Prediction Time: Next 7

Here is how I did on the last 13 games: P= Predicted, A=Actual

Vancouver – P: W – A:L

Detroit –P: W – A: W

NY Rangers – P: W – A:L

Toronto – P: L – A: W

Pittsburgh – P: W – A: W

Nashville – P: L – A: L

Islanders – P: W – A: W

@Rangers – P: L – A: W

@Montreal – P: L – A: OTL

Minnesota – P: W – A: W

@Ottawa – P: OTL – A: L

@New Jersey – P: W – A: W

New Jersey – P:W – A: W

Predicted: 9-3-1  – – Actual: 8-4-1

Not bad if you ask me. For this round of predictions, I am only doing the next 7 games so that my final regular season prediction (we are going to the playoffs baby!) is the last 10 games. Let’s chase that President’s Cup.

Buffalo – The Sabres have dropped their last three. We are at home, Bob is in goal, this one’s not close. Jackets win.

@Buffalo – The Sabres have dropped their last four. We are away, Korpi is in goal, this one is closer, Jackets still win in the home/away back to back series.

@Philadelphia – We beat them in OT the last time we faced them, beat them in regulation this time. Jackets win.

Florida – We are 0-2 against the Panthers this season. I don’t think we get up for this one either. Lose a snoozer at home.

NY Islanders – Islanders are trying to keep Toronto at bay for the wild card. We are 2-1 against them, beating them 6-2, 7-0, and losing 4-2 at their place. Florida loss wakes us up, Jackets win 5-2.

@New Jersey – We just beat New Jersey in two of the most boring games of the season. We do it again in New Jersey.

Toronto – Another team fighting to get into the playoffs in that wild card spot. This one is close for two and Jackets pull away. We are getting into playoff form.

Predicted record: 6-1-0

Let’s Go Jackets!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prediction Time: Predicting the next 13 with 30 games to go

Current CBJ Record:  34-13-5 (73 points), 2nd in Metro

How we did in the last 13: Not Good. Predicted 10-2-1  Actual – 6-6-1

Game by game recap:

@ Carolina – Prediction – W    Actual – L 3-5

@Tampa Bay – Prediction – W    Actual – W 3-1

@Florida – Prediction – L    Actual – L 3-4

Carolina – Prediction – W    Actual – W 4-1

Ottawa – Prediction – W    Actual – L 0-2

Carolina – Prediction – W    Actual – W 3-2

@Ottawa – Prediction – L    Actual – W 7-6 OT

@New York Islanders – Prediction – W    Actual – L 2-4

@Nashville – Prediction – W    Actual – L 3-4

@ New York Rangers – Prediction – W    Actual – W 6-4

@ Pittsburgh – Prediction – L    Actual – OTL 3-4

New Jersey – Prediction – W    Actual – L 1-5

@Detroit – Prediction – W Actual – W 3-2 OT

Not so hot in the last thirteen, so on to the next 13! I do not think the CBJ we have seen over the course of the last 13 games is the team we will see going forward. If this was our “dip” I will take it. We have really missed Savard the last few contests.

The next thirteen games features 7 straight home games (defend NWA), 6 metropolitan division games, and only one back to back. It appears we are currently tracking to play Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs as long as we can hold off the New York Rangers in the metro standings. The trade deadline will also pass during this thirteen (3/1) and I have to believe some type of move is made, even a small one, to help improve the lineup for our playoff run.

On to the predictions!:

Vancouver – They have looked really soft in the two games I have watched. Jackets win at home, get the home stand started right

Detroit – After the way our last game in the Joe went, this is going to be must see TV. Really chippy physical game. Jackets win with Korpisalo in goal.

NY Rangers – The rangers are perpetually the team we give up bunches of goals to in short durations of time. Close game, Jackets win.

Toronto – Trap game. Toronto has great young talent and this game is squeezed between two metro opponents. Jackets lose in OT.

Pittsburgh – We are feeling good being home this long, win in front of a rowdy nationwide Friday night crowd.

Nashville – The team is already one foot on the five day break, drop a second game to Nashville.

Islanders – Last game in our 7 game home stretch. Jackets win holding Tavares without a point.

@Rangers – Rangers look to gain on the CBJ in the standings, Rangers win in Madison Square Garden

@Montreal – Price finally plays against the Jackets, Habs fans want blood after dropping two games to the Jackets earlier in the season. Jackets lose second in a row.

