COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 10: Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates his first NHL goal in the first period against the Vancouver Canucks during the game at Nationwide Arena on October 10, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
The Jackets played their third game in four nights Monday, hoping to avoid their worst start in franchise history. Of all the dumpster-fire squads that Columbus has iced, no team has ever gone 0-3 to start the year. Check after the jump to see if the best Jackets squad (on-paper) can avoid the dubious mark.First Period
The Jackets started the game with the line of Brassard - Vermette - Umberger, with Vermmy taking the draw opposite of former Jacket Manny Malhotra. Just 32 second in however, Manny's stick struck Vermette in the visor, and the Jackets went to the powerplay.
After a few chances, Jeff Carter took the puck to the net, but was stopped by Schneider. As the save was made, Carter was checked into the post by Kevin Bieksa, and while he took a few seconds to get to his feet he was none the worse for wear. With about 20 seconds left in the man advantage, the Canucks were whistled for another penalty, giving the Jackets a brief 2-man advantage. Though they didn't score, the puck movement was as good as it's been so far this season. On one particular chance Cam Atkinson was positioned between the hashmarks, but moved from that spot shortly before a pass was sent there. In a typical Umby move, at the whistle on the way back to the bench, Umby gave him pointers the whole way. It's great to see him take the young players under his wing.
The teams played nuetral-zone shuffle for the next few minutes, with few legitimate chances for either team. At the 11:18 mark, with the "fourth" line of Calvert, MacKenzie and Atkinson on the ice, the puck was kept deep in the Vancouver zone. Hard-working effort by Calvert and MacKenzie kept the puck away from the Vancouver defensers, and DMac fired a hard backhand pass to the slot, finding the tape of Atkinson's stick. The rookie snapped off a quick shot that beat Schneider for his first NHL goal.
1-0 Jackets: Atkinson (MacKenzie)
Have I mentioned how much I love the new goal song?
A few minutes later, the Jackets' top line went on the attack, with furious pressure. At one point, Nash spun and shot the biscuit, beating Schneider but not the post. After an attempt to clear, Russell made a great play to keep the puck in the zone, and the combo of Nash and Carter alternated peppering Schneider.
Immediatly after, the Vermette line hopped over the boards, and continued the assault. After a misplay behind his net Umby stole the puck from Schneider, sliding it in front of the gaping net. Nobody was there, but the pressure by the Jackets was impressive.
The Columbus pressure continued with the Pahlsson line, with Maksim Mayorov dishing the puck out to his linemates for scoring chances. He still looks very impressive out there, but you can't help but wonder what he could do if he was playing with offensive forwards. That said, he and Dorsett both made solid defensive plays when the Canucks briefly went on the counter-attack. Dorsett has showed that he is a valuable defensive forward, a great back-checker. He needs to stay out of the box to improve his skills as a defensive winger.
With 4:30 to go in the first, the Canucks tied the game up. Manny stepped inside the blueline, and wired a pass on net, beating Mason. It was later determined that Chris Higgins tipped the puck on the way in, getting credit for the goal.
1-1: Higgins (Malhotra, Hansen)
Late in the period, the Jackets went on the PP, but couldn't convert. That's 14 straight unsuccessful powerplays to start the season.
End of the first, 1-1.
The two teams played fairly evenly for the first two-plus minutes of the period. At about the two-and-a-half minute mark Prospal went off for hooking, but the Canucks couldn't convert after some strong penalty killing by the Jackets. The forward duo of Vermette and MacKenzie was solid.
As the period moved towards its midway point, the combination of Atkinson and Calvert went to work. The pair created easily three or four scoring chances on a single shift, and though they didn't score, it was a treat to watch. If this is your fourth line, you're a good team.
