Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
As our Aaron Portzline has pointed out, the Jackets have better odds of winning the draft lottery than they do of making the playoffs.
Winning the draft lottery would be the best thing that happened to them since overtime of Game 4 at Nationwide Arena last spring. It would be much better than moving up two, three or four places now and lessening their chances at drafting Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.
Management will never say that, and the players will not even consider it. But, for the love of Alexandre Picard, the fans know it to be true. They have been through this too many times.
Through their first 13 seasons, the Jackets’ average conference finish was 12th place.
Their average first-round draft slot has been between No. 7 and No. 8. They are 0 for 12 in draft lotteries, which is just about impossible.
To put this in contemporary terms: The 2015 draft is said to be 10-deep on high-end talent, so the Jackets are not in a bad position right now. But they would be better off if they sank, rather than climbed, in the standings.
from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch,
It’s way too early to say if Nathan Horton is on the road to a full recovery from his debilitating back condition, the Blue Jackets cautioned.
But Horton’s presence at the morning skate on Thursday and his general outlook and attitude when he lunched with members of the front office this week have raised optimism that his career might not be finished.
Horton did not speak to the media on Thursday, and his agent, Paul Krepelka, said all comments on his situation would come through the Blue Jackets. President of hockey operations John Davidson said Horton had a “little light in his eye” when they had lunch with general manager Jarmo Kekalainen.
“There’s been some progress there. He is feeling a little better,” Davidson said. “I don’t know what that means in the big picture, but he’s better now than he was earlier this season. His whole attitude was different — better — than the last time we saw him.”
Coach Todd Richards chatted only briefly with Horton on Thursday, he said.
“In my heart, I’ve always believed he’s going to play again,” Richards said. “I still feel that way.”
from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch,
“We have 37 games to go,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “We have to win 25 of them to give ourselves a chance. That puts us in the mid-90s (in points).
“It’s not going to be easy, we know that. But we’ve done it before.”
The Blue Jackets have ended the past two seasons on stunning runs, barely missing the playoffs in 2013 and finishing as the No. 7 seed last season.
They recently tore through December with a 10-1-1 record.
“It’s in us,” right wing Jared Boll said. “We’ve shown we can do it.
“We’re not happy where we’re at. And it doesn’t look good, if you do the math. But we know it’s possible. It’s just important for every guy in this room to do more, to play better. We have to bring it every night.”
There are two huge hurdles in front of the Blue Jackets.
They are a whopping 14 points behind eighth-place Boston in the Eastern Conference, an almost insurmountable deficit even though they played three fewer games than the Bruins.
from Micael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
Some All-Stars, such as Sidney Crosby, suddenly get injured. Others, such as Brian Elliott, have no problem leaving a Caribbean isle when the call comes. The vast majority show up, do their bit for the sponsors, fill up recycling bins with plastic cups at the player draft and generally make a good time of it.
And then there is Sergei Bobrovsky. This game meant more to him than the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, or all of Latvia.
Bobrovsky was to make his first All-Star appearance Sunday night at Nationwide Arena, his building. Rarely do stars align like this for any player, anywhere. Never will they again for Bobrovsky.
Bobrovsky’s father flew in from Siberia to witness another crowning moment for a son whose first set of pads were homemade. It was all so perfect. And everyone knew how it would end, with Nick Foligno throwing a bear hug on Bob in front of a standing-room crowd and an international television audience.
It is not to be. A day before the All-Star break, Bobrovsky suffered an injured groin. He is a scratch — for another month, at least. There went the weekend.
from Matt Larkin of The Hockey News,
Sergei Bobrovsky’s misfortune looks like the last straw for Columbus in 2014-15. He’d already missed time with a fractured finger and brief illness, and his lower-body injury Wednesday night against the Winnipeg Jets looked grim. The extent won’t be clear until his MRI results come in, but Bobrovsky had to be helped off the ice.
Now it’s time for GM Jarmo Kekalainen to swallow his pride and realize this season wasn’t meant to be. If Bobrovsky is seriously hurt, it’s obviously a knockout blow for a team 14 points out of a playoff spot. And if the injury is, say, a minor sprain, there’s no reason to rush back a precious commodity freshly signed to a four-year, $29.7-million contract extension. The Jackets are finished.
The important thing to realize: that’s totally OK. The future remains extremely bright. Columbus was simply dealt a bad hand this season. Kekalainen and John Davidson have built a well-rounded, gritty, improving team. Ryan Johansen continues to look like a star, and Nick Foligno has taken his game to a new stratosphere. Murray has shown flashes of a Ryan Suter-like upside at just 21 and has plenty of time to improve if he can stay healthy. This team has a lot of young help on the way, too. Alexander Wennberg, 20, hasn’t made waves as a rookie but is a dynamic young prospect, likened to Henrik Zetterberg. Guys like Kerby Rychel, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Marko Dano look good, too. There’s no denying flashy Sonny Milano has a sky-high ceiling, even if he was a risky first-round pick last June.
