Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Tale Of Two Cellar-Dwelling* Teams...

Two teams... both with high hopes great personnel and great expectations. One struggled en route to another sub-par season... the other bounced back from an embarassing Playoff exit to break a 39-year Stanley Cup drought.

Yet a few weeks into the season, both the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Boston Bruins were mired in dead last in their respective conferences.

October was a rough month. Columbus came into the season with high expectations, and a roster finally built for the up-tempo style that Scott Arniel touted -- a style the team desperately needed.

Meanwhile, in Boston, the Bruins -- after losing a couple guys to free agency but largely keeping the lineup intact -- fumbled and stumbled to what can only be described on the "Stanley Cup Hangover Scale" as something equivalent to waking up, falling out of bed, making your way to the living room and finding Snooki from Jersey Shore calling McDonald's to see if they'll deliver breakfast.

Needless to say, between Columbus and Boston… I was shaking my head A LOT in October.

Now it is mid-November. Although Columbus is still trying to find its way out half of a ten-games-below-.500 hole, the Bruins have won six straight and are knocking on the door of the top eight in the East. The Jackets are once again coming off another failed opportunity to get a win streak going -- after being shocked into submission by two quick Minnesota goals that tied the game, en route to a 4-2 loss.

Now, to be clear, no one picked the Jackets to win the Stanley Cup. And honestly, it seems very few even had Columbus even making the Playoffs this year. For the most part, the doubters were focused firmly on Steve Mason. To be fair, the Jackets' woes are not all on him. On quite a few occasions the team in front of Mason has been playing like $#!+. And then, of course, there are the occasions that Mason has been very, very hard to watch. This entire team has been woefully underperforming. Seems this team has no faith in their goaltender, the goaltender has no faith in the team in front of him. Most sadly... I'm not sure this team has faith in itself.

And that is deadly. This team is running out of time to get back on track, and have any reasonable expectation of even sniffing the playoff line in the Western Conference. Even the New Jersey Devils -- as godawful as they were last year -- didn't dig themselves a whole this deep, and in the long run, they fell short anyway. And that's in the weaker Eastern Conference, with the NHL's best (statistically) goaltender of all time.

Now, it is Columbus as good as Boston, personnel-wise? Probably not. Boston essentially has two number-one goaltenders, and are hitting their stride in scoring, and have young guys like Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand following their impressive rookie years with solid performances this season. There is a reason why Boston didn't have to do much in the off-season and still be considered by some as favorites to repeat.

Yet, like Columbus, Boston got off to a craptastic start that got quite a few fans rattled.

However, Boston has proven that it is possible to go on a monster streak and get back in contention... and quickly. Jackets GM Scott Howson has put together some really good players on this hockey team. Why it has not shown on the ice is anyone's guess. All we have our same old canned responses about having confidence in one another, we're just not getting it done, we need to establish consistency, yadda yadda yadda.

The Jackets have the personnel to win. It's time for them to take a page from the Bruins' book, focus on the problems, fix them and shut up and play the hockey they know they can play.

And what better team to begin that potential monster streak against... than the Boston Bruins?

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* - Obviously, one of them isn't anymore...

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