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Posts Tagged ‘Columbus Blue Jackets’

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview Bonanza

In Hockey on April 16, 2014 at 6:35 pm

5281948Oh hey there, playoff hockey. Welcome back. Please, come in. Can I take your coat? Would you like a beer or are you more of a wine fan? Excellent, now please stay forever.

That’s right, we get playoff hockey back and I’m ready to actually do some writing for you loyal readers along with the binge drinking that comes with it. But as usual, work and video games got in the way of doing detailed breakdowns so I’m cramming everything into one post. I have avoided any preview material on the internet, so no one can alter my thoughts.

This is the part where I’m supposed to insert something funny before we get going, but I got nothing. I’m tired and the games are on, so let’s get this over with.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
The fun and loveable Blue Jackets have a chance because Marc-Andre Fleury will be in the Pittsburgh net during the playoffs and damn it, it will make for an entertaining series at the very least. But too much Sidney Crosby and not enough support for Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky means the Pens move on. Don’t worry, their fans will still find plenty to complain about. Penguins in six.

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
I have bounced back and forth on this series several times. Henrik Lundqvist vs. Steve Mason feels like it should be enough for me pick the Rangers alone, but I can’t help myself. Claude Giroux has been nuts after the team got off to a terrible start and he carries it over to the playoffs. Flyers in seven.

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings
If any team in the East might give the Bruins a scare in the opening round, Detroit is the one that could do just that. This is great for the game because it throws the Red Wings into a series with someone that they could develop an intense rivalry with. It should be deja vu for the Bruins as far as round one goes this year, but the result will be the same. Boston is too good. Bruins in seven.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens
Everyone is sleeping on this series but I think it will be an entertaining slugfest featuring the game’s best goal scorer and Canada’s only hope. Early advantage goes to Montreal as they boast one of the best goalies in the world while the Bolts’ MVP (Ben Bishop) is out for at least game one. That’s enough for me to take the Habs. Montreal in six.

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild
Everyone in hockey has been waiting for the Avs to come crashing back to Earth based on their unsustainable fancy stats numbers and a goalie playing out of his mind. They’ll play former division foe Minnesota who would be primed for an upset if there wasn’t a giant question mark in the net. Avalanche in six.

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Norris Division, we have missed thee. This series won’t be a throwback to the chaos that ensued during the Black and Blue Division’s heyday, but it’s going to be a war. St. Louis had the President’s Trophy in their sights before crapping the bed late in the year, giving us the matchup we all wanted one round early. St. Louis has been bad in every aspect of the game as of late and they’re going to need to get up for the Hawks before it’s too late. Chicago is too deep and the Blues have too many questions in net and on offense. Blackhawks in six.
Ed. Note: It was REALLY difficult to not rip on the Blues during that. Don’t worry, I’ll do plenty of that on Twitter.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars
Fire wagon hockey will be present in every single game of this series as both teams love to get up and down the ice. Dallas has been a blast to watch and they have the edge in net with Kari Lehtonen over, well, whoever the hell the Ducks decide to play in net. Both teams have a superstar duo and plenty of secondary scoring. But the Ducks have Cam Fowler. That’s enough for me to make my pick. Stars in six. #CamSucks

Want to read an actual preview of the series? Check out our buddy Pierre Canard’s in-depth preview.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
My preview for this series is that I drink a lot and wind up in the fetal position because Antti Niemi can’t keep the puck out of the net. Yeah, I’m not going into much detail. Let’s just say I’m not optimistic and I don’t wanna talk about it and JUST LEAVE ME ALONE. Shit. Kings in six.

That’s it. If you want something more in-depth, I’m sure you can find about 5,283 articles on each series. Want more of an in-depth answer from me on the series in the West? Follow me on Twitter and I’ll be sure to answer. Also, follow along for the retweets, especially if you don’t like the Blues.

Columbus Blue Jackets 2013-14 Season Preview

In Hockey on August 26, 2013 at 11:48 pm
Can Sergei Bobrovsky replicate his Vezina Trophy winning performance? He's going to need to be the top cop on duty once again for the Jackets to contend.

Can Sergei Bobrovsky replicate his Vezina Trophy winning performance?

2013 Recap
Everyone in the hockey world was predicting the Blue Jackets to be the worst team in hockey in 2013. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m so damn happy that wasn’t the case.

Backstopped by (disputed) Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, the Jackets made a serious push to make the playoffs for only the second time in their history. Yes, they fell short, but for maybe the first time in franchise history, the team’s front office took a significant step forward in actually acquiring the pieces to be a contender, and it showed when they dealt for Marian Gaborik and his gigantic contract from the Rangers.

But despite the inhuman play of Bobrovsky and the efforts of a sneaky good defense, the Jackets were ultimately done in by the lack of production by the offensive unit. Yes, Gaborik was good when he was acquired. But this team’s leading scorer when it was all said and done was Vinny Prospal who scored only 30 points.

Oof.

In all, it was a fun season for what proved to be a really likeable hockey team. And we got #Lumbus out of it thanks to a strange camaraderie the team’s PR staff developed with the Los Angeles Kings, which can’t be overlooked.

