Jackets 3, Blues 0: Are these Jackets for real?

Okay, so I missed another home game last night. My excuse, which will probably get me drummed out of the hockey fan community forever is that I was at the symphony. For real. I thought I’d planned my symphony tickets around the CBJ home schedule, but I must have thought yesterday was a road game when I was doing that. In any event, it was a very nice performance of Haydn, Mozart, and Schumann. This fellow was guest musician, and he is quite an impressive young talent. He’s only the same age as Rick Nash.

Anyway, though, I did get home to watch the last two periods of the game. Ho-hum, another win, another shutout for Pascal. What else is new?

I’m not really quite that blasé yet about this new winning tradition in Columbus. Hell, I’m still trying to decide if it’s for real, or just some glorious dream from which I’m going to wake up and discover I’ve overslept the alarm and am late for work.

I predicted the Jackets would be in the vicinity of .500 this season, and so far they’re comfortably ahead of that pace. I did say that:

Well, if some players have break out seasons, others in contract years play to get the big bucks, there’s some better luck with injuries, and the team just all-around plays over their heads (a la the 2000-01 original Blue Jackets), they could surprise a few teams, and maybe sneak into that #8 spot. But there are a lot of ‘ifs’ in that, so we’ll call that my dream projection for 2007-08.

Is my dream prediction coming true? Well, the players I expected to have breakout seasons so far are not: Brule has shown flashes, but is still below expectations; Fritsche is still working hard and playing his game, but still hasn’t had the offensive breakout I’d hoped for; Brassard is tearing it up — in the AHL; Russell hasn’t looked out of place, but hasn’t been lighting up the scoreboard either. And some of those contract year players? Fedorov is starting to play better, but had a very disinterested camp/beginning of the season; Vyborny’s effort has been there, but he hasn’t been scoring at all; Foote’s at least been playing well, although there have still been times when the NHL appears to have passed him by. So, no, that hasn’t happened. Some players have been surprising: Nik Zherdev is finally playing to his ability, and although I’ve always been a Pascal fan, I surely didn’t expect five shutouts by November 5. Rick Nash is looking like the dominant player we knew he could be. Jiri Novotny has been a pleasant surprise. Mike Peca’s playing a couple lines above where I would have expected him to be and doing well.

So some of the individual pieces are doing better than expected, others are doing worse. That would seem to balance out and put us right back to my original .500 prediction. But they’re winning. Even when they really shouldn’t.

From my previous incarnation as an Ottawa Senators fan, I remember the feeling when that team suddenly got good. Of course, the Sens were a bit ahead of the curve compared to the Jackets, having snuck into the playoffs before becoming a (regular season) force. But I can still remember when they kept winning. Even against teams they shouldn’t win against. Even when they didn’t seem to play all that well. They just kept winning. And after years of frustration and pessimism, I had to undergo a paradigm shift of my own and say, hey, this is a good team.

I have that feeling right now about the Jackets. Part of me is saying they can’t possibly keep it up, they haven’t had any real tests yet, once injuries start piling up they’ll fall off the pace. But part of me is starting to believe that, hey, this is a good team.

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