Minnesota – No streak on the line in this game. Bob and Dubnyk put on a show, maybe each team has some trade deadline additions? Jackets win 2-1 at home.

@Ottawa – Korpisalo looks to make up for the 6 goals he gave up against Ottawa on the last trip. Jackets win in OT.

@New Jersey – We remember the 5-1 thumping we took at home. Repay the favor, Jackets win

New Jersey – We remember the 5-1 thumping we took at home. Repay the favor, Jackets beat New Jersey for the second time in under a week.

Prediction for next 13: 9-3-1.

After this 13 game stretch, only 17 games remain before the playoffs!

Let’s Go Jackets!

Cannonball: Preview of the Predators

Tomorrow the Jackets travel to music city to visit Ryan Johansen and the Nashville Predators (6-3-1 in last 10). The Jackets have hit a bit of a skid as of late (5-5-0 in last 10) and have not looked good even in the games we have won as of late. With all-star weekend providing a much needed break to most of the team (except for Jones, Bobrovsky, and hopefully Atkinson now that Malkin is out) which may be just what they need. Not to sound like a grade school coach, but it just doesn’t look like they are having much fun out there right now.

The last three meetings between the Predators and Jackets have not been all that exciting with Nashville taking two out of three games played and all three were won by four goals. Both teams enter this game with a new marquee defender on the roster Nashville via trade (Weber for Subban) and the Jackets via draft (Werenski) and both enter Thursday sporting injuries on defense (Josi for NSH, Savard and Nutivaara for CBJ – Savard may be available).

Here is a quick team stats comparison:

Offense Ranking:   CBJ: 3rd  NSH: 12th

Defense Ranking: CBJ: 4th  NSH: 10th

Power play ranking: CBJ: 1st  NSH: 16th

Penalty Kill Ranking: CBJ: 8th  NSH:10th

Goals per Game AVG: CBJ: 3.30  NSH: 2.75

Goals Against AVG: CBJ: 2.32  NSH: 2.52

PIM per Game: CBJ: 9.1  NSH: 9.8

Shot Differential per Game: CBJ: .32  NSH: .92

Player Highlight:

For the CBJ Cam Atkinson just keeps scoring goals (second in the NHL only to some guy named Crosby) and has done so in the last two games even with being taken off the NHL’s #1 power play unit.

For NSH while former Jacket Ryan Johansen leads the club in points (36), Filip Forsberg has been coming on over the course of the last 15 days after a tumultuous start to the season. He is currently 15-17-32 with a -4 +/-.

Game Insight:

The current question is who will start in goal for the CBJ? Korpisalo has not been strong in his last full showing giving up six in a win against Ottawa (though he did stop the bleeding against NYI once Bobrovsky was pulled after giving up four), and Bobrovsky is coming off a game in which he was pulled (his third this season, Boston, Washington, New York Islanders). Bobrovsky has been the winning goalie in each start following being pulled thus far this season. With Bob’s selection as an all-star, I have to believe he starts against Nashville and then sits against the Rangers immediately following the all-star break. If Bob is in, we most likely win – rhyme optional.

Our vets have to get going. Brandon Saad is on a cold streak that has to end (right?), Dubinsky has been strong in the faceoff circle but only possesses a 7.7% shooting percentage, and Boone Jenner has been invisible for the majority of games this season. On the young guy side of the roster, no one has emerged as dependable in the faceoff circle with both Karlsson (44.8% face off wins) and Wennberg (46% face off wins) continuing to struggle. Luckily, the predators face a similar issue with their 3rd and 4th line guys struggling to get the puck off the dot too (Ribeiro 41.2% and Sisson 48.9%).

For me, this game is less about the Predators and more about the Blue Jackets getting back to better play. Our ten game record does not accurately reflect how poorly we have been defending or that we have gone back to primarily dumpling and chasing rather than possessing into the offensive zone. This involves playing more than one period per game well. We will be a playoff team this year and we have to start gearing up for that level of play.

Worthless stat:

So far this season, Nashville wins 65% of its home games and Columbus wins 65% of its away games

Interesting stat:

The Blue Jackets currently have ZERO players that have played in 10 games or more with a negative +/-. Even lifting the 10 game criteria only two are negative (Milano -1, 2 GP and Bjorkstrand -1, 5GP).

