Cannonball: 12-5-4, Proving ’em wrong

Where we stand

Five games away from having completed the first 26 games (we have been doing it in blocks of 13 here at the Rant), 12-5-4 (28 points) and tied for third in the Metro is not something that was really predicted anywhere (cough, cough, cough, cough). It has been a lot of fun so far and I think we can keep it rolling…….

Back 2 Back

CBJ play a league-high 19 back to back games (tied with Sabres) and to date have played six of them. Our record is 7-2-3 scoring 17 points in 12 total games played. We are 1 for 6 currently in winning both games in a B2B.

With the exception of the Calgary loss, in the month of November the CBJ win when there is a day between games. If this trend continues into December than we have a good shot of starting the last month of the year 4-0-0. Downside is the fifth game is a B2B, and is against a divisional opponent in the Islanders.

May the Blue Jackets continue to be the holiday gift that keeps on giving…..

Points Leaders

We have 8 players with double digit point totals after 21 played. They are:

20 Cam Atkinson – 8-12-20

20 Alexander Wennberg – 5-15-20

19 Nick Foligno – 8-11-19

17 Brandon Saad – 6-11-17

16 Zach Werenski – 5-11-16

13 Sam Gagner – 8-5-13

13 Scott Hartnell – 5-8-13

10 Josh Anderson – 7-3-10

Only two of our regular players (with more than 10 GP) have a negative +/- in Dubinsky (-2) and Jenner (-6). Neither have played very well, but they also have not played all that poorly either. There is a question as to whether these two will be able to adapt to our new style of play, but I think it is way to early to make any type of call and Dubinsky specifically continues to contribute in the faceoff circle.

Short Look Ahead

Our next five games feature two home and three away games. All of the teams we face are currently in the bottom two of their divisions. The first four all have at least a day between each game, only the fifth game against the Islanders is a back to back.

We have played very tough against some of the stiffest competition in the league and seemed to wilt a bit against the lesser teams (based on standings). I look for this stretch to snap that trend. I think we can take all five of these games, with the only coin toss being the Islanders on the second leg of the 12/9-12/10 B2B.

I cannot not understate how fun this season has been thus far. Let’s Go Jackets. Keep it rolling!!!!

Cannonball: Corsi Be Damned

Tortorella hates corsi. Everyone has reported on it because if our record was reflective of our corsi average, it would look a lot more like last year’s record. Today, Down Goes Brown (on THN.com), lists us as a confusing team that is punching above its weight, but will come crashing to earth soon enough. I disagree. No, I strenuously disagree.

The NHL season is a long winding road, where to find success some things have to bounce your way. You can’t have key personnel constantly injured, you have to find a way to get a point on nights where it just isn’t going your way, and your players have to somewhat ham & egg it through the season to keep the wins coming. We are ham and egging it right now and winning games in the part of the schedule where we weren’t supposed to. That’s why this is so exciting. Boone Jenner, Scott Hartnell and Brandon Dubinsky have been mostly invisible. Ryan Murray has been really inconsistent. Saad was preordained as our goal leader, but has not taken up that mantle as of yet. BUT, Wennberg is tied for 2nd in the entire NHL with 13 assists, Foligno not far behind with 10 assists. Anderson and Gagner have both been big contributors (Anderson is 5th in the NHL with a 26.3% shooting average) and  Zach Werenski has been as advertised (not typical for us CBJ faithful). Prior to his injury Seth Jones was making it known that he belonged on that top pairing.

When Seth Jones got hurt, I thought we might be in for a rough stretch as he has been an integral part of our early success. It hasn’t been the case thus far. We definitely miss him, and are a better team with him, but we have still managed to find a way to continue to pick up points.

Our special teams continue to be special (Atkinson is tied 6th in the NHL with 4 power play goals), although our power play has diminished over the last few contests, and we still have yet to give up (or get for that matter) a short-handed goal to our opponents. The kill has been especially noteworthy and for the first time that I can remember as a fan, it doesn’t feel like taking a penalty is automatically giving up a goal or when we don’t give up a goal on the kill that there should be some type of special in arena giveaway.

