"Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs?!”
NFL coach Jim Mora’s infamous press conference rant seemed like a pretty good summary of the Blue Jackets’ shot at the franchise’s second-ever playoff appearance this year.
Yet here we are with the very real possibility that Saturday’s regular-season finale won’t be the last hockey Nationwide Arena sees this year. You might rightly be wondering, How the hell did that happen?
Here are the key storylines from an unexpected dream season.
The Freewheelin’ Bobrovsky
The story of the 2013 Blue Jackets has to start with emerging star netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s the No. 1 cop on the force! (Google it.)
Since pulling out of a goaltending time-share with Steve Mason, Bob has turned heads around the league — he’s a frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy for the league’s top goalie and getting buzz for the Hart (awarded to the league MVP).
Quite simply, he keeps the Jackets in almost every game, and he’s why they might be scary even as a low playoff seed.
Forecheck Your Head
The Jackets haven’t suddenly turned into a tic-tac-toe team deftly passing their way to highlight goals, but they’ve found their key to scoring success by checking in the offensive zone. That’s “forecheck” for those of you who aren’t in the know.
In other words, they’re smashing into opponents and then scoring goals. What’s not to like?
Just when I was thinking of the post-Rick Nash Jackets, baby, you’re a lost cause …
The already shaken-up lineup got a further shake-up with trade-deadline deals that shipped out players long considered key building blocks (Steve Mason, Derick Brassard) and brought in a veteran scorer in Marian Gaborik.
The team might not look familiar, but neither is the winning. It’s a culture I could get used to.
Jarmo Be There
The midseason switch at general manager gives Jackets fans another reason to be excited, playoffs or not. New GM Jarmo Kekäläinen is known as a master at finding gems in the draft — something the Jackets have long lacked.
Oh, and Jarmo gets three first-round picks to play with this year. But first, let’s make the playoffs.