Kekalainen’s next move should be to assess what pieces of his roster are expendable and can be used to secure more long-term assets before the trade deadline.
from Shawn Roarke of NHL.com,
In a week's time, Columbus gets to put its hockey growth in front of fans of the NHL when the All-Star Game comes to Nationwide Arena.
The growth of the Blue Jackets, who are again morphing into a team to be respected across the rest of the League after its playoff showing last year and weathering those early-season injuries to key players, will be in the narrative.
The hockey infrastructure also will be part of the tale that needs to be told during hockey's midseason gala.
But the growth of Columbus as a city and supporter of professional hockey will be perhaps the most evident story of the weekend.
The fans who crammed Nationwide Arena last spring proved this is a major-league city that has allowed the Blue Jackets to ease, ever so slightly, the stranglehold enjoyed here by the Ohio State football program.
Word is getting out, louder and faster by the day, that hockey is a big part of the fabric.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
It was a fantastic goalie matchup in Columbus on Wednesday night, and for two-and-a-half periods it looked like Sergei Bobrovsky would outduel Carey Price. But then the Montreal Canadiens exploded for three power-play goals -- two by Max Pacioretty, who now has 20 goals on the season -- and rallied for a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Price was once again outstanding as he bolstered his Hart and Vezina campaigns.
The Canadiens continue to prove people wrong and now sit just one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division, and the Habs have three games in hand.
For the Blue Jackets, this is a devastating loss. To be up 2-0 midway through the third period and lose like that could be a loss that deflates them. They had rallied hard since Dec. 1 to save their season, but with the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals on fire were unable to make up much ground in the Metropolitan Division, and barely any in the conference overall, either. Now 13 points back after Wednesday's loss, it might be time to start thinking about next year.
read on for Custance on the Wild, Burnside on the Kings and Strang on the Capitals...
from Shawn Mitchell of Puck-Rakers,
Blue Jackets penalty, Montreal power-play goal. Repeat. Repeat again. Lose three in a row. Do the collapse. A rash of rule-breaking cost the Jackets dearly tonight. Matt Calvert, Jared Boll and Brandon Dubinsky were boxed for slashing, high sticking and boarding, respectively, during a stretch of 4:10 late in the third period. Did they really just take those? Really? Yes, and they led to two power-play goals for Max Pacioretty and another for P.K. Subban.
A 2-0 third-period lead for the Blue Jackets went poof. “We just gave away two points,” Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said. “Something we don’t want to do is lose two in a row,” Blue Jackets left wing Matt Calvert said. Instead, they lost three in a row, and their already deep hole was dug deeper. The season is half complete. Forty-one games remain. The Blue Jackets are 18-20-3, 13 points out of a playoff spot.
“It’s just disappointing. This one bothers me. We found a way to lose this game.” – Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards.
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
The Jackets’ terrible first two months, precipitated in part by a litany of ghastly injuries, might just bleed them out on the floor of this jungle. As well as they have played of late — before last night, they had not lost two in a row since November — they are 10 points out of a wild-card spot. They are as close to last place in the Eastern Conference as they are to a playoff spot.
The Blue Jackets might need three more 10-victory months, and they need a couple of teams ahead of them to feel the same ax of injury that they have felt.
It is possible, given the heart and esprit de corps they have shown the past six weeks. It is possible with improved health, and with 42 games remaining, and with Bob, knock on wood. But it is not likely.
All is not dark.
Sleepwalks such as the one the Jackets took last night are not unusual for a team returning from a long trip that included one last stop in customs. It hurts because points are so precious, but this team has proven resilient. There is a good vibe among the players, who wanted no part of the Connor McDavid derby once they realized they were the lead horse for the No. 1 pick in the draft. They yanked those reins. Good for them.
COLUMBUS, OHIO – The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed 2013 Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky to a four-year contract extension through the 2018-19 National Hockey League season, club General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today. As is club policy, terms were not disclosed.
Bobrovsky, 26, has gone 68-41-13 with a 2.34 goals-against average, .924 save percentage and 10 shutouts in 123 games with Columbus since the 2012-13 season. He is 110-64-23 with a 2.50 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and 10 shutouts in 206 career NHL games with the Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers.
“A common thread of every successful team in our league is outstanding goaltending and we believe we have one of the best at the position in the world in Sergei Bobrovsky,” said Kekalainen. “He is a tremendous person and a very talented player whose work ethic sets the tone for our team. We are very happy to have him signed for the next four years.”
“This is a very exciting day for me and I am very happy knowing that I will continue to be a Columbus Blue Jacket and be able to play with the guys in this room, to work to get better every day and help the team achieve our goals together,” said Bobrovsky.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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