Look, it doesn’t hurt that teams have been starting their reserve goalies when facing us. It doesn’t hurt that teams we have played have had key injuries when we faced them (hello, upcoming Steven Stamkos-less games), but we have beaten quality teams both home and away and won the first of many upcoming tough divisional games in what might be the toughest division in the NHL.

Next week will be telling with five games in a seven day span, and hopefully then others will begin to see that this team has the ability to be better than they are now – but continue to find ways to win.

Last time I checked they don’t determine the playoffs by corsi score, and everything I have ever read about corsi points to it not even being relevant until the home stretch of the season (even then, mostly as a signal that a team is getting hot at the right time). Early season, just win baby. The Jackets are doing just that and will continue to get better along the way.

Let’s Go Jackets. See you in the playoffs.

 

The list: Halloween/Superhero Edition

Periodically I am going to create a list involving the Blue Jackets roster. It is going to be total non-sensical fun. Remember that. It’s for fun.

For the preseason list I have taken a few members of the CBJ roster and tried to see which comic book superhero they most resemble or share attributes with.

The Hulk: Dalton Prout – This is a no-brainer, with the only difficulty being I can’t envision any aspect of Dalton Prout’s demeanor matching up with the mild mannered Hulk alter-ego Bruce Banner. Also, I doubt Dalton has the science chops of Bruce Banner. As for the green guy version of Bruce Banner, ole number 47 seems to do a pretty good hulk smash.

Ghost Rider: Brandon Dubinsky – While I don’t think Dubi has made any deals with the devil, I don’t think it would take much convincing to get people to believe he is possessed. He has that Johnny Blaze edge, with the nice-guy persona mixed in there too (who wouldn’t buy an engagement ring from Dubinsky’s jeweler of choice?). In my far too rampant imagination it would be awesome if his head burst into a skull of flames every time he began to lose it on the ice. Crosby is already a little scared of him. This might be unfair to the flightless bird’s captain.

Deadpool: Scott Hartnell – A foul mouthed, always under the skin of whoever is in front of them wise-ass – this just fits too easily. Can we all agree though that as much as we like Hartnell we will pass on seeing him in a red skin-tight spandex suit?

Captain America: Brandon Saad – While not the captain of the hockey team, to be Captain America you must actually be American (unwritten rule). He seems to always have a smile on his face (even after a puck tried to take most of his teeth last year) and even has that combed to the side hairdo like Steve Rogers. Leads the team in offense, leads the avengers in his spare time.

Beast: David Savard – Go to the team website. Go to google images. Go anywhere you can see a picture of David Savard. Tell me I am wrong.

Wolverine: Boone Jenner – Somewhat ill tempered, operates on his terms, is the guy that bring the team together. While I wish Boone had that adamantium skeletal system two years ago when we lost him to the back injury, he is currently the glue to the Jackets physical presence on both ends of the ice. I also would like to think that if he had Wolverine’s claws he would do us all a favor and use them on Pittsburgh fans.

Nightcrawler: Cam Atkinson – Quick, can show up out of no where thank to teleportation, and always an integral piece of the story, just never the lead. I am sure if I did research there would be an issue where Nightcrawler delivered a dog to someone – I just am not that into researching for these lists. No word if Cam was found at a circus like his comic book alter ego.

Lois Lane: Sidney Crosby – Always in trouble or starting trouble and letting someone else fight their battles. If Superman hadn’t spun the world against its rotation would have died under a pile of dirt. I wish someone would do this and take last year’s cup out of Pittsburgh.

 

BOF report: 10/22 @Stars (W 3-0)

Basically:

I am not going to lie. Starting with two losses and about to face two of the better teams in the western conference did not give me a lot to be excited about. Then we took back to back W’s against Chicago and Dallas. There is work to be done for sure, each game has seen long stretches in our own zone whereby you get the feeling that we are living on borrowed time, but a shutout win in Dallas was a great feeling. Also have to feel good about the production of both Anderson and Werenski who have 7 points between them in four games (Anderson 2, Werenski 5). The Captain Nick Foligno has four points equaling 10.8% of his point total for the SEASON in 15-16.

