Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Ever since the Blackhawks collapsed into a juddering mass of two losses in a row followed by as many wins, it seems all anyone can talk about with regard to the Central Division is how well the Blue Jackets are doing.
The Blue Jackets are doing very well indeed. They've gotten points in their last 10 games and climbed to 28 points in 29 games, which is nothing to sneeze at considering they started the year 5-12-2. They're now just one game below .500, and routinely making good accountings of themselves against good teams. They famously swept the Red Wings in a home and home, took three of four points from Vancouver, and lost a pair of games to Chicago though those were in overtime and a shootout.
And now everyone's dreaming big. They're just two points out of a playoff spot and are currently one of the hottest teams in the NHL, if not the hottest, depending upon whom you ask and how much you value winning in regulation. Certainly, for a team that was so phenomenally bad last year to go 10 games in a row without losing is an admirable feat.
But any people trying to sit there and tell you this is a playoff team, or even one that should be in the discussion for making it, are kidding themselves.
Everyone loves an underdog story, and this is perhaps the biggest in the NHL this season; but are we really going to believe that a team currently 11th in the West, which finished 30th last season, is going to keep up this magical run long enough to be a serious contender for anything whatsoever?
Let's start with the most obvious fact that yes this team is winning a lot of games, but barely doing it in regulation. Of those 10 games from which they've gotten points, all but one of them went to overtime, and five went to a shootout. That speaks to a team that's gotten incredibly lucky, and is playing very hard to not get results one way or another in regulation. And of those 10 games, only two have been played on the road. They also have two more in this lengthy homestand, against Nashville and Calgary, and it would be shocking for them to not get points from those as well.
Then there's the fact that Sergei Bobrovsky is playing like a Russian Patrick Roy.
He's allowed more than two in just one of his last 11 games, coughing up five on 39 to Dallas, and despite that ugly night at the office, he has still allowed just 15 goals in those 11 appearances. It's an honestly impressive and incredible run — incredible as in, "if someone told you about it in October you wouldn't have believed them" — one in which his GAA has dropped to just 2.00, and his save percentage exploded to .932. That's thanks to a 1.34 GAA and .955 save percentage in those games, and it's just crazy.
What no one seems to remember about this is that it's Sergei Bobrovsky we're talking about. It's also the Columbus Blue Jackets we're talking about. At some point, the stifling defense they're playing of late has to go away, and it seems much more likely that Bobrovsky will start playing like the guy whose career numbers before landing in Columbus were 2.73 and .909 at some point in the very near future.
Say, when they play six road dates in seven games over the course of 13 days starting on Saturday. How long ago was it, exactly, that Steve Mason started his NHL career off looking like one of the greatest goalies in NHL history?
The Blue Jackets, are, I'll say again, the Blue Jackets.
Dead last in the league in goals scored despite playing the most games of almost everyone. Scoring 60 times in 29 games (not counting the team's four shootout winners, since they don't count) is not exactly conducive to winning hockey games, and indeed, they've netted just two goals in their last three games, none of which they lost in regulation. Think that's sustainable?
And even if they keep winning in a way that even remotely approximates this recent success, how much ground can they logically expect to make up? They started this streak in the Western Conference's basement. Now they're 11th. After 10 games of not losing, they improved four spots and are still two points out with almost everyone in front of them having games in hand. It's nearly impossible to make up that kind of ground when you're playing nothing but intra-conference games, and especially if you're giving at least a point to every opponent you come across. At 28 points with 19 games remaining, and the generally-accepted postseason cutoff point being 55 points, the Blue Jackets can only afford five more games in regulation to get there (13-5-1). That doesn't seem likely.
Yeah, the Blue Jackets being good for any length of time after all these years of futility is a nice little story. But it's going to end real soon, and all it's going to cost them is a good chance of winning a draft lottery they would probably like desperately to win.
Maybe it's time for Jarmo Kekalainen to start selling before things get any better.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Here's Bob Murray on acquiring Dave Steckel from Toronto: "Steckel is a tremendous faceoff man and penalty killer, something that will really help our club." He's 48.9 percent at the dot this season, but Toronto's PK is one of the best in the league. So win some, lose some.
Boston Bruins: The Bruins would like to bring a "complete game" every night and if all it takes is playing a team as bad as the Capitals and physically embarrassing them every night, well, I'm not sure it'll be easy.
Buffalo Sabres: Ville Leino is finally in the lineup, and was one of the best Sabres on the ice in an overtime loss to Ottawa in which they blew a two-goal lead. I'm not sure what that means though. I mean, you never want Ville Leino being one of the best players on the ice, do you?
Calgary Flames: Sucks to be Mikael Backlund. He'd just returned from a bum knee a week ago, but then went out of the Saddledome on crutches and in a walking cast on Friday after blocking a shot with his foot. He had seven points in 12 games this season after getting just 11 in an injury-riddled 41 last year.
Carolina Hurricanes: Tuomo Ruutu is steadily approaching a return from a serious hip injury suffered last spring, but now it's up to the 'Canes to figure out where they're going to squeeze him in. For now, looks like it could be the fourth line, but after that, maybe Jeff Skinner-Jordan Staal-Ruutu gets a run-out as second line. That's an okay group to come back to.
