Monday, March 11, 2013

Gainer's Goal Crease: What's Going On Down at Nationwide Arena??

The Bob is like what up shut up!
Riding a five game winning and seven game point streak, the Blue Jackets are the hottest team in the NHL.  With the Blackhawks reaching 21-0-3 before losing the past two, someone had to take the mantel.  Why not CBJ??  In my last post, they had just lost to Dallas in overtime.  Little did I know that would be the first game of the seven game point steak.  Just a few days later, they lost another OT game to Chicago.  Then the magic started happening.  CBJ had been on the wrong end of many one goal contests throughout the first half of the season.  During this five game winning streak, they have defeated Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Detroit (TWICE!).  Those games, respectively, were 2-1 in OT, 4-2 in a shoot out, 2-1 in OT, 3-0 shut out, and 3-2 shoot out win.  The final two were this past weekend in a Saturday/Sunday home and home vs that state up north.  Yes my friends, the Columbus Blue Jackets finished their season series 4-0-1 against the Red Wings.

The first overtime win over the Avs was a sick wrister by Anisimov during a 4 on 3 power play.  With Umberger screening the net, the puck found its way in short side.  A couple nights later against the Oilers, Mason had a rough go and was replaced by the Bob (rovsky).  I was a little hesitant thinking they could beat a very skilled line up in the shoot out.  However, the CBJ once again proved me wrong.  Letestu and Jack Johnson buried shoot out goals to steal the win.  This past Thursday, I thought okay, it's the Canucks, just play it close.  CBJ lead 1-0 until early in the third period when one of the Sedin Sisters buried one.  It carried over to overtime (again!) where Matt Calvert made one heckuva play.  He squeezed in down past the defender on the boards, carried it down low, saw an opening in the slot, floated back in front of the net and when no one challenged him, he just sniped Schneider glove side for the win.  Great individual effort by C-bus' version of Matty Ice.

Riding this high, the team took on Detroit this past weekend.  On Saturday afternoon down at Nationwide, Bobrovsky threw his first career shut out as CBJ won 3-0.  Head coach Todd Richards felt so good about Bob's week in general, he told him to suit up the next day to play Detroit again.  This time, in Detroit, the game went into an extra stanza and a shoot out.  Similar to the Oilers, the Red Wings have just filthy goal scorers.  Matty Ice once again nailed the shoot out winner as he and Ryan Johansen both scored on a perplexed Jimmy Howard.  The Jackets now have 10 wins and 24 points.  They are now only four points behind the 8th spot and are even ahead of Edmonton, Calgary and tied with Colorado!

I mentioned last time that now is the time for them to make a run.  Somehow they are doing it.  The next five games are at Nationwide so they have a great chance at keeping it going.  It won't be easy with the Canucks, Blackhawks, Coyotes, Predators and Flames but then again, no game in the NHL is easy.  But if we've noticed anything about this team thus far, it is the will to compete.  Hopefully the Jackets will get more good news with the returns of Brandon Dubinsky and Anisimov in the near future.  Moreso, if they can stop with this injury bug, it would be great!


Goalie Bobrovsky - Dude, this past week he has gone 4-0 with an astounding 0.77 Goals Against Average as well as a save percentage of .972 including his first ever shut out.  I would venture to say he's the #1 the rest of the season.  Sorry Mason...NOT!

Youngsters - Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, Ryan Johansen, Tim Erixon, and Dalton Prout.  These guys have filled in nicely with getting major minutes.  The first three are forwards and the last two are defensemen.  With injuries never ending this year, these kids have stepped in and have more than just filled in, they've been excelling.

Sad Faces

Forward Derek Dorsett - After a hit, DD grimaced in pain.  A broken collarbone sucks and is likely out for the season.  It stinks for a guy who has really found a leadership role on this club.  He leads by example by playing each shift like it's his last.  His energy will be sorely missed.  I can't believe I just typed all those wonderful things about Dorsett.  He's made a believer out of me.

Goalie Steve Mason - After being pulled in the Edmonton game after surrendering three goals, the future is not bright for the former Calder winner.  Bobrovsky has really taken a hold of the starting job (thankfully!) and with it being the final year on Mason's contract, he will undoubtedly be shopped for this year's trade deadline or be flat out released this summer.  Still only 24 years old, Mason will hope another team takes a chance on him but his time in Columbus is over (finally!).


In case you haven't heard, the NHL Players Association has passed the new realignment plan for the new Eastern and Western Conferences.  This week the owners will vote on passing it as well.  Considering they were the ones who proposed it last winter, it should easily pass.  It will start this upcoming 2013 regular season and will be a trial for two seasons before evaluation.  Here's the breakdown:

The Red and Yellow will be the new Pacific and Midwest Divisions making up the Western Conference.  The Blue and Green will be the new Atlantic and Central Divisions making up the Eastern Conference.