The Overreaction:

We beat two playoff teams, lost to a Stanley Cup finalist and to a Boston team that is surging out of the gate. Werenski is on pace for 102 points! Just starting engraving his name on the Calder Trophy now.

Final Thought:

Sergei Bobrovsky has looked great in the first four games. In the losses he didn’t get any favors from the guys in front of him and even with the Boston scoring fest he is boasting a .935 save average through four games while taking an average of 32.5 shots per game. I know that we are only four games into the season, but with a least a game in hand on every other team in the metro division that Jackets have stayed in the mix early. Typically that wouldn’t be worth noting, but after last year’s start I like the idea that we can still aspire for the playoffs after the third week of the season. We have to get better in the faceoff circle.

Point Scorers for CBJ:

Goals: Anderson, Calvert (EN), Hartnell

Assists: Dubinsky, Jenner, Jones, Karlsson, Werenski

 

BOF Report: 10/15 Sharks (L 3-2)

Basically:

We looked frantic in the first, and for about half of the second, period(s) on the puck. Not only in our own zone, but also on offense. I like the idea of the Jackets playing fast, but being fast without control has never worked for anyone in any professional sport. We settled in towards the end of the game and had some chances that should have been converted (so did they) that could have made for different ending. Bobrovsky has looked good two games in and the great line shuffle to find cohesiveness in-game began. I don’t like that we are 0-2, but am not going all Michael Arace yet in exploring next year’s draft options.

The Overreaction:

Here we go again. Pack it in kids, eliminated from the playoffs before the end of freaking October. Our top line might not make have enough to play third line on some other clubs right now. We have to finish the easy looks. Anderson had one in the first period, Karlsson in the second. Stop thinking and put the puck in the net. Another thing. Don’t talk to me about conditioning ever again, conditioning has nothing to do with the ability to pass the puck from one Blue Jacket to another successfully. Can we also please never put Prout and Nutivaara on the same defensive pairing. That was hard to watch. Get it together!!!

Final Thought:

Bobrovsky had 35 saves for a .946 save percentage. He is doing his part, now we just need to get the offense rolling and that cannot be done if we cannot keep possession of the puck coming out of our own zone. Luckily, other than the Penguins, all other metro division teams have at least one loss or overtime loss so the hole is not as deep as it could be. Chicago comes to town on Friday, have to find a way into the win column.

Point Scorers for CBJ:

Goals: Anderson, Werenski

Assists: Atkinson, Hartnell, Wennberg

The list: Preseason Edition

Periodically, I intend to post a list akin to a high school year book (think “most likely to _____”). It’s for fun, try to remember that.

Most likely to have a breakout season: Alexander Wennberg

Player I would most like to have a beer with: Scott Hartnell

Biggest surprise of the season: Bobrovsky is healthy for the entire ’16-’17 season

Most likely to throw all of the sticks on the bench onto the ice in pregame: TIE Brandon Dubinsky/John Tortorella

Best hair: William Karlsson

Player that is not allowed to meet my wife: Alexander Wennberg

First player to take penalty minutes: Boone Jenner (it’s a positive, he plays aggressive)

Player I would let babysit my children: Nick Foligno

Player I would definitely not let babysit my children: Cam Atkinson (no more pets)

Biggest impact in first 13 games: Sergei Bobrovsky

First CBJ player to drop the mitts this season: Dalton Prout (who else?)

Most likely All-Star game selection: Brandon Saad

Surprise All-Star game selection: Seth Jones

Name that isn’t household yet, but will be: Zach Werenski

 

16-17 CBJ Preview – Three for and three against CBJ success this year

We are making the playoffs this year. There, I said it. As a longtime fan of the team am I biased? You’re damn right I am. But, I think that a closer look at the (almost) complete roster and you might see why I am seeing sunshine in our schedule rather than the biblical level of downpour we endured last year. I will do my best not to rehash what I have already written in the player profiles that have been posted already (read them!), but some redundancy is unfortunately inevitable.