Chicago Blackhawks: Don't go around expecting the Blackhawks to make too many trades here as the deadline approaches. Mostly because almost everyone in the West is still technically in the playoff hunt (not so fast, most of the Northwest Division). Oh and also because you know, because they're amazing already.
Colorado Avalanche: Time for the Avs to blow it up! Frankly, I just like any column that says "The Avs stink," three times.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Gary Bettman on Columbus hosting an All-Star Game: "We know we owe Columbus a game, but we’re not yet in a position to say what the timeline is." So that's definitely still happening at some point.
Dallas Stars: The Stars getting a snowman hung on them and only scoring once against Chicago on Saturday was the worst loss the team has gone through since they moved to Dallas. And they did that a long time ago.
Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Yup, even though we all knew the Wings would be barely good enough to make the playoffs this year, it's still weird to see them be barely good enough to make the playoffs.
Edmonton Oilers: Say, this Taylor Hall kid is actually pretty good I guess.
Florida Panthers: Ed Jovanovski and George Parros both left Saturday night's game with injuries, which only adds to the team's already considerable injury woes. Why not just call up the entire AHL team and get it over with at this point?
Los Angeles Kings: Tyler Toffoli made his NHL debut after scoring 28 goals in 55 games in the AHL as a 20-year-old, and this was Darryl Sutter's advice to him: "Try not to sit on the bench." Darryl Sutter rules.
Minnesota Wild: I wanna be more than friends with this saucer pass from PM Bouchard.
Montreal Canadiens: Jarred Tinordi is one of those prospects who it seems like has been around but not in the NHL for just about forever (even though he was only drafted in 2010), but he finally made his debut last night, and picked up an assist on the game-winning goal, which is a good start.
Nashville Predators: No Colin Wilson, no Patric Hornqvist, no Paul Gaustad. Yeah, I wonder why the Predators are having even more trouble scoring goals these days.
New Jersey Devils: Anyone hoping the Devils would stop their skid any time soon got some bad news yesterday because there's still no timetable for Marty Brodeur to come back. He might start practicing with the team this week, but still. Remember when the Devils were the best team in the East for a minute? They've won four of their last 15. Yikes.
New York Islanders: The Islanders beat the Panthers 4-3 on Saturday behind a Casey Cizikas goal, and in doing so became the first Isles team to win against both Tampa and Florida in regulation in the Sunshine State since 2001-02. That seems like it would be impossible.
New York Rangers: The Rangers are 9-5-1 at MSG this year. They're 4-7-1 on the road. Three of their next four are at home. So that's good for them.
Ottawa Senators: Wow this shot from Kyle Turris. Wow.
Philadelphia Flyers: If the Flyers make the playoff this year (hahaha) they'll have to more or less replicate the run Los Angeles went on last season (hahaha) and go 12-4-3 in their last 19 games (hahaha).
Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 220 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. The Coyotes' attendance is going up. From one to two. Just kidding. It's actually from 12,188 to 12,420. Oh wait that's not much better.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury is now the shutouting-est goalie in Penguins history, which I almost couldn't believe at first but then I remembered who the Penguins used to have for goalies.
San Jose Sharks: Todd McLellan called Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Kings the most disappointing of the season, and that's really saying something.
St. Louis Blues: It's interesting that the Blues are finally starting to gain ground in the West as they embrace consistency (ugh) but it's funny — and shows how dumb the NHL's insistence on division winners being top-3 seeds is — that no matter how hard they try they're never going to squeeze into one of those spots because Anaheim and Chicago are running away with the league.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts need to win at least 14 of their last 20 games to make the playoffs at this point, so it's time to start selling off pieces.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Getting even one point out a game they trailed by three goals isn't bad at all for the Leafs. Now, if you want to have a discussion about how the Leafs shouldn't be trailing the Jets by three at any point, that's a legitimate point too.
Vancouver Canucks: I wonder if we'll ever see those Millionaires uniforms again. Given the way Vancouver played wearing them, probably not.
Washington Capitals: The amount of crybabyism from the Capitals after the Bruins beat them and beat them up on Saturday is honestly kind of astonishing. How do you go into Boston and not expect to get bullied when Matt Hendricks is your toughest player?
Winnipeg Jets: In furtherance of the earlier discussion about how dumb it is that division winners get a top-3 seed in the conference: This headline. They have the same number of points as the Maple Leafs. Get a grip.
Play of the Weekend
I don't know if this is more amazing for Patrick Kane to pull out this move in real life or for Brenden Dillon to let that happen to him, but either way: amazing goal.
Gold Star Award
Devin Setoguchi is very quietly having a respectable season in Minnesota, and going 2-1-3 with a plus-4 (albeit against Colorado) is pretty nice.
Minus of the Weekend
I don't know what happened to Ryan Miller here.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "socratic" is being anything but.
Matt Frattin (I worry this makes it too much but I am not sure who else to put in)
2nd round pick
Has anyone seen an old man, about yea high, possibly shouting obscenities?
Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don’t you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.