In the Pacific you will have Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix.
In the Midwest you will have Winnipeg, Minnesota, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, St. Louis, and Nashville.

What is that you say?  Where's Columbus?  Fun fact - THEY ARE MOVING TO THE EAST!

In the Atlantic you will have Detroit, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Boston, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Florida.
In the Central you will have Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, NY Rangers, NY Islanders, New Jersey, Washington and Carolina.

To say the least, it's a game changer, no, a franchise changer.  This is arguably the biggest and best news in CBJ's brief 12 year history (don't count the full lockout year).  Why?  Simple.  The new division and overall travel.  There was nothing wrong with the competitive nature of the previous Central Division with Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit, but Columbus will trade any of those games to play the likes of Pittsburgh or the Rangers.  The travel alone is worth the move.  No longer will the team have to make several west coast trips during the season just to play in-conference foes.  That doesn't even take into account the money saved for travel costs.

Furthermore, this enhances the overall game experience through attendance and TV viewership.  Fans will be flocking to see the Penguins, Flyers, and Rangers 2-3 times a year in Nationwide.  Like I just mentioned with less west coast travel, the high majority of games on television will be at a reasonable hour here in Ohio.  Fans are more likely to tune in for the regular 7pm starts versus 10pm starts.  On top of that, I would imagine national television appearances would also increase.  When you play against major hockey market teams in the east, it's only natural to assume their games against Columbus will eventually find their way to the NBC family of networks.

What can we expect then next year?  First, you can expect a regular 82 game season and not a shortened 48 gamer.  CBJ will play the Atlantic Division teams each three times (yes, the Red Wings still 3x a year).  They will also play the West each twice, once home and once away.  That's 52 games.  That will leave 30 games against the seven teams in the Central.  The one negative from this entire process is that the West will only have 14 teams total and the East will now have 16 teams.  Eight teams from each will still make the playoffs so theoretically, it's easier to make the playoffs in the West.  The top 3 in each division will make the playoffs with 2 wild cards (best records) in each conference to round out 8 in each side.

New Rivals

Carolina Hurricanes - Or as most people call them, the Staal Family.  I don't foresee a great rivalry forming between these two.  In fact, Carolina doesn't really have a rival with anybody.  However, I can see this series replacing what Columbus and Nashville have been the past few years.  If not, there's always Washington!

Washington Capitals - Three years ago, this would have been epic.  Nash vs Ovechkin.  Now CBJ is Nash-less and the Crapitals stink.  Ovie has been seemingly lost since being named Captain.  Nobody has stepped up around him and their GM and Coach should be fearing for their jobs if they miss the playoffs this season.  Seriously, what is wrong with this team?  I bet they miss Boudreau meow... 

New Jersey Devils - With Brodeur hurt and being super old, the Devils future is bleak.  Their entire franchise is being built around Ilya Kovalchuk for the next decade.  Their GM has been great but he's always had Marty between the pipes.  Could be a long rebuild on the Jersey Shore.  What's this mean to CBJ?  Who cares...

New York Islanders - I'm a believer that the Islanders are a couple pieces and a new coach away from being relevant.  Couple that with moving to the Barclays Center, this team down the road could be a force led by former #1 draft pick John Tavares.  They are very similar to the Rick Nash led CBJ teams of the past.  Will they ever get over the hump?  A common question for both these franchises.

New York Rangers - Speaking of Rick Nash, this rivalry already exists and no games have even been played.  With Nash now on the Rags, Columbus fans will be out full force hoping we can topple the former franchise cornerstone.  His first visit back to Cbus will be fun as I expect fans to greet him fondly but as soon as the puck drops, YAH RIGHT!  Definitely a Chicago type rivalry in the making here with the skill the Rangers possess.

Philadelphia Flyers - Another instant rivalry considering how often these two teams hooked up trade wise under the previous Howson regime.  Voracek is tearing it up with the Cryers and I'm sure it's making CBJ fans a tad sad knowing they drafted the kid.  On top of that, they traded the pick that became Couterier for Jeff Carter and Carter lasted all of five seconds in the Union blue.  It's another reason for me to continue hating Philly.  I can foresee a St. Louis type of rivalry forming here.  Plenty of bad blood especially with the likes of former Flyer RJ Umberger. 

Pittsburgh Penguins - I've been to Nationwide on nights where the Pens come to town.  Oh my goodness, it's ugly.  It's borderline 50/50 Pens to CBJ fans.  It's troll city.  Does Ohio even need another reason to hate the city of Pittsburgh?  I imagine Columbus will join Cleveland and Cincinnati in hating that steel city with a strong passion.  It's also the closest rivalry and when they hook up, it should be a fun time for both fan bases.  This will obviously be the next Detroit rivalry for the reason I just stated.  It should be noted that these are the only games I don't cheer for the Blue Jackets.  Sorry I'm not sorry amigos...Go Pens