Before jumping into the season outlook, a note about the national coverage of the CBJ. There isn’t any. What limited coverage we receive typically is regarding a “your season’s over, time to start selling off players to playoff contenders” . I don’t fault any of them for it. Before last season we started to get a little taste of coverage from the likes of Pierre LeBrun and Greg Wyshynski, but that was quickly dashed when we fell down without ever getting out of our starting gate. I bring this up for one reason: because we get little to no coverage many of the pundits are predicting for us to finish in the bottom two of the metropolitan division based on what appears to be last season and no new significant player pieces. I don’t think they are correct. We finish third in the metro or take a wildcard spot this year. Bank on it.

Three things that catapult us to the playoffs:

  • Jenny Craig. I don’t actually believe any of the squad has run out and joined weight watchers, but all of Torts talks about the team being out of shape clearly resonated with the players. Dalton Prout is reported to have lost 11 lbs. Bobrovsky apparently went on a voluntary hunger strike and shed 17 lbs(!) as he believed it would increase his flexibility and help keep those groin issues at bay. Based on reports coming from the Dispatch team, it appears many came into camp this year a lot more play ready than in years past. Was it simply the threat of Torts grueling camp schedule or was their some locker room leadership regarding off-season activities? Who cares, this is a significant improvement based on reports from the last three years.
  • That blue line. Youth springs eternal on our blue line, but of greater import is the fact that we now possess a defensive core that has the ability to competently move the puck. Yes, they all need to further develop, but I think this lineup puts us ahead of the curve when it comes to adjusting to the new speed and possession style that appears to be overtaking the NHL. Werenski has the potential to really shine on the power play and I am truly excited to see what influence Brad Shaw has on our penalty kill after building the Blues into a PK machine the last two years. Outside of Gagner, Brad Shaw may be the biggest addition of the off-season.
  • The Hartnell decision to stay. I may be over-emphasizing this, but I don’t take it as a small thing that Hartnell decided to pull his approved team list and stay in Columbus. This guy has been around the NHL for a longtime and I cannot believe he would want to spend his last few seasons as an NHLer with a team that he didn’t believe has a real shot at winning.

Three things that lead to me buying makers mark by the case:

  • Bobrovsky’s health. It’s hard not to be excited about the showing Bob had at the world cup of hockey. There is not a doubt that our season most likely goes along with Bob’s save percentage. The top of the metropolitan division contains two teams (Pens, Caps) that are going to pepper the net early and often. While we have some quality youth coming up between the pipes, if Bob goes down again – or starts in the same manner that he did last season, give me a makers single ice cube and a labatt chaser. Hell, just put them in the same glass, I will make it work.
  • Offensive hesitancy. In order to score, you must shoot the puck. While Wennberg’s tendency to pass rather than shoot has been well documented, the truth is looking for the perfect play has gotten in the way of making really good plays for years on the Jackets offensive end. We finished 21 in the NHL in average shots on goal per game (29.1). Again, Brad Shaw is a big coaching addition that helps us to limit the shots against per game (we had the 4th highest average), but to win you have to put shots on frame and capitalize on some of those rebounds.
  • Lack of line chemistry. With last season in the bag, it seemed the lines were changing not by the game, but by the minute. Maybe Torts garnered some information about player skill sets that help us going into 16-17, but if we immediately go back into the cycle of having to change lines on the fly to try to generate offense it will be a red flag in my book. By no means am I saying set the lines and live with them until the end of the season, but chemistry is developed over time and there has to be some patience in letting our leaders in the locker room lead on the ice.

Here we go, this Thursday is the first game of the regular season. Bring on the Bruins, bring on the cannon, and bring on a season that proves many national pundits wrong.