We stand on the precipice of an era before us this weekend, as if everything goes according to plan (and nothing plain crazy happens for playoff seeding), Saturday's and Sunday's games against the Columbus Blue Jackets will be the last meeting for these two teams as division rivals for the foreseeable future.
It's a little sad that we took so long to get to know the folks over at SB Nation's Blue Jackets blog The Cannon, as they're a pretty great crowd. Alas, things have to change and the world of hockey has little time for regrets. We'll charge forward into the weekend with our heads held high and, more importantly, with 3 questions answered by Dan Parker.
1. Three straight wins after an overtime loss to the one team in the league it's apparently a badge of honor to lose to in extra time. What's going right for the Jackets lately?
To be honest, it's hard to say what's fueling this 3-0-2 run. Sergei Bobrovsky has been playing well in his last three outings. The Jackets score goals at home at about a 2-1 rate as on the road (they're 6-4-3 at home, if you can believe that). They're getting some injured players back. They're killing penalties at an astounding rate considering they were 30th all season last season. But, it really all comes down to one thing: effort. This team in the past would generally pack it in when falling behind. For example, the game in Detroit in which the Wings took the 2-0 lead in the first few minutes would have been a complete go-through-the-motions in years past. But they tightened up, clawed their way back, and stole a win. They've cleaned their room out of some of the dead wood, and it's paying dividends. They're not skilled, but they wear their opponents down. Lately, the pucks are going in (and/or staying out) at the right times, too. It's been a perfect storm.
2. Who would win in a spelling bee between Derek Dorsett and Jordin Tootoo?
Well, it's hard to tell now. Dorsett is out for the rest of the season after breaking his collar bone Thursday night against Vancouver. No word on how that affects his spelling. I'm sure that guys like Jared Boll may have a thing or two to say to Tootoo if he elects to challenge the assertion of his irrelevance this weekend.
3. Now that the half-season is halfway over, how are Jackets fans settling in as far as Rick Nash in New York is concerned? Is there a lot of leftover bitterness? Are there a lot of people happy to see him doing relatively well?
I can't speak for everyone, but I'm glad that he's doing well for a couple of reasons. First, he suffered through so much crap in years-past here in Columbus that I'm glad he's going to get a shot at the playoffs, finally. Also, I'm glad that he's getting the exposure he always deserved but never got here. It was funny to me; when the trade was close to going down, a LOT of Rangers fans didn't want to make the move because "Nash is overrated!" "He's not worth his contract!" etc.etc. Now, he's a "megabeast" and he's "carrying the team" and he's their "best player". He's doing what he's always done; I'm glad more people finally get to see it.
Now, I'm sure there's some bitterness for some Columbus fans. Nash carried the label of "lazy" with some fans (even though he carried this franchise for years...), and his leadership as Captain was suspect. It's not a coincindence that, after the trade deadline last season--and he stepped back from the leadership role and let the new guys step up--the team has gone roughly .500 since the beginning of last March (19-20-4). With this roster, that's a pretty big achievement. Few would argue it's because the team seems to have stepped up their "giving a shit" quotient with the new leadership group. That's a big indictment of Nash's Captaincy, for sure.
Overall, I'm happy he's doing well. I'll root for him in the playoffs (not the Rangers, due to draft pick considerations), and I hope he plays well. Next year, however, when we're in the same division, things may change just a bit.