell he's a little green. He can be a bit cavalier with his puck handling, which could be worrisome in a short series against an aggressive offense. The biggest threat from TOR is East/West passing, which is more on the defense than the goalies. Maybe Elvis can make more highlight reel saves, but Korpi's no slouch either. I would lean toward Korpi, but if Elvis is tearing it up in practice, that may be the better option. It's not a bad problem to have.
Agree on both points. Nash had a significant impact in the TB series. He consistently played sold defense in the neutral zone, which prevented the Lightning from crossing the blue line w/ speed. Also worth noting that the BOS series really started to go their way after Nash was injured. I think he would be an important contributor in facing a swarming offense like TOR.
Gerbe brings energy and heart, which are both at premium value in the playoffs. I don't know if Gerbe can make enough of an impact to justify taking a more skilled or experienced player off the ice. Robinson seems like a guy who could step up in the playoffs, and his speed can create offensive chances, especially against Toronto's D. Matteau seems to bring a lot of the same aspects as Gerbe, though much less experience. It really wouldn't surprise me to see Gerbe have a great game in the series; you know he will play w/ full effort every shift. But as you said, he's best used to bring a spark when needed. Looking at the other potential scratches, Gerbe doesn't stand out as a player who needs to be on the roster every game. Most of the other guys are in line to be part of the core of the club going forward; it makes sense to give them opportunities to get a taste of playoff hockey. Whatever happens, I have a ton of respect for Gerbe - he's earned every second of ice time he's played in the NHL - but it wouldn't bother me to see him dress for only a game or two in the series.
While I agree that they cannot keep up this pace and regress to the norm, I think the new norm will bear closer resemblance to the current streak than the first 30 games. The opening 1/3 of the season was defined by an unusually stout schedule and nearly every forward playing well below their abilities. Cam and Bjorks look to be returning to their level from last season. PLD and Zach have stepped up. There are still plenty of guys who are hit or miss for the most part, but it's a far cry from the beginning of the season.
Goaltending has far exceeded expectations and will likely see a dip. Still, winning games 3-2 or 2-1 is a realistic outcome these days, which didn't seem possible 2 months ago. 32 points in 29 games is barely over .500. Considering the number of games against non-playoff teams, and how well CBJ has played against the top teams of late, I think finishing .600 or higher is reasonable. Maybe that's overly optimistic, but I'm seeing a team that has been developing its identity, and is still growing. There will be a dip, but I think it will be a couple of minor speed bumps, not a significant trend.
Also, consider this: People started talking about regressing to the norm about 10 games ago. It hasn't happened.
Tightest checking I've seen from the team this season, probably since the Tampa Bay playoff series. The 3rd period in particular had the feel of a playoff game. Both teams played well, no open ice for anyone. The Jackets weren't just marking their assignments, they were very physical every shift. Impressive defensive performance against a team that can score in bunches when they start swarming.
What are people's opinions on whether CBJ could acquire a true 2nd line center this season? That has seemed to me to be the biggest weakness over the past few seasons. I thought Duchene would have been a near perfect fit for this roster; too bad that didn't work out. I think there's a good level of talent on the wings, but after PLD, the C position appears to be checking liners and utility players. Wenny has been given plenty of time to develop into a top line contributor, and I just don't see it happening. He contributes in other ways, but when the 2nd line C can't crack the top 10 in points in an offensively challenged lineup, that ain't good. A playmaking rent-a-player would help separate us from the rest of the mid-tier teams in the East, but I'm not aware of any suitable players coming up in the system. It seems like this needs to be addressed through trade/free agency at some point. Might as well make a push this year to increase the chances of advancing in the playoffs again. I think it would be worth giving up 1-2 mid-line D-men, plus 1-2 of the younger wingers to get a solid contributor at C that would sign for 3 or more years. I don't really keep up w/ trade rumors or know who might be available, so I'd be interested in what others think.
