CBJ Clinch a Playoff spot...kind of; Columbus as a Host City
The Columbus Blue Jackets have clinched a playoff spot for the 4th straight season. Well, kind of. Does an asterisk deserve to be put by this one? Maybe. Some will say that they are not in yet, not until they get to the round of 16. I'm on the fence about that.
There are many questions still left to answer. While training camps will start in July, there is not a date for the start of play. While we know the teams and match-ups we don't know where the games will be played. The assumption is that the playoffs will be played without live fans watching, but things could be different in July/August.
Here is what we do know. Columbus will face Toronto in a 5-game series that will feed into the 16 team tournament. The CBJ injury situation will be very different than we last remember it.
Columbus is one of the cities in the running to host the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Taking these one at at time let's start with the CBJ v. TOR match up.
In general terms this is a clash of styles. Great offense meets great defense. Being that we haven't had hockey for 10+ weeks, there will be a lot of rust to knock off and any hot streak or cold streak that the teams may have been experiencing is irrelevant. From a recent historical perspective there were two similar series that involved both these teams in the first round of the 2019 playoffs for comparison. I'm referring to CBJ v. TBL and TOR v. BOS. The defensive minded teams in both series were victorious over the high-flying offenses that lit up scoreboards during the regular season. But, which will recover faster from the break, high-scoring offense or lock-down defense? Speculation can be made on both sides of that argument. Getting goalies up to game speed may take longer than scorers finding their touch.
There is something to note in favor of the CBJ and making a long playoff run. Backup goaltending. This can be key come playoff time. Having two capable (more than capable in Columbus' case) is a strength for any hockey team but can become magnified during the playoffs. In the situation where there is a very, very short series, say 5 games, this will not likely be a huge factor.
Blue Jackets injury situation.
The assumption is that, barring necessary surgeries, most players will have had time to make a 100% (or close to it) recovery. Even in the situation where Seth needed surgery, the time off has provided him an opportunity to make an impact in the playoffs. Will he have have fresh legs or need to get back to game speed? There are also a whole slew of other CBJ players recovering from various undisclosed injuries. This will be a very different team from the last time we saw them on ice.
Columbus as a host city.
For several reasons this would be very cool. But with Ohio, and Columbus in particular, embroiled in all kinds of political and health impacted situations what are the chances? I would think that they are very slim. The Ohio Governor has been on the forefront of combating COVID-19. He was an early advocate of stay-at-home orders and orders to close parks and businesses. While things are opening back up, there are strict 'guidelines' about what should and should not open and how they operate. Allowing 12 NHL teams to bend or break those 'guidelines' doesn't seem like the message he would want to send.
There are many sheets of ice around town for teams to use. Ohio State has the ice rink (practice) as well as the Schott (game venue). There is the Newark ice rink, the Chiller family of rinks (practice facilities with at least 6 operating sheets of ice) and Cam's Battery facility that could all host practice/training camps. Games could be played at Nationwide, Ice Haus (attached ice to Nationwide), the Schott and even the fairgrounds Coliseum. The facilities are here in order to host.
Let's suspend reality for just a second and open up these playoffs for fans too. We would have to ignore the potential health hazard, but how much fun would it be to be able to see the entire Eastern Conference Playoffs in one city. The excitement would be unreal, especially in this sport-deprived time. Being able to see CBJ v. TOR in the afternoon followed by PIT v. MON in the evening. Then the next day catching NYI v. FLA and going across town for NYR v. CAR. Obviously suspending reality to be able to watch all this also means having an unlimited budget to spend on hockey tickets.
Alas, it is but a pipe dream, because it is likely that the playoffs will have no fans this season. But a boy can dream...
In a time when there are no live sports going on we have resorted to watching previously played games and viewing Tetris tournaments to get our competitive fix. Live hockey, especially playoff hockey, would be welcome by every sports fan. Those who didn't have an interest in hockey would be exposed to our sport and see the skill and speed that we all love to watch. I know that the NHL has in mind to convert casual or non-hockey fans by moving forward with the playoffs. It's a bold move, but could work out nicely for the league and for growing the sport in general.
Any way you look at it, having an affirmation that hockey will be back this season is exciting. The announcement means we have an indefinite start time and a ton of time for anticipation to build up...
BOLD PREDICTION TIME
Jackets in 4. I am bias and that is a 'homer pick', I admit it. The traditional view of good-defense-beats-good-offense philosophy is my justification. It is Josh Anderson's time to shine and his last chance to play for his next contract. He finds his game and leads the series in scoring. It is bold, and out there a little, but not completely unbelievable. Fingers crossed that the CBJ can bring their A-game.
Stay safe and GO JACKETS!