Forwards
General Manager Jarmo Kekelainen identified the team’s glaring need for more goals, adding Nathan Horton to the fold to go along with Gaborik on the right side. Good thing they have a pair of talented centers to pass them the puck.

/Sees top-scoring centers were Mark Letestu and Artem Anisimov

Uhhhhhh, oh. At least both wingers are healthy.

/Remembers Horton had shoulder surgery

Aw shit…

Look, I like the way Letestu performed last year and Anisimov is a nice player, but if this team is going to really challenge for a playoff spot, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Johansen have to take their games to another level. Offensively, those two are the most gifted offensive centers and it’s up to them to find some consistency and get the puck to Gaborik. I like the intangibles Dubinsky brings, but two goals in 26 games is mind-boggling. Yes, he can pass it a little bit, but I’d like to see him shoot a little more.

Good news for Lumbus fans is that youngsters Cam Atkinson and Matt Calvert had nice years for the team last year and one should evolve into the team’s top left wing. Vets RJ Umberger, Nick Foligno and Jared Boll bring some physicality to the forward unit as well.

I love the possibilities of this lineup, but man do a couple guys need to elevate their game for the Jackets to hang in the Metropolitan.

Defense
The Blue Jackets finished ninth in the NHL in goals against average. Yes, lots of that had to do with the goaltender. But the defense deserves at least a little bit of credit. The trio of Fedor Tyutin, Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski provide a nice veteran presence. One guy that has gotten lots of criticism (sometimes rightly so) because of his advanced stats is Johnson, but he’s the team’s best puck-mover on D and he really seems to enjoy what is going on with this organization.

Those three, combined with youngsters Nikita Nikitin, Tim Erixon, etc. give the Jackets a solid group that will be charged with keeping the puck away from Bobrovsky. Look for prospect Ryan Murray to come out of junior and make the roster this year and give the team the franchise defenseman the team has never possessed (sorry, Rostislav Klesla).

Goaltending
My best friend is a die-hard Flyers fan, and he told me before last year that Bobrovsky would be better than the space cadet in Philly despite the major difference in talent. I thought he was crazy. I was very, very wrong. I loved what Bob did for this team. In front of him, the Jackets played with confidence and that’s something that didn’t happen in the final four years of the Steve Mason era. Despite his ridiculous numbers, he’s still going to be under the microscope this year. It’s going to be interesting, that’s for damn sure.

Backing up is journeyman netminder Curtis McElhinney, who won’t see a ton of time because this team is going to ride Bobrovsky for much of the year.

The Hat Trick
1. Bob the Top Cop
Sergei Bobrovsky is going to play more games in a nine-month period than he ever has in his career. I thought a two-year deal for Bob was a great move by Kekelainen, and now he has to show that he wasn’t just the product of a shortened season. In his only full year as a starter, Bobrovsky wore down at the end of the 2010-11 season and lost his job as Flyers starting netminder. Think about that for a second.
How will he fare as the main guy for an entire season and will he cave as the defending Vezina winner? I can’t wait to find out.

Not being a member of the Flyers has helped so far.

2. Finding a Top Pivot
I know I already covered this, but someone is going to have to take over on the top line and get the puck to Gaborik. Letestu is a smart player and had a nice year last year, but is he really a top center?  Yes, the team added a pair of centers in Marko Dano and Alex Wennberg at the draft, but those two are a few years away. Will Dubinsky take over that spot? He’s going to have every chance to. Ditto for Johansen.

3. A New Wave of Foes
Columbus has spent the last few years playing in the tight-checking Central Division. Those days are gone and the offensive skill waiting for them in the Metropolitan is not something I would be looking forward to if my team switched divisions. It may sting for a team on the upswing, but I won’t be surprised if there’s a drop-off from having to face Crosby, Malkin, Giroux, etc. all season. Yes, the decrease in travel should help, but it won’t be an easy task.

But man, will those games against the Flyers be fun.

Prediction
The rebuild has gone well so far, but I don’t think this team is ready just yet. Yes, they’ll be fun to watch and I love the energy around this squad and organization. The Blue Jacket fans have been through hell in their 13 years of existence and they deserve a winner. But I don’t think it will be this year. They’ll compete hard, but fall short in a loaded division. Sorry, Lumbus. Sixth in the Metropolitan.

Must-Follow Blue Jackets Twitter Feed
It doesn’t get much better than the team’s official account. They interact with their fans well and interact with other teams in a fun way. These guys are one of the model feeds in the sports industry, along with their pals from LA.

I am Ryan Thomas, and I hope the Jackets win every game against the Flyers this year. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22, because why the hell not?

The Weekly Six-Pack, July 27

In Football, Hockey, Pro Wrestling on July 27, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Normally, I feel the need to start this off with some sort of musing, but I’ve spent the last week playing uncle to my niece and two nephews. So the only thing I can come up with after all that time is that I’ve gotten each of them hooked on old school Street Fighter II for the Super Nintendo. And yes, I’m very proud of this.

