So it’s not exactly “news of the day,” but here are a few thoughts after reflecting on the Columbus Blue Jackets shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild in Monday night’s scrimmage.
We can try all we want to convince ourselves otherwise, but the goalie is THE penultimate player on a hockey team’s roster. Not only is he out on the ice for the entire game (barring injury and the occasional empty net scenario) but he’s also the last line of defense against opposition shots. We know so well: A good goalie papers over a whole host of other problems and issues.
Sergei Bobrovsky got an entire game in on Monday. How did he look? In a word – Solid. By my estimation, he looked like the Bob we were used to seeing toward the end of last season. I have to temper that with the understanding that the Wild didn’t ice the likes of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter (visiting teams rarely play their stars in away scrimmages). Still, Bob saw 27 shots and let only one through. That’s a .965 save percentage, something I’ll take every day of the week.
Solid is a great term to describe Bobrovsky’s play. Bob is rarely spectacular. He positions himself extremely well and stops shots from getting past him. Then he moves on to the next save. And the next. All without making the highlight reel with anything other than his volume of work.
Bob also continues to benefit from the team defensive philosophy. When the puck is in deep, his defenders (including forwards) collapse in to block shooting lanes and provide assistance in getting the puck out of harm’s way. I didn’t see the “kitchen sink” mode happen like I did at times last season, but then again I don’t think I recall a single Wild breakout that demanded such behavior.
Anyway, Bob appears to be back. That’s a great omen.
— Dark Blue Jacket (@DarkBlueJacket) September 24, 2013
Seriously, Jenner was all over the place on Monday night. It was the first chance that I’ve had to see him live in game conditions, and I was wowed by his on-ice dynamism. He hustles. He passes. He shoots (and scores). He hits. He’ll fight if need be, but he’s just as happy pancaking the opponent on the ice. And his motor just does not quit.
I don’t know if he can keep this up for 82 games, but watch out if he can. Boone Jenner appears to be one special hockey player.
The other Wunderkind (note the German reference, used in honor of this weekend’s Oktoberfest at the State Fairgrounds) has to be Ryan Murray. Whereas Jenner was a second round pick (the slot where Blue Jackets prospects end up in obscurity if not shuffling pizzas), Murray was the second overall draft pick in 2012…something as close to a “can’t miss” prospect as one will see. Murray, too, did not disappoint.
From my vantage point, Ryan Murray is not a dynamic blue liner at this point. He likely won’t load up the highlight reel, but that cuts both ways. You won’t see him throwing bone-crushing hits, sure. You also won’t see him get burned by an opposing forward. Murray is about as steady as they come, and that’s a great position to start from as a rookie who lost an entire year to recovery from surgery.
I gather that there’s a numbers game going on at the bottom of the defensive order, and it would be relatively easy to send Murray to AHL Springfield for a season of conditioning. Still, it would not surprise me in the least if he made the roster. (On the other hand, I would be genuinely surprised if Jenner did not make the roster.)
THE NO-LOOK DROP PASS
One would think that this type of pass represents the ultimate in team offensive chemistry. And while the boys were working on their drop passes all night long, they were just as likely to result in a turnover as a positive offensive play.
Keep working at it, guys. That’s what training camp is for.
Appreciating that the team shouldn’t ice an entire NHL roster in a preseason scrimmage, I was disappointed to miss the chance to see R.J. Umberger and Ryan Johansen. Readers of this blog can understand why on Umberger, and Johansen is already in a contract year and coming off a tricky AHL postseason in Springfield.
Here’s hoping that both guys make a fast start in the regular season.
IS THE ROSTER SOLIDIFYING?
I note that in anticipation of today’s scrimmage in Buffalo against the Sabres and tomorrow’s home tilt with the Carolina Hurricanes, the team called up three players who were already cut from the training camp roster and sent to Springfield. I understand that it is a distinct likelihood that all three will get playing time in both scrimmages.
Yes, Derek Mackenzie and Jared Boll are hurt, and that depletes the active roster. Yes, two scrimmages in two nights is an unnecessary burden for NHL players during training camp. Still, that these three could be playing both nights tells me that Todd Richards has settled on his roster (at least as far as forwards go) and is ready to rest his boys in anticipation of opening night on October 4. Just my guess.