follow me on twitter

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kardiac Blue Jackets Have Made Me A Believer

The Columbus Blue Jackets had just fallen to 3-0 in the first period of game four of the best of seven series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It looked as if their window to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals was slowly closing.

Watching from home as I had done for the past three games, I wasn’t worried. In fact, armed with the knowledge the previous three games were all come from behind victories, I watched the next two periods with relative calm.

The Blue Jackets did not disappoint, as they slowly clawed their way back to a 3-2 deficit more than midway thru the 3rd period. Center Ryan Johansen once again showed a flare for the dramatic, as it was his power play goal that would cut the Penguins lead to one.

Yet there was still work to do. Columbus needed at least one more goal to send the game into overtime, or they faced the prospect of heading to Pittsburgh facing an elimination game. I still believed they could do it. After all, this team has literally faced adversity all season long, and every time it seemed they bounced back even stronger.

Within the final minutes, my best friend and I sent dozens of text back and forth. Such as who would 
be the hero to send the game into OT (I said Johansen, naturally), and also that if the CBJ were to pull out game four, I would get tickets to game six.

As the game entered the final minute of regulation, it appeared that it was over. Then Brandon Dubinsky became the hero Columbus fans were looking for, and my friend and I are of course heading to game six on Monday night.

The outcome has typified what is now a very different hockey club. A few years ago I had almost written off the Jackets completely. Yet now the mixture of veterans such as Dubinsky and RJ Umberger, along with rookies such as Ryan Murray and Boone Jenner—both of whom are playing like veterans—has transformed this franchise into a contender. They are also making me believe that the Blue Jackets—who have established three franchise firsts in the past three weeks—have a legitimate shot to win this series.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why Columbus Blue Jackets Must Finish Strong

The Columbus Blue Jackets have made the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs for only the second time in franchise history. While many see that in itself as an accomplishment, I hope that they will actually win a game this time around, regardless of their opponent.

One of the youngest teams in the league, the Jackets have already been playing playoff hockey. Their wins in back-to-back games against Phoenix and Dallas this week proved they can not only get it done on short rest, but that they don't necessarily need home ice to be successful. Center Ryan Johansen has provided an offensive spark that has the entire league buzzing. And goalie Sergei Bobrovsky seems to have finally regained the form that earned him the Vezina Trophy last season.

But to say the Jackets should be happy just to be in the playoffs is complete nonsense. Unlike the 2008-2009 season, where they had a playoff birth locked up with several games to go, the Jackets had to fight almost tooth and nail to finally earn a spot in this postseason. Should they get swept in the first round, even if their opponent happens to be the Boston Bruins, the effect that could have on team morale could be devastating.

And even if it isn't demoralizing, does that mean I should be happy the CBJ made the playoffs again, only to be swept? Certainly not. This team does have a lot of young talent, but with that comes a bit of inexperience. And I don't necessarily agree you learn more by losing than you do by winning. Because mistakes are made even in victory. But the only way a team learns how to win in the postseason is by getting that first playoff victory.

I am not saying I believe the Jackets will fail to win a playoff game. Yet I think it is our responsibility as fans to let the team know the bar has been raised.