That said, strap in kids, here we go.

Predators match Shea Weber offer sheet
What had been looming over the hockey world for the last week was answered earlier this week, as Nashville emptied their payroll to match the Flyers’ monster offer sheet for captain Shea Weber. And honestly, good for the Preds. I said it last week, if they let Weber go, Nashville is on the fast track to becoming the Atlanta Thrashers, 2.0. But GM David Poile swallowed hard and kept the team’s best player in the fold. By doing so, Poile saved the franchise’s credibility and appeal to not only the current cast, but future free agents. In addition, having Weber’s presence means that guys like Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and Jon Blum can fill in with a veteran mentor. So good for you, Nashville. The last thing an expanding market needs is to turn into what the Thrashers used to be.

Rick Nash heads to Broadway
FINALLY! After five long months of being unhappy in what might as well be hockey purgatory, Nash gets sent to the New York Rangers for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a 1st-round pick. Of course, like most hockey analysts (something I am far from), I like the deal for the Rangers more than the Jackets. New York gets a power forward to help soften the blow of Marian Gaborik’s injury, and they didn’t have to give up any of their top young forward like Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan.

For Columbus, this isn’t the type of return I’m sure GM Scott Howson was looking for. Yes, he got two NHL-ready forwards and a very good prospect on defense in Erixon. But even though he didn’t get the 30-goal scorer I’m sure he was after, he didn’t get totally hosed and get 30 cents on the dollar like I thought he would. Then again, based on what Howson’s original asking price was, I’m not shocked with the return he got.

Dubinsky and Anisimov will step in right away, but the one that intrigues me the most is Tim Erixon. By adding Erixon, the defense could be considered one of the best in the Western conference when healthy. Yes, I know, I’ll probably regret that statement down the line. But on paper I love what they’re building on defense in Columbus. How if only the team could find a way to lose Howson as GM, they just might find a way to contend.

Alex Semin heads to Carolina
Another guy that I was very interested in just where he would be playing next year, Semin inks a deal to head to Capitals’ division rival Carolina. I love that the ‘Canes got him for one year and it’s similar to what Detroit did a few years back with Marian Hossa. Semin gets to play with some very talented players in the Staal brothers and Jeff Skinner, but his added offense could very easily make the Hurricanes the favorite in that division. On top of that, he’s coming in to a locket room with stable leadership, something that hasn’t really been the case in the nation’s capitol the last few years. I love the deal for each side and I would be very surprised if Semin doesn’t score 30 goals this year.

Raw 1000 turns back the clock
Like many people my age (I’m 26, if that helps), growing up was a blast because every Monday night was wrestling night. It was the Attitude Era and every weekly show was a blast just because of the antics of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, DX and others. So when I heard about the 1,000th episode of Monday Night Raw, I figured it would be fun to watch for the nostalgic factor alone. And of course, I was treated to some old names and faces that made me feel like I was a 12-year old sitting on the couch with dad every Monday night. This even included mom yelling, “I can’t believe you’re watching this crap.” Ah memories…

So it was great to see DX as a whole group, The Rock still carries himself like he never left the business and Lita and Trish Stratus are still SMOKING hot. While I was a little upset at the absence of Stone Cold and Edge, I was more let down with the wrestling product. Each week during the Attitude Era guys like Triple H, Chris Jericho, Edge, Eddie Guerrero and others would have some very entertaining matches each week. This show lacked that in a big way. So clearly the times have changed in that aspect. Regardless, it was a fun night to laugh about some of the best memories from a simpler time for me.

Chiefs training camp opens. Warning: May cause false optimism
OK, back to sports talk. Sorry about the detour. I know a lot of my friends have been chomping at the bit to get football back, and only now have I started to pay a little bit of attention. Of course, that means I’m likely subjected to another torturous season of watching the Kansas City Chiefs. And as bad as last year was, I’m optimistic in the early stages of camp just because the team went 7-9 last year without Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry for most of the year. Yes I know the Broncos have Peyton Manning and everyone thinks the Raiders are going to be better. But the Raiders are still the Raiders, the Chargers are still coached by Norv Turner and the Manning is one missed block away from ending his career. I’m probably going to remain optimistic until things start to go south. The fact that Dwayne Bowe isn’t in camp is a good start to that…

My encounter with an NFL running back
I’m closing the column today with an unexpected meeting that happened to me as a young teenager. I was spending some time with my family and my Godparents’ family in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in what I want to say was 2001. We were having a nice time when some of the football players for Coe College stopped by. There were three total, but two of them were twins from the state of Texas, one of whom happened to be Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson. My memory from that long ago isn’t the best, but I remember that night and how friendly Jackson, his brother and his teammate were to us. They were nice enough to play some alley basketball with us (stomping us mercilessly) and dance to the Cha Cha Slide in the living room (where I announced my status as the whitest of white boy dancers). The picture still sits in the living room of that house, and it’s amazing to just how far Jackson has come.

My Godparents became very close with Freddy and his brother in school and that has continued to this day. It’s also a cool little story for me to tell today, given that I never would have expected it back when I met Fred 11 years ago.