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.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In trade discussions with the Winnipeg Jets that were finalized today, the Blue Jackets saw an opportunity to give two young players a new look and fresh surroundings to help jump-start their careers.
Spencer Machacek (pronounced MUH-HAW-CHECK), 24, comes to the Blue Jackets organization in exchage for Tomas Kubalik as part of today's trade that hopefully benefits both sides, assistant GM Chris MacFarland told BlueJackets.com this afternoon.
Machacek was a third-round draft pick (67th overall) of the Winnipeg franchise when they were known as the Atlanta Thrashers, and came highly-regarded for his work ethic and "sandpaper" style of game. He's been a strong performer at the American Hockey League level, accumulating 93-132-225 in 341 career AHL games, including 11-14-25 in 57 appearances with the St. John’s IceCaps this season.
The Blue Jackets hope Machacek fits right in and helps the Springfield Falcons in moving along at their torrid pace. Springfield holds a record of 36-16-7 through 57 games, tops in the Northeast Division and just four point back of Syracuse for top spot in the Eastern Conference.Read the full story on Machacek joining the Blue Jackets inside this blog post.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It wasn't necessarily easy or pretty, but Shaker Heights found a way to get it done. And there are no awards for style points in hockey.
A dozen years ago, the Red Raiders boys hockey program won its last state title when several of its current players were barely old enough to walk and talk. Their last appearance in the state final was eight years ago and head coach Mike Bartley's team made sure its next trip to Columbus would be worthwhile.
The Red Raiders won their fourth state title in school history with a 3-1 win over Sylvania Northview in front of 2,348 at Nationwide Arena, and it was a game that hung in the balance until the final horn.
Not only did Shaker Heights have to earn its way to the OHSAA state championship game by battling out a semifinal win over Rocky River on Friday afternoon, but they gutted out an impressive victory in the final over a very strong Sylvania Northview team that had stunned Columbus' entry (Olentangy Liberty) the day before.
Senior goaltender Eric Sterin kept the Red Raiders afloat as the Wildcats kept coming in the third period, trying to put a dent in a two-goal load that Shaker Heights obtained early in the final period -- on a goal that almost didn't count. Sterin stood tall as the Wildcats got a late 5-on-3 opportunity and essentially tossed the kitchen sink his way, but the netminder was rock solid for the Red Raiders.
His biggest moment might have been a clutch stop on Sylvania's Caleb Rau, who pounced on a turnover at the offensive blueline and had a breakaway with 2:50 remaining in regulation. Sterin stayed patient and square, kicking out Rau's wrister that would have pulled the Wildcats within a goal with plenty of time left.
Sterin finished with 25 saves on the evening.
Shaker Heights got the championship-deciding goal late in the first period from senior forward John Longman, who was excellent for the Red Raiders throughout the final weekend.
While this was not the end result that defending champion Northview was looking for, the Wildcats made their 15th appearance in the state semifinal tournament and played for their third championship in the last seven years. A team that replaced 10 players from last year's championship club, Northview played solid hockey and came together at the right time, coming up one win shy of repeating.
Looking through the stats, I was almost stunned to discover that today's 3-0 win was the first shutout of Sergei Bobrovsky's career.
In his 99th NHL start, the 24-year-old Russian goaltender earned his first "donut," making 29 saves against the Detroit Red Wings and acting as the foundation behind the Blue Jackets' four-game winning streak. Not only has he given the Blue Jackets a chance to win every night, the team in front of him has played a sturdy brand of hockey that's translating to points in the standings -- and once again, Columbus is within four points of the playoff bar.
And with today's 3-0 win, the Blue Jackets won the season series against Detroit for the first time in the franchise's 12-year history. Through four games of five (one to go tomorrow afternoon at Joe Louis Arena), Columbus holds a 3-0-1 record and has a chance to go without a regulation loss to the Red Wings with a win in the finale.
The Red Wings made a ton of mistakes - and uncharacteristically so given their strong play of late entering the game - and fed right into the Blue Jackets' speed and forechecking game. Case and point: Matt Calvert swooping in and stealing the puck from Niklas Kronwall, which led to Cam Atkinson's game-winner in the first period. That's not a play that Kronwall usually makes, and it was a blatant giveaway - credit to the Blue Jackets for making Detroit pay for its recklessness with the puck.Get complete post-game analysis of today's 3-0 win inside this blog post.
No matter how far a team has come and how many wins it has accumulated along the way, the last one is always the most difficult.
