For the first time since 2008, and only the second time in franchise history, the Columbus Blue Jackets have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The postseason birth was clinched last Wednesday as a result of a 4-3 win over the Dallas Stars. Saturday nights season ending win over the Florida Panthers cinched up the 7 seed and top wild card spot. The Jackets now travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins for game 1 of the 7 game series starting tomorrow night at 7:30.
If there were ever a time to get on the CBJ bandwagon it is now. And if you’re on the fence and you’re a Cleveland and Cincinnati sports fan, well I have two words for you: Playoffs and Pittsburgh. If that doesn’t get the adrenaline flowing you may not have a pulse. I want to beat Pittsburgh in everything from football to hockey to marbles.
The Jackets come into the series on a wave of momentum going 4-1 over a five game stretch in a mere 7 days. That’s like the Bengals or the Browns playing on Monday night, two nights later on Thursday night and then again on Sunday and winning 2 of the 3.
I’ve professed my new-found love for hockey by making sure to preface it with the fact that I still don’t really understand what I’m watching. Though the picture is getting a little clearer, for example it’s becoming easier to pick up on sets they are running and seeing plays develop, it’s still all so new.
One thing is for sure, the CBJ mix of younger veterans and young future stars is starting to gel and become dangerous. Artem Anisimov represent that younger vet and has found the net at a career best pace down the stretch. Budding star Ryan Johansen continues to be “Mr. Clutch” and is suddenly being contested by another young star in Boone Jenner to make me wonder who the big name of the future is going to be in Columbus hockey.
For now, and especially into this hopefully long playoff run, the names to watch are Brandon Dubinsky and Sergei Bobrovsky. Dubinsky, to me, appears to be the heart and soul of the team. He hustles, he hits, he leads by example and with words. Bobrovsky is one of the premiere goaltenders in the league. As Bobrovsky goes, so go the Jackets. The goalie being good and playing well compares to an MLB team with an ace starter that they ride to the World Series. Using that example, Bobrovsky is Pedro Martinez. He’s that good.
Pittsburgh of course has the vaunted Sidney Crosby aka the best hockey player in the world. Say what you will about his whining and crying or taking dives for calls, when it comes down to it he simply is the best. There still is no definitive word on if Evgeni Malkin will be back for the series with our Jackets after a foot injury on March 25th put him on the shelf for an estimated 2-3 weeks. If he’s close , I can’t imagine them keeping him out. Then again, maybe their arrogance and feeling like they can put away the Jackets without him will keep him sidelined. All they are saying in Pittsburgh is how happy they are not to be playing the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. Interesting.
Wrap it up
Here’s the part that’s going to scare you: The Jackets are 0-5 against Pittsburgh this season. That said, 4 of those 5 games were hotly contested and could have gone the Jackets way. The prevailing sentiment after those battles was that Columbus needs to learn how to win the close games with great teams. And make no mistake, the Penguins are one of the NHL’s great teams this season and seemingly most.
I still think our guys have more than a punchers chance. The Jackets like to attack and hit and that disrupts the Penguins almost finesse style. It doesn’t hurt that Jenner, Anisimov, Johansen and James Wisniewski are hitting their stride on the offensive end.
Ultimately the biggest asset the Jackets have is Bobrovsky. The Penguins counter with Marc Andre Fleury, who is solid but not in the same galaxy as Bobrovsky. Remember: As Bobrovsky goes, so go the Blue Jackets.
And finally, it’s really simple: BEAT PITTSBURGH!
Metallica track of the week
It’s the playoffs and the sport is hockey. We have to get loud and we have to get aggressive. We also have Easter coming on Sunday, so why not go to our favorite story of Passover? This all means that, without any further ado, here is our MTOTW, live from Orion Music and More 2012 in Atlantic City, here is Creeping Death!