Let’s Go Jackets!

Cannonball: The streak, my fandom and avoiding the jinx

On November 29th the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. It didn’t seem all that significant at the time. Tampa Bay was playing without their all-star captain Steven Stamkos and we had just beat them at their place before we lost in a shootout to Florida three days prior. No one could have known that a shootout loss potentially cost us setting an all-time win streak record just as the NHL prepares to celebrate 100 years. No one could have known that win against Tampa Bay would start a streak that would bring so much media attention that even the guys that sound like buffoons when they mention anything ice related (Mike and Mike) would be giving it that coveted ten seconds before they jump into a stamps.com advertisement.

The guys that write about hockey for a living (outside of our guys at the dispatch of course) wrote about how this fluke would end soon and the team would finally revert to the Blue Jackets they expected – taking their place in the middle of the metropolitan trending towards the bottom. Fans of original six teams cheekily commented how it was cute that the CBJ was finding ways to win games against back up goalies and half-assed competition. We got to 10 straight and the editorial sports writers wrote about how we were defying all logic and our power play couldn’t keep this blistering success rate.

Then, in game 11 we played Pittsburgh at home.

The puck dropped and scoring opened with Sidney Crosby doing his thing batting an airborne puck into our net with an obscene amount of hand eye coordination. After that, it was all Jackets – all the way to a 7-1 win. Just after Foligno hugged Bob that night, the perspective about our Columbus hockey club changed. We went from a plucky bunch of guys punching above their weight to a threat. Top of the NHL in points. Top performing power play. A goalie, coach and rookie being mentioned as candidates for some of the most prestigious hardware the NHL has to give outside of the Cup itself. Hometown fans began scrambling to find out how the expansion draft would affect what is sure to be a dynasty. I became positive that I may never have to write on my blog ever gain.

Every year I pick a small self improvement project to stick with for one calendar year. Many of these endeavors have failed: going vegetarian (lasted 15 days – in retrospect this also was not self-improvement), going gluten free (lasted less than one day), learn a foreign language (banõ is about the extent of what I learned), learn to play the acoustic guitar (I have four chords that I am really, really skilled with as long as you only want to hear them one at a time with no consistent strumming pattern), and increase the business of my side consulting gig (success!). Seeing the above track record, I knew for the 16-17 period (this typically starts in the summer) I needed something that would be low on time investment and it had to fit in with things I enjoyed recreationally. Enter the Columbus Blue Jackets.

I have been a fan since we were blessed with a franchise as a part of the 2000 expansion draft that brought both the Jackets and the Wild into the league. I graduated high school in 2000, I was drinking beer with Jody Shelley and Rick Nash on campus on 15th avenue in 2002 (don’t calculate my age, just know I look a lot like my older brother – at least in his ID photo). When we made the playoffs for the first time against the Detroit Red Wings in the 08-09 season I could not wait for the first home playoff game. I sat with one of my closest friends in the highest seats that nationwide has to offer. Long before we became the 5th line, I spent over $200 (that I really didn’t have) on bourbon in nationwide arena after Detroit scored inside of the first minute never looked back sweeping us out of the playoffs.

I sat in Nationwide at the end of the shortened lockout season watching the Minnesota Wild on the scoreboard lock us out of the playoffs by winning and getting the edge over us via tie breaker. I celebrated our move to the eastern conference and no longer falling asleep on the couch in the middle of all our never ending west coast games. In 2014 I bought tickets to every home game in the playoff series against the penguins. I remember wondering if I had actually gone deaf as I left the stadium after our OT win in game four. I will never forget Dubinsky’s game tying goal or Umberger’s sprawled out poke to Foligno for the OT game winner. My wife and I took our then six-month old son to game 3, the first of many questionable parenting moves we have made – though my son (now 3) may be a bigger CBJ fan than I am playing hockey year round in our living room even though I never actually played the game myself.

The Blue Jackets officially  became a part of our family tapestry that year.

I remember only half-way joking that a fan would get to play if one more person got hurt in the 14-15 season. Hope abounded in the offseason prior to 15-16. I told everyone (much like all CBJ fans were doing) that this was our year, we were going deep in the playoffs and Joey was about to blossom into the all-star we all knew he could be. Bob was going to be Vezina Bob again. We traded for Brandon Saad. Ryan Murray was finally going to be healthy. We named a captain finally.