What you say is undoubtedly true, things only get more intense from here on out. What I think plays in the Jackets' favor is that their schedule was front-loaded w/ solid playoff teams. There weren't many "gimme" games in the 1st half of the season. The slate going forward is much more favorable, with 3xNJD, 3xNYR, 2xMIN, DET, OTT; plus several games against teams that are roughly on the same level as CBJ: MTL, BUF, WPG, NSH. There are also multiple "4pt" games w/ a chance to gain ground on teams currently ahead in the division standings: PHI, CAR, NYI. They still need to win the games they should, and probably steal some points here and there, but they're in a pretty good position to control their destiny, at least as far as qualifying for the playoffs.
You have to think that the team should see a boost with at least Cam, Bjork, Andy, and Peake looking like they'll return in the near future. The team needed something to change the direction of the season, and strangely it seems that suffering a ton of injuries is what did the trick. With the return of some of the better offensive players, and the possibility that they might have two solid goaltenders to close out the season, I think the team could settle in to a >.500 record in the 2nd half. I don't expect them to sustain their current pace, but they are getting to a place where they can stake a claim to either of the wild card spots, and even head into the postseason with a good amount of momentum.
Whatever happens, this team is a lot of fun to watch when they play with a chip on their collective shoulders. It looks like they're starting to figure out some things to increase the offensive output. I think the increased playing time for the young pups is going to pay dividends down the stretch; there will be some real depth in all four lines when everyone is healthy (knock on wood). There's still a good chance they'll be fighting for the last spot until the last few games, but the outlook is a far cry from where it was before Thanksgiving. It's a good time to be a Blue Jackets fan!
In the TB series, Nash was very effective in preventing the Lightning from getting through the neutral zone w/ speed. Forced quite a few turnovers, too. I don't know if he could have made a difference against Boston - Rask was just too good - but losing another capable defender was the last thing the team needed. The Bruins offense did look more potent in the games Nash missed.
So I guess you gotta go high on Rask...
Totally agree on Kukan. He's looked sharp most of the time. Nice passes, seems to have good hockey sense. All three of those guys are getting valuable experience in a high stakes atmosphere. It would be really nice to get at least one of the injured players back, as an insurance policy if nothing else, but it's all the more impressive that the team has gone toe to toe with the league's best playing with three minor leaguers on the blue line.
This team continues to impress me with its determination and resilience. Objectively, I think BOS is the better team on paper, and particularly when it comes to playoff experience. But the Jackets have managed to keep pressing onward. All 3 of these games could have gone either way, but if it weren't for one defensive lapse, the Jackets would have been 7-0 in the playoffs against the two best teams in the regular season. Not bad for a team that was in real danger of missing the postseason.
Atkinson - 2nd
Going into the series, I just wanted the Jackets to play up to their ability, and maybe they pull the upset over a juggernaut team. After tonight, I want the sweep, and I want it to be a blowout in the most embarrasing fashion possible. I lost all respect for Tampa.
Duchene may be the best true center the team has ever had. I love the way he buys time for his linemates to get in position. Just a damn good all-around player. I hope he sticks around.
With the 4th line forwards getting about 12 minutes of ice time in both games, it's clear that Torts is comfortable rolling the lines nearly evenly. I noticed Nash making some nice defensive plays in the neutral zone most shifts. I wasn't expecting the bottom two lines to skate toe to toe with this Tampa team, but we've clearly entered the Bizarro World of Blue Jackets hockey.
Last year against WSH, they played 4 OT periods over the first 3 games, which were all dogfights. In my recollection, the Jackets were already running out of gas down the stretch, and the 2OT loss in game 3 (along w/ the Holtby switch) took whatever they had left. This year, the team seems to be peaking at just the right time, and perhaps some extra juice remembering the disappointment of last season's end. I can't say it's a sure thing the Jackets will prevail, but TB had an absolute meltdown to end this game. With the likelihood of playing w/o their top scorer for at least one game, it's hard to imagine them going back to TB in any better position than needing to win the last 3 straight to survive.
When Ogie Oglethorpe calls you cheap and dirty...