The Hockey Writers
“Ladies and gentlemen, please return your tray tables to the upright and locked position. It is also recommended that you fasten your seatbelts as the Playoffs are about to begin” ~ Anonymous
April 16th, 2009 marks a new, unexplored chapter in the relatively short history of the Columbus Blue Jackets as they play their first post-season game. The opponent? You guessed it, the storied franchise and defending Stanley Cup Champions that are the Detroit Red Wings.
With this series, Columbus hopes to topple the dominance of the Central Division that has been Detroit’s in recent memory. Many pundits dreamed of this match-up in a playoff series, yet ultimately came to their own (I think flawed) foregone conclusion that the Red Wings would walk all over Columbus in four, short games. While I’ll be the first to admit the possibilty of that happening is there, is it probable? I think not.
Statistically, The Red Wings seem to (and probably do), have the advantage. Prior to the All-Star break, Detroit was leading the Blue Jackets in almost every category except the PK (only.06 behind). Since the break, Columbus has increased the effectiveness of their PK, widening the gap over Detroit (now 8.6 behind the CBJ). To most, this might seem like a desperate grasp at something positive. But in reality, A good PK is needed against the PP that the Red Wings will inevitably put on the ice. Although the referees that officiate playoff games seem to let the games flow by not calling every little infraction, the Blue Jackets need to limit the penalties that they take.
The biggest chink in Detroit’s armor? In one word, goaltending. Chris Osgood has been anything but stellar. He’s good, but not in the form he was in one short year ago. Heading into the playoffs, Osgoods’ numbers don’t look all that good. A Save% of .887 and GAA of 3.09 are nothing to write home about. Contrast his numbers against rookie sensation Steve Mason in net for the Blue Jackets: a Save% of .916 and GAA of 2.29. Also keep in mind that Mason has played in 15 more games than Osgood. The Hockey Writers own Paul Benvin wonders “Will the Red Wings be ready?”.
Light The Lamp (a excellent Columbus Blue Jackets blog) took the time recently to revisit his pre-season predictions. While somewhat off the mark on some of his predictions, he’s scary accurate on number 10. From Light The Lamp, “10. Jackets start slow out of the gate as they look to build chemistry but find it by game 15 and yes….for the first time in their history make the NHL playoffs as the 8th seed with 93 points. The downside is that the Wings are their first playoff opponent.
I’m not gonna throw my arm out patting myself on the back… but damn.. that was pretty friggan close… I only missed it by a point and unfortunatly even got the first round opponent right.”
And, finally for all of you wagering types out there, Puck Rakers has an excellent breakdown on not only the Columbus/Detroit series, but also the Stanley Cup Playoffs in general.
No matter which team you’re a fan of, nor what you might think; this promises to be a hard fought series beginning in Detroit on Thursday evening.
Oh, and by the way, my prediction? Columbus in 6.
Carry The Flag.