We sucked. We sucked bad in 15-16.

We traded Joey, fired our coach, replaced him with the coach that tried to fight another coach in the dressing room, and were still enjoying the privilege of watching David Clarkson remind us that Nathan Horton’s contract wasn’t insured every time his overpaid keister skated down the ice. Poor Rimer discussed Torts training camp every ten seconds trying to give us a reason to stick with the team and I think it took 30 games for the commercial with John Davidson telling us how we are here to play for the Cup came off the air. I watched all 82 games, even after being knocked out of the playoffs by Thanksgiving.

This brings us back to my self improvement project for the year. I watched the CBJ already, I wanted to get back to writing in some form, writing is easy (hahahahahahaha), so this would be a breeze. We were the league darling prior to the 15-16 season and our pieces had largely remained the same. I was cautiously optimistic. I had written out some preseason player profile and predictions, but I had not yet named this blog thing. Every pundit in the world was predicting bottom of the heap for us and I thought about a National Lampoons Christmas Vacation Clark Griswold Christmas night type melt down if we had another season like last year. JacketsRant.com was born.

Once the season began I learned two things:

  1. Writing, even about something you enjoy immensely is not easy. At least not writing something remotely interesting. Also if clever doesn’t come naturally to you, it isn’t magically going to come to you when sitting in front of your MacBook.
  2. Just because you write it, doesn’t mean anyone is going to read it.

I struggled finding what I actually wanted to write about, I really enjoyed doing the game predictions, but post game recaps added nothing that wasn’t already out there and bed outweighs staying up to write 10 out of 10 times.

A decision was made. I would write only about one out of every five games, and just give my own editorial about what I saw on the ice – no one was reading it anyway. I picked a game to start this tradition – our rematch with the Montreal Canadiens, they would look to avenge the 10-0 beating we put on them early in the season (my son was in attendance for this game too, he still thinks that when he goes to nationwide that we will hear the cannon every ten seconds).

Then we beat Pittsburgh 7-1. The streak was alive, we were legitimized in the eyes of the national media and I didn’t want to write a damn thing in fear that it would surely jinx us. I was convinced that if I wrote a positive word and expressed any public optimism that even with essentially zero readers that this would cause Bob’s groin muscles to eject from his body, Werenski would remember that he is just a rookie and David Clarkson would somehow be back on the ice giving me a karmic middle finger.

Instead, we won 16 straight. Instead Blue Jackets games weren’t just must see tv for my family, but almost everyone we knew. Instead I got text messages asking me about rules and strategy from non-hockey fans trying to understand the rules so they could claim to be the world’s biggest hockey fans come Monday morning around the water cooler. Our bandwagon was (and still is) taking on all comers. We not only finally began defending nationwide arena, we filled it up. Every game felt like a playoff game. It was absolute magic.

We were present for #16 over Edmonton. I will never forget it. My appreciation for what they accomplished and the timing of it (over the holidays) added something to it that is indescribable. This city wants to love this team. I want this city to love this team.

I am going to complete this writing project as I had planned prior to the streak. One game out of every five games. No deadline other than to myself. Unless of course, the Jackets win ten in a row and then no one would be happier not to write a word.

Cannonball: Jones Out & the Captain leads the way

Damn it Jonesy

Arguably our best overall defender, Seth Jones, is officially on IR for at least the next three weeks with a hairline fracture in his foot. Jones has led the team in ice time with an average of 24:14 per game. His presence is going to be missed dearly. Statistically he has been more than solid. With three goals and three assists, all at even strength though he had a game winning goal in OT, he is currently tied for seventh on the team in total points (6) with Josh Anderson. He is also tied for first, with Jack Johnson, in blocked shots at 21 and is sixth on the team in hits (14). With Jones out, it most likely means that Dalton Prout draws in on the last pairing and Murray gets pushed up to the top pair with Werenski.

