The NHL has released the full schedule for the upcoming 2012-13 season. Provided negotiations are successful on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement – or both sides reach an agreement to start the season without one – here are five Columbus Blue Jackets games to watch for.
- Opening Faceoff – Season Opener, October 13 at Chicago – The Blue Jackets open the 2012-13 season on the road against the division-rival Chicago Blackhawks. At least three players, including Nick Foligno, Adrian Aucoin, and Sergei Bobrovsky, will be making their Blue Jackets debuts.
There’s also the question of whether Rick Nash will be still be with the team. If he is, it’ll be interesing to see how he plays after some of the comments made in the offseason; if, as expected, he’s moved by then, a few more players will be making their first appearances with the team.
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the Hawks have won seven straight against the Blue Jackets, including all six head-to-head games last season. Chicago was the only Western Conference team to go undefeated against Columbus for the 2011-12 season. In those six games, the Jackets were held to just 10 goals in total.Columbus last won in Chicago on February 18, 2011. The team will need to work hard to get off on the right foot this season by reversing that trend. Opening night would be a great time to do it.
In season-openers, all-time, Columbus is 4-5-1-1; the Blue Jackets have only opened on the road three times in their eight seasons – their record in those games is 1-2.
- FIRE! – Home Opener, October 19 vs. Vancouver – The Jackets will have to wait until the third week of October for the first cannon firing of the 2012-13 season. The real question will be how many times it goes off in this tough match-up against the back-to-back President’s Trophy-winning Canucks. Of course, like Columbus, Vancouver will also have a new look in net, where Cory Schneider is expected to take over the reins as the number one goaltender.
Newly-acquired Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky will be facing some unfamiliar shooters; he’s only faced the Canucks once in his career, giving up two goals on 21 shots in relief for Brian Boucher in a 6-2 Flyers loss. Both goalies will have something to prove throughout the season, and this game will be a battle for both.
The Blue Jackets have dropped their home openers for two consecutive seasons, losing 3-2 to Nashville last season and 3-2 to San Jose the year before. Their last home opener victory came against Minnesota at the start of the 2009-10 season. The Jackets are 5-4-1-1 in Home Openers, with a record of 2-1 in home openers after starting the season on the road.
All-time, the Blue Jackets are 14-23-2-5 against the Canucks. Vancouver has taken 10 of the past 11 games, with the lone Columbus victory coming in a shootout on December 13, 2011. Their last regulation victory? October 5, 2009:
Battle of Los Angeles – December 4 at Los Angeles Kings – It’s a given that teams often look to measure themselves against the Stanley Cup Champions. While the two teams will have played each other twice by this point in the season, this will be the Jackets’ first game in enemy territory at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It’s a much tougher battle when you’re playing a team under their freshly-hung championship banner.
There’s also the inevitable head-to-head comparison of Jack Johnson and Jeff Carter, each playing against their former team. The trade proved beneficial to both clubs. Following the deal on February 23, 2011, Columbus went 11-11-0 (.500) — a notable improvement when you consider that the team was 18-35-7 (.359) before the trade. Los Angeles went 13-5-3 (.690); prior to that they were 27-22-12 (.541). Oh, and they also happened to win the Stanley Cup, with Carter tying for the playoff lead in goal scoring with eight.
The two teams split the season series last year 2-2. The Blue Jackets are 20-21-1-2 all time vs. the Kings.
- Bobrovsky’s Revenge – February 14 vs. Philadelphia Flyers – In Philadelphia, a shaky 2011 playoff performance by Bobrovsky ultimately led to the arrival of Ilya Bryzgalov. Bobrovsky will be looking to one-up the man who stole his crease in the City of Brotherly Love – appropriately, he’ll be doing so on Valentine’s Day.
Jakub Voracek will also be happy to play against his former team. The last time the two met, Voracek had a goal and an assist. Sean Couturier, selected with the draft pick also moved to the Flyers in the Carter trade, tacked on two goals in that game, a 9-2 Flyers win in November 2011.
All time, Columbus is 2-6-3 against Philadelphia; the two have traded wins and losses over their last 5 matchups, so perhaps Columbus is due. They’ll be doing their best to shut down the Flyers offense, and the chip on Bobrovsky’s shoulder should give him some additional motivation.
- Curtain Call? – April 13 vs. Minnesota Wild – The final game of the year and the last of six games between the Wild and the Blue Jackets. The two teams will first collide in Game 2 of the regular season. While that will be an interesting matchup, if only to see the debut of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise in Minnesota, this game has the potential to be far more important to the Blue Jackets.
Will they be in a position to make this game meaningful? Will this be a must-win to make the playoffs? Or will this be the final note of what the team hopes to be an improvement on the 2011-12 season? This one may not be as much about the game itself as it is about where they are in the standings once the final buzzer – or cannon – sounds.
- The Return of Rick Nash – TBD
– vs. San Jose Sharks – February 2
– vs. Philadelphia Flyers – February 14
– vs. Ottawa Senators – March 22
– vs. New York Rangers – April 5
With Rick Nash still comfortably seated on the trading block, fans at Nationwide Arena will certainly be looking forward to his return. It’s just a matter of figuring out which uniform he’ll be wearing when he does.
- The Jackets start the season on a three-game road trip, followed by a three-game home stand.
- First half of the season is road-heavy, with 59% of games away from Nationwide Arena. After the All-Star Game, the team will play 20 of 33 (61%) of their games at home.
- The Blue Jackets have a stretch where they will play 15 of 19 games at home. This includes a team-record six-game home stand from February 8-18.