Todd Richards let out a chuckle when asked about conducting a complete practice this morning at Nationwide Arena. Due to the compressed schedule and a recent stretch that saw the Blue Jackets play nine games in a span of 16 days, the opportunities to hash out some things in practice were few and far between.
Days of rest - like the team had on Sunday with a day off - are just as essential to maintaining energy and mental sharpness for what figures to be a challenging closing stretch. Beginning with tomorrow's game against Nashville at Nationwide Arena, the Blue Jackets play their final 19 games in 40 days. That's approximately a game every other night with two road swings of four games or more mixed in.
So when Richards and his coaching staff sat down to map out today's practice - an important one given where the team sits in the standings despite a struggling power play and inconsistent scoring - he wasn't sure where to start. Of course, he said so jokingly but stressed that one side of the Blue Jackets' special teams clearly has to be better.
"When you go back and look at our games, systematically and how we're playing 5-on-5 and our penalty kill has been good all season," Richards said. "We're seeing improvements 5-on-5 and the one area that's been a bit of a letdown has been our power play. It's not so much getting the puck into their zone, it's once we get it there (that's been a problem).
"Our execution hasn't been good, we lose battles and we aren't moving fast enough or playing fast enough to have success. Today's a day where we can at least go out and talk about some things, get guys moving a little bit. Our penalty kill still had the upper hand today, and I guess that's not a surprise."
Read the full story from today's practice inside this blog post.
This is a fun little run now, isn't it? My goodness.
Not much else you can say after another dynamite performance from the guy who wears No. 72 and seemingly stops every puck headed in his direction. Sergei Bobrovsky made 39 saves tonight to equal a season high, turned away both Coyotes' attempts in the shootout, and helped the Blue Jackets pick up a monster victory tonight on home ice in the third game of a five-game home stand.
What we have here is a playoff race, friends.
As for regulation and overtime tonight, you could call it a chess match or you could call it rather uneventful, but the latter would be wrong. These were two teams playing desperate hockey and needed the points to keep pace in the Western Conference, and not surprisingly, they ended up playing yet another one-goal game. That's nine of the last 10 for the Blue Jackets to go beyond regulation and tonight was their fourth consecutive shootout.
Jack Johnson quipped post-game: "It's like a 52-game schedule with all these overtime games." Yeah, that's about accurate.
The Blue Jackets got a big effort from the full group tonight, as well, playing a sharp game inside their own end and not giving the Coyotes second and third chances due to turnovers and careless mistakes. They were on their game tonight, and obviously, so was their goaltender.
Get complete post-game analysis on tonight's big win inside this blog post.
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, are riding a franchise-best nine game points streak entering tonight and are aiming to get back in the win column after consecutive shootout losses to Vancouver and Chicago.
In case you missed it yesterday, John Moore has been activated off injured reserve and will make his return to the lineup tonight. He's been out since March 1 when he was injured in the morning skate at United Center. Cody Goloubef heads back to Springfield to make room for Moore.
Also, Sean Collins is here on emergency recall from the Falcons in case of the Blue Jackets' forwards is unable to play tonight. I suspect we'll get more details from coach Todd Richards following the morning skate, which begins in just a few minutes.
Stay tuned to the Game Day blog for all the latest -- you won't want to miss the photos, updates, lineups & ticket giveaways we'll have throughout the day!
Reaching into the memory bank, it's hard to remember an overtime period that had the heartbeat pumping like we saw tonight. From start to finish, it was an absolute roller coaster and every single one of the 15,009 in attendance got their money's worth regardless of the result.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards has previously said that the Blackhawks are a club that's not afraid to trade scoring chances because they're confident enough to out-score the opposition, but tonight, it wasn't the case. Columbus did well to limit the effectiveness of Chicago's top players through 65 minutes of regulation and overtime, and unfortunately, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane's only significant impact decided the outcome.
Sergei Bobrovsky was a difference-maker yet again. He made 39 saves before facing a shootout for the third consecutive game, and mixed in was a handful of incredible saves to keep the Blue Jackets in the game. Nationwide Arena gave Bobrovsky two standing ovations in the third period and a roaring cheer in overtime, as he lunged back to take away a sure goal from Dave Bolland.
