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...
Today I learned that the Lightning turn into cheap-shotting little bitches when things don't go their way. It wasn't just Kucherov. Point should have gotten an extra penalty for the fight. He was swinging on Werenski before Zach showed any intent to throw down. Point also tried to land multiple elbows to the back of his head. I'm fine with a team that's trailing upping the physicality and trying to goad their opponents into taking penalties, but that's not the way to do it.
Kucherov's hit can only be characterized as an intent to injure. He made no attempt to make a hockey play. I think he'll get 1 game only because the league doesn't want a suspension to decide the series, but I think that type of play deserves at least 2. He's just lucky Nutivaara wasn't seriously injured ala Chris Draper. Actually, I hope he does play one more game so Foligno can get another shot at him.
Certainly not the ideal opening period for the playoffs, but it's the score at the horn that counts! I don't even know what to think right now. To come back from a 3-0 hole, and only one of the team's 20+ goal scorers lit the lamp? Almost seems to good to be true. Fantastic gut check by the team, and the players who didn't get off to a good start, in particular. Good decision by Torts to stick with Bob. TB played their game all night, and the Jackets just kept getting stronger as time went on. This wasn't a fluke, this was a team rising to the challenge. Can't wait for Game 2! I'm gonna have to find some highlight videos. That may have been the most hard earned win in Blue Jackets history.
Interested to see what the team has done to prepare for this series. There are a couple of things they have had trouble dealing with all season. One is aggressive, tight fore-checking. That will surely come into play this series, as TB has the ability to do that with multiple lines. The second is teams that collapse in front of their own net and clog passing/shooting lanes. I haven't watched enough of TB to know if that's part of their strategy, but they would be smart to utilize that if the Jackets are getting good offensive pressure. Both of those things can be adjusted to, but CBJ hasn't shown the ability to do so on a consistent basis.
Lots of things to feel good about from the game. PLD on the scoresheet again. Bjorkie adding puck distributor to his bag of tricks. Texier w/ his first goal of what I expect to be many over his career. Bob getting an extra night off before the big dance and Korpi w/ a good showing. It was great to see scores from so many different players, especially after having to lean on Bread for the win last night. Team looks much fresher than it did gong into the playoffs last year. Playing TB certainly looks like a David/Goliath situation, but stranger things have happened. There's nothing quite like late season/playoff NHL hockey. Hope it's a fun ride.
OOPS!!! I guess I was blinded by optimism when I glanced at the PHI/CAR score. 4-3 CANES w/ 3:00 to go in the 3rd. Go Flyers!
This season has been frustrating at times, but I gotta say it set up an exciting closing night for the season. Jackets w/ a comfortable lead (no jinx) @ Ottawa, and the Flyers up on the Canes going into the 3rd. Keep it up Flyers!
Heck of a 1st period! Bob's playing out of his mind. Bread w/ 3 assists. This is a real playoff atmosphere against a top tier team, and the Jackets are looking as good as they have all season. Great start to a tough road game.
Great response by the team after a slow start. A huge win to move back into the playoff picture, but there's more in play than just the point totals. Not only do the J's have a game in hand, but the rest of the sched for MTL is about as brutal as it gets: @WPG, TB, @WSH, TOR. As they pointed out on the telecast, TB and TOR may choose to rest some of their top players, as their playoff seeds are already locked in. CBJ may also benefit from BOS resting players for their upcoming game. The Predators are the toughest game left on the J's sched, and considering NSH, WPG, and STL are locked in a battle for 1st in the West Central race, it will likely have a playoff atmosphere. But the J's have 3 games against teams w/ little left to play for. With a proper 'no jinx' clause, I think the J's playoff outlook just moved from a coin flip to a much higher percentage.
I was very happy to see Bjorkstrand get two big goals tonight. I have always thought that he has the potential to be a 30+ goal scorer, but he has so often disappeared on the ice. Over the last two months or so, there has been a marked improvement in his overall engagement. He's going into to the boards to fight for possession, supporting his linemates well, and doing many of the little things that create offense. It took some time, but it seems that his efforts are starting to result in more scoring chances for himself, and he certainly has the shot to make them count. The period right after the trades was disconcerting, but things are starting to come together for multiple players.