All that remains is one game for the Ohio High School Athletic Association's 66th boys hockey tournament championship, and it will take place Saturday evening at Nationwide Arena. Shaker Heights and Sylvania Northview advanced to the championship game after an day of exciting semifinal action that featured several lead changes, momentum swings and a thrilling comeback in the second match-up.
For both sides, it was a difficult day that included several obstacles on their way to the final dance. Shaker Heights rallied from two one-goal deficits (1-0 and 2-1) before taking over the game early in the third period, obtaining its first lead of the day at 6:30 of the third period on a clutch goal from Jacob Shick.
John Longman added an insurance tally with 1:01 remaining in regulation for the 4-2 final.
In the second semifinal, local club Olentangy Liberty was bidding to become the first Columbus-area school to ever play in the championship game, and they got off on the right foot.
The Patriots scored the first two goals of the hockey game and looked to be in good stead, but Sylvania Northview put its collective rally caps on. From 2-0 down, Northview completed the comeback five minutes into the third period and scored an empty-netter with less than a second to play, sealing a 4-2 victory and a berth in the final.
Saturday's championship game will take place after the Blue Jackets play the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena, and face-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will air tape delayed on SportsTime Ohio on Sunday, Mar. 10 at 4 p.m.
Blue Jackets broadcaster Bob McElligott will have the play-by-call game for the contest with John Mowat providing color analysis.
All of a sudden, here we are at the midway point of the NHL season.
The Blue Jackets, scuffling a bit and frustrated with a lack of results just a fortnight ago, have found some confidence and are playing a determined brand of hockey. They've won three straight after tonight's 2-1 overtime defeat of the Vancouver Canucks, and have picked up at least one point in five consecutive games.
Of course, things may change between now and the time you actually read this, but as I type, the Blue Jackets sit four points back of the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference. Seems crazy to think, given where they were not too long ago, but in talking with players after the game, they feel like they've turned a corner.
And it's not purely results-driven, either; Matt Calvert (tonight's overtime hero) talked at length about what it takes for a young team to win consistently, and to do the necessary things on a nightly basis so they learn how to close games out. The best teams in the NHL are both hard-working and opportunistic, and often times one can be a by-product of the other.
The Blue Jackets have shown an opportunistic nature lately, and it's been fun to watch. Given chances to put games away, they've done so. Think back to Sunday afternoon against the Avalanche; Colorado turns the puck over in neutral ice, the Blue Jackets draw a penalty and then win the game on that power play.Get the full breakdown of tonight's OT win inside this blog post!
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The National Hockey League today moved one step closer to implementing a new realignment plan for its 30 member clubs.
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr announced that the players' union has given its consent for the NHL to proceed with its proposed realignment plan. According to reports, the plan calls for two eight-team divisions and two seven-team divisions, would send the Blue Jackets to the Eastern Conference beginning with the 2013-14 NHL season if approved by the league's Board of Governors.
As part of the realignment plan, the Blue Jackets would compete in an eight-team division along with the following teams: the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the Players' Association's consent in a statement issued this evening.
"The NHL Players' Association confirmed to us today that it has consented to a revised Plan for Realignment, effective for the 2013-14 season," Daly said. "Our next step will be to bring the proposed Plan for Realignment to the NHL Board of Governors for its consideration. We will update the status of the process as future developments warrant."
The Stanley Cup Playoffs format would reportedly still consist of 16 teams (eight in each conference) but the NHL is proposing a wild card system in which the top three teams in each division make the playoffs and the remaining spots filled by the two teams in each conference with the next best record.
Here are the divisional breakdowns for the entire NHL under the new plan, as first reported by Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada:
1) Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
2) Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
1) Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
2) Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
More details on on the proposed realignment plan can be found here. Stay tuned to BlueJackets.com for further updates on this story as it develops.
9:45 A.M. -- LET'S DO THIS: We're back! Just 48 hours after we got the last blog up and running, the Blue Jackets morning skate is about 10 minutes away on Nationwide Arena ice. The Vancouver Canucks are in town and I suspect they'll be an angry lot tonight, having dropped five straight games (0-4-1) and losing their firm grasp on top spot in the Northwest Division.
The Minnesota Wild are just three points back and closing fast, while the Canucks are desperate to pick up some points. They'll start Roberto Luongo tonight against the Blue Jackets, and I pointed out in today's preview that it's a little surprising given Cory Schneider's track record of success against Columbus in his career.
I'm headed downstairs to catch the skate, so make sure you stay tuned right here for the latest news, lineup and injury updates, photos, contests and more as we roll along on game day.