All in all, the Blue Jackets are still playing the same brand of hockey: aggressive, "on your toes" hockey that disrupts the opposition's rhythm. The Blackhawks looked unnerved at times tonight and a lot of it had to do with how the Blue Jackets feverishly pursued the puck.
Get complete post-game analysis of tonight's game inside this blog post.
Well, this ought to be fun.
Completed by today's seal of approval from the NHL's Board of Governors, a new league realignment plan will be implemented immediately. The Blue Jackets are headed to the Eastern Conference next season and join a brand new division that's sure to be both convenient and exciting. I'm all for it, and, for us here in Columbus, it's huge.
Let me rephrase: huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge.
Think about it: road trips are significantly reduced, you can pretty much wave "bye bye" to this 10 p.m. and later start times out on the west coast, and those two-week gaps between home games at Nationwide Arena? See ya later, alligator.
If my name is "the 7 p.m. time slot," I'm going into marathon-training mode the way I'm going to get used over the next few years and beyond. That coffee maker you tend to fire up when the Blue Jackets are out west? Let him rest after dinner time -- you won't be needing him.
After this season is complete, it's going to be like moving into a new neighborhood. Over the next few months, take your time in awkwardly looking around and checking out what car the guy who lives two doors down is driving and try to get accustomed to that annoying dog in the backyard behind you.
You'll soon find out who mows their lawn on a normal schedule, and who prefers to let it grow out and masquerade their mailbox. Whose kids are flat-out obnoxious, and whose would you welcome into your home and look the other way if they slammed handfuls of Oreos? In a roundabout way, this is NHL realignment: sure, the Blue Jackets aren't entering an entirely new world but the surroundings are going to be fresh.Read the rest of Rob's take on NHL realignment inside this blog post.
9:00 A.M. -- LET'S GO JACKETS: Alright CBJ fans, we've got one last crack at the Chicago Blackhawks and that takes place tonight at Nationwide Arena. The previous three matchups in the season series have all been decided by one goal, the last being a 4-3 overtime win by the Blackhawks at United Center on Mar. 1.
Here's what we know so far: the Blackhawks are planning to start Corey Crawford in goal tonight against the Blue Jackets, and his last appearance against Columbus was a 1-0 shutout win on Feb. 24. The Blue Jackets need to get more pucks on Crawford than they did in that game, and based on their performances in the past seven games, they've adopted that mentality ten-fold.
As for the Blue Jackets, we don't yet know who will be starting in goal -- but in order to find out first, you'll want to keep it locked right here on the game day blog. If it happens at the Blue Jackets morning skate, we'll post it here first.
We'll try and keep this one short and sweet.
The Blue Jackets, while disappointed in seeing their five-game winning streak come to an end tonight at Nationwide Arena, were willing to take some positives out of the 2-1 shootout loss to Vancouver. They got a point, yes, and despite not playing their best hockey for the first 40 minutes, managed to get something out of it.
Pending results of later games still going on around the NHL, the Blue Jackets could be anywhere between three and five points below the playoff bar with 21 games to play. Is it impossible? Certainly not, especially given the way they're playing lately.
Tonight wasn't so much a speed bump as it was a minor pothole -- nothing to deter them from moving forward and something that can be repaired with a little effort. Sergei Bobrovsky was strong once again, making 37 saves and improving his record to 6-1-2 in his last nine appearances. You could make the case that he's been the backbone of this recent run by Columbus, and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone in disagreement.Get complete post-game analysis from tonight's game inside this blog post.
9:30 A.M. -- WELCOME BACK: What a weekend! The Blue Jackets, as you're well aware, are riding a five-game winning streak coming into tonight's game against the Vancouver Canucks at Nationwide Arena. It should be a good one, too; these two teams met less than a week ago on this same ice surface and it was a hard-fought game that needed overtime to decide. For the Blue Jackets, it was Matt Calvert making it happen in scoring the game winner on a terrific individual effort.
After you're done re-living that goal through the posted highlights above, we'll continue.
Ready...? Ok, let's go.
The quest for six straight wins starts now, and if the Blue Jackets are able to pick up a win tonight, it would tie a franchise record. As we sit right now, the team is four points back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and this race is only getting started.
We'll be heading down to the Blue Jackets' morning skate in just a few minutes, so stay tuned to the game day blog for line combinations, starting goalies, and a lot more as the day moves along.