At about 12:33 Marc Methot finished his check on Henrik Sedin, but with the gap between Sedin and the boards, Sedin lunged forward and Meth was called for boarding. The Canucks had a few chances, and at one point Mason made the save but was bumped by Alex Burrows. Immediatly Russell dropped the mitts, sticking up for his goaltender. This was great to see from Russ. Though he got a roughing penalty, Burrows received a goalie interference call and the teams went four-on-four.
The Jackets had an abbreviated powerplay, but couldn't convert. Powerplay funk counter at 0-fer-15.
The teams continued to alternate chances, but one thing became clear: the Jackets "compete" level was as high as its been all season. They were battling all over the ice, and winning a majority of the battles along the way.
After a period of sustained pressure by the Canucks, the Jackets stepped it up. With a little over a minute left in the period, the top line brought the puck into Vancouver's zone, and after a handful of offensive chances, the puck slid into the corner. Nash, with both of Vancouver's blueliners (Bieksa and Hamhuis) draped on his back, slid the puck to Vinny Prospal behind the net, and Vinny beat Schneider with a wraparound.
2-1 Jackets: Prospal (Nash, Clitsome)
Prospal, with his two goals on the season and three games worth of solid play, is proving to be one of the most shrewd signings of the summer in the NHL. Once Kristian Huselius returns from injury, this team will certainly not lack offensive weapons.
End of the second, 2-1 Jackets.
Under a minute into the third, with the checking unit on the ice for the Jackets, there was a scrum in front of the net, and Chris Tanev covered the puck with his hand in the crease. The Jackets were awarded a penalty shot. Second later, the refs came together for a conversation, with the lead ref calling upstairs to clarify his call. The call was confirmed, and Mayorov was given the penalty shot. He fired off a wrister, but Schneider made the save.
About a minute later, Cody Hodgson won a faceoff to the right of Steve Mason, and Hamhuis gathered the puck in the corner, firing it toward the net, where it was tipped into the goal by Hodgson. Mason didn't have much of a chance at all, but the goal showed the importance of defensive zone faceoffs.
2-2: Hodgson )Hamhuis)
On the ensuing faceoff, the Jackets came out with lots of pressure. Russell had the best chance, taking the puck up-ice and handing off for a shot on net. The teams played back and forth for the next few minutes, without a solid offensive chance for either team.
With about 11 and a half minutes left in the game, Clitsome went to the box. Only a few seconds into the powerplay, the Canucks scored on a jam play to go up by one.
3-2 Vancouver: Burrows (Sedin, Sedin)
Shortly after puck drop, the Jackets went to the powerplay when the Canucks were assessed a penalty for delay of game. The Canucks penalty kill was strong, and the Jackets couldn't convert.
Jeff Carter was called for cross-checking with about four minutes left in the game, but the Canucks couldn'score.
With 1:49 left, Coach Arniel took his timeout. Steve Mason lingered at the blueline, but the Jackets didn't gain possession. When they finally did, he skated to the bench for the extra skater, but the Jackets couldn't get anything going. The Canucks couldn't score an empty-netter due to some nice defensive plays by Vermette, but the final score stood at 3-2 for Vancouver.
- Cam Atkinson: Cammy got his first NHL goal, and was dangerous on every shift, however limited they were.
Kris Russell: Russ made a huge statement this game. Dropping the gloves for Mase, solid defensive play, and making things happen offensively should see him in the lineup next game.
- Vancouver. They're finshers man, after being outshot by a wide margin they scored two third period goals to win it.
Bottom of the Barrell:
- The Jackets powerplay. Wisniewski will settle things down, but will it take eight games to score the first PP goal?
- Steve Mason: I hate to do this, because some of the goals were cheesy. That said, would a stud goalie makes the saves he didn't? The question needs to be asked
- Mondays. The announced attendance was under 10,000. I blame Mondays.
The Jackets play again on Wednesday, at home against the Avalanche. You don't like to think that a game in the second week of the season is a "must-win", but, it's a must-win.
Oh, and yeah, the team is 0-3 to start the year. The worst start in team history. Seriously.