Another game Thursday night with big implications for the Jackets' playoffs outlook is WSH @ CAR. With the Caps being favored in that game (Canes best result against them for the season is a SO Loss), the Jackets would have a chance to move to within 1 point for the 1st Wild Card spot in the East. The Jackets' sched after MTL includes two top teams (NSH, BOS), but the others (BUF, NYR, OTT) look very manageable, if the J's play up to their abilities. The Canes have a similar lineup w/ PIT & TOR likely being favored, but also playing PHI x2 and NJ. I believe the J's would have the ROW tie breaker if the teams end up tied in points. Hopefully the opportunity to avoid a 1st round matchup against TB provides the inspiration to power through the remainder of the regular season.
Anderson - 2nd
The team seemed to have a different attitude last night. The win against the Pens was big, but there were still times when some players just didn't seem to have their heads in the game. There was a great camera shot of Josh Anderson on the bench between shifts (some time after his goal) where he had a look of total engagement, like he couldn't wait to get back on the ice. That's the attitude the team needs to sustain through the rest of the regular season. Dzingel and Werenski getting on the score sheet was a big boost as well. A big win against a good team and a couple days off is just what the team needed. I hope they can continue to play up to their potential. They really need to get into the top Wild Card spot or higher. Caps or Pens in the 1st round is doable. Bolts or Isles I don't feel so good about.
I agree in regards to this season, and also seemed like this game showed some changes in strategies that I can't say I've seen from the team/coaches in the past few seasons. The defensive efficiency against the Caps' top line was outstanding. I think Ovi was held to 1 shot for the game. Much of that work was done on the forecheck and in the neutral zone. CBJ players were picking off passes all over the ice, and WSH was rarely able to get into the offensive zone w/ any organization. It also seemed like there were fewer odd man rushes and breakaways given up compared to recent games. I hope this is just a preview of what's to come for the remainder of the season.
On the offensive end, there was indeed a marked increase of East/West passing deep in the slot, especially on the PP. One of the things that's been driving me crazy all season is the tendency to pass around the perimeter w/o managing to get players into space or shooters in good positions. Many times it has seemed like the defense knew exactly where the puck was going. While the new look didn't exactly result in an explosion of goals, it did create a huge disparity in scoring chances (I think it was at least 3/1 in favor of CBJ). I'm thinking this new strategy will really start to bear fruit against less talented teams than WSH, and goalies than Holtby.
I don't know where this came from, but could it be the influence of Martin St. Louis? I think he was just added a few weeks ago, and I can't think of any other major changes. Whatever the case, I feel better about the team after last night than I have all season. Quite the turnaround after a losing streak to go on to sweep a West Coast trip, and then thoroughly outplay the defending champs. Looking forward to the game against the Isles tomorrow. The team looked like it had a ton of confidence after the game.
Happy ending for the season opener. Maybe better this way than an easy win; get that first dose of adrenaline and dopamine with the sudden death goal. Credit Howard and Larkin for keeping the Wings in the game. Jackets looked like the stronger team for most of the game, but strong goaltending and a couple of bad giveaways made it closer than it probably should have been.
Nash and Duclair appear to be good additions. Korpi looks like he's improved his positioning and overall play. Nutivara seems to have improved a bit also. All the big names performed as expected. Dubinsky looked better than he has in a while. The only disappointments for me were the 3rd D pairing, and that Bjorkstrand didn't seem to be involved in many plays. As long as the team cleans up the giveaways and defensive lapses, this should be a fun team to watch. Hope they can carry this momentum in to the home opener and a strong start for the season.
Defense has been up and down, but the mistakes have been very costly. That 3rd pairing is definitely worrisome. My hope is that they can find a way to be a solid unit until Jones comes back, then they will have a chance to become a real strength. There's a lot to be learned when you don't have your best D-man to lean on.
Korpi not getting any breaks tonight. Can't blame him for either goal, just hung out to dry. He's looked sharp otherwise. I hope Kukan learned his lesson about clearing the puck after that 1st goal. Really liking this Duclair guy, from what I've seen so far. He's making positive plays every shift.
I don't think they ever showed the goal cam. Not sure if there was any replay at all. I think maybe the ref was saying the whistle blew before any goal would have counted.
Nice 1st period. Wings looked to have a bit more control in the first few minutes, but Jackets certainly became more dominant as the period wore on. Getting lots of good looks on goal. Could have easily scored 2-3 more goals in that period. Defensively, they seem to be doing a good job of not giving up too many clear chances. A couple of turnovers early on, but the D-men were managing to play pretty tight to their men. Good to see the 4th line have some effective shifts. I wasn't able to catch any of the preseason games (which may be a good thing), but it looks like the team is off to a good start.