I’m the Captain Now

Through the first ten games of last year’s dreadful season Nick Foligno had one goal, four assists, and a +/- of -9. Compare that to this year where Captain Foligno has four goals, eight assists, and a +/- of +4. Not only is he currently tied as the points leader for the Jackets (tied with Wennberg, 12 points), but he also has finally embraced the role of Captain by leading by example on the ice. On two separate occasions where the team could not seem to get the motor running, Foligno dropped the mitts and kick started the team into gear. He seems loose, has been fantastic  getting possession on the boards and through his play (rather than his words) has lead the team to a start that has the city of Columbus paying attention. May he keeping giving Bobrovsky that post game hug more often than not.

 

BOF Report: The Weekend Circus (W,OTL)

Basically:

Friday night against Montreal, I game that I was in attendance for, 10-0 Jackets. Saturday an overtime loss to St Louis. In both cases, most coverage outside of Columbus was more along the lines of how the other team played so poorly, rather than the Jackets playing well. Montreal was perfection. Everything went our way, Anderson’s backhanded flip into the goal was far and away my favorite moment, and Carey Price was on the sidelines. St. Louis was a little bit of back and forth (with plenty of sloppy play) but felt like it could fall to the Jackets in overtime after we possessed the puck to start OT for a looooong time. When Tarasenko made the move around Saad, it was over before he ever took the shot. McIllhinney was fantastic, Dubinsky continued to be MIA, and Jones (now out for three weeks with a fracture) continues to show just how high his ceiling might be.

The Overreaction:

5-3-2! 5-3-2! We are making the playoffs. Go ahead and have the shirts made. I don’t care if the Rangers, Capitals, and Penguins are the best three teams in the entire league right now (and all in the Metro) we are making the damn playoffs! Look at this start!

Final Thought:

Wennberg is looking like the player everyone thought he could be. Werenski is going to be an absolute stud. Jones gets better every week. The beginning of this season finally gives me hope that our young talent will pan out. It helps that Bob (and Mac against St Louis) are playing exceptionally well, but we have a strength in special teams to build off of and our 5 v 5 seems to be improving with each game. If our typically dependable players (looking at you Dubi and Boone) get going, it is going to be a really fun season.

Point Scorers for CBJ (St. Louis game only):

Goals: Anderson

Assists: n/a

Cannonball: Six games until first divisional play

Stars in Columbus

After starting 3-3-1 (7 points), the Jackets begin a busy November that includes four back to backs and their first three games against two divisional opponents (New York Rangers/Washington Capitals x 2). Tonight the Dallas Stars come to Nationwide looking to avenge the 3-0 shutout delivered to them in Dallas. Bobrovsky starts again in goal (he will have to rest at some point) and holds an 8-1-1 record against the Stars. The first match-up saw a goal from a pass off a linesman, Bobrovsky stonewall a flurry of shots in the second period after we returned to turning the puck over in our own zone, and the first game where the Jackets played all but 5-7 minutes consistently and well.

Dallas has the ability to to turn up the heat quickly with Seguin and Jamie Benn bringing both speed and scoring ability. Benn was out of the first meeting for a brief time taking a five minute penalty after mixing it up with Brandon Dubinsky. Murray returns to the lineup scratching Dalton Prout (who has been more of a liability than normal lately) and Dubinsky is clean shaven in an attempt to make any change that gets his offense going.

The penalty kill was a big part of the last game for both clubs, with the Jackets shutting down 5(!) power play attempts to Dallas wiping out two of the Blue Jackets advantages.

A tough schedule lies ahead, these early season points prior to metro play, seem more important than normal.

The Eye Test

An observation. In the games that we have won, we have done a much better job taking the puck off of the wall and possessing it down the ice. In the games that we have lost, it looks like we are simply whacking at the puck hoping for something positive to come about.

Possession crossing both blue lines is something that I believe separates the elite teams from the middling ones. If you want to have good offensive chances, the puck has to be on your stick. Dump and chase has never been our strongest suit.

The Excitement is Back!

After the 0-2 start, it seemed like it was going to be a glum task doing this writing challenge for the entire season. The last four games however, we have looked way more like a team that can compete in every game going forward. Seeing Foligno start well carries over to the rest of the guys, Bob is doing Bob things (the good kind), and Saad seems to finally be finding himself again in the early going. The young guys are hard to miss. Anderson and Werenski both are making names for themselves in Columbus (Werenski outside of Cbus too) and Seth Jones has a crazy high ceiling.

The excitement is back. Let’s Defend Nationwide. Let’s Go Jackets.