DENVER, CO - MARCH 01: Nikita Nikitin #6 of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates his first period goal with his teammates as the Blue Jackets take a 1-0 lead over the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on March 1, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Remember that movie? Russians invading the States with the focus on Colorado? In tonight's version there are no teenagers hopped up on school spirit and armed with RPGs to repel the invasion. The Russians won man, and Steve Mason (for our purposes representing the Cubans or whoever joined the Russians) was a huge contributor.
Generally, the game was a bore, though it did have a few highlights. Steve Mason was outstanding, earning the win via shutout. The Russian defense pairing of Nikita Nikitin and Fedor Tyutin supplied all of of the offense, en route to a 2-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
Aside from the warm and fuzzies from experiencing a Columbus victory, I've confirmed two things-
1) Gabriel Landeskog is worth the price of admision.
2) Have you heard of that guy Landeskog in Colorado?
Please read on for the full recap.First Period:
The first few minutes of the game featured two distinct themes- Columbus was content with dumping the puck and playing a physical game, while the Avalanche used their speed and tape-to-tape passing to get past the Columbus checkers.
Gabriel Landeskog had a great chance early, forcing his way towards Columbus starter Steve Mason from the left wing. With a defender on his back Landeskog pulled the puck to his backhand but couldn't beat Mason. Landeskog is a very special player, he plays like he's been in the league for ten years already.
A few minutes later, the combination of Colton GIllies and Derek Dorsett went to work cycling the puck behind Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov. They were unable to get a quality shot off, but this is the third or fourth game in a row where I have been impressed with Gillies' energy. It's a shame he doesn't have more offensive talent- he'd be one of the better power forwards in the league.
The first real chance to break the goose egg came with 8:47 left in the period. Jack Johnson threw the puck on-net, and after a redirect Varlamov was forced to dive on the loose puck in the blue paint. This play came after a strong shift by the Vinny Prospal, Mark Letestu and Cam Atkinson line.
At 12:22 the Jackets received the game's first powerplay when Landeskog was sent off for holding. As a fan of hockey, my favorite goals are those of the one-time-from-the-point variety. Mr. Assist Nikita Nikitin was kind enough to treat me to one, blasting a one-timer past Varlamov to take the lead.
1-0 Jackets: Nikita Nikitin (Vinny Prospal, Fedor Tyutin)
Less than two minutes after Nikitin opened the scoring, the Jackets went back on the man advantage when newcomer Jamie McGinn was called for hooking. This powerplay wasn't effective however, as the Avs were able to prevent the Jackets from setting up shop in the Colorado zone.
After a late rush by Atkinson, the Avs turned it on and applied solid pressure for the last few seconds of the period, but were unable to put the puck past Mason.
End of the first, 1-0 Jackets.
The first five minutes of the period were thoroughly uneventful. The team alternated possession, but scoring chances were few and far between. Atkinson showcased his speed and smarts with on a handful of shifts, but at times was bumped off the puck.
I have to talk about Brett Lebda. I know he had some pretty outrageous turnovers in Toronto, but so far I've liked what he has brought to the Jackets. He's a bottom pairing guy, but he is willing and able to pinch up offensively, and hasn't been beat as often as some Columbus fans will tell you. Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't get the Lebdahate?
I must admit, most of the second period was a dreadful bore. At 15:11 Fedor Tyutin changed that, by joining countryman and defense partner Nikitin in the goal column. After some good puck movement in the Colorado zone by the Jackets, the puck made its way to Tyutin at the left point. Tyutin took a stride or two, wound up, and blasted the puck past Varlamov.
2-0 Jackets: Fedor Tyutin (Vinny Prospal, Derick Brassard)
Shortly afterward, Jack Johnson and Landeskog had a disagreement, leading to the dropping of gloves and chucking of knuckles. We'll call it a draw, and though losing a top pairing blueliner for five minutes can hurt, it was good to see Johnson engaged and willing to do whatever it takes for his team. Landeskog is in the same boat, he was looking to give his team a spark. Truly a fantastic player.
Sakic Nordiques sweater in the crowd. Beauty.
At 17:06, a scrum ensued after Mason froze the puck. Everybody was jostiling, but Derek Dorsett and Cody MacLeod were given matching unsportsmanlike penalties as a message from the zebras. The four-on-four that resulted featured sloppy play by both squads, with Derick Brassard getting the best chance- he was sent in on a clean break, but Varlamov used the poke-check to stop Brassard.
End of the second period, 2-0 Jackets.
At the 1:26 mark Nikitin was sent off for delay of game when the puck was sent over the glass. This, along with the trapezoid, are the two rules that I would love to see removed from the game. At any rate the Avalanche were unable to score while up a man.
The Avs had a great opportunity a few moments later. Jay McClement was on the doorstep, the recipient of a cross-ice pass. He one-time wristed a shot toward the open net, but Mason spread the twigs wide, doing the splits to make a huge save.
With less than two minutes left, the Avs pulled the goalie. Just seconds later, Tyutin went to the box for high-sticking on Landeskog. This put the Avs up six-on-four for the remainder of the game, but they were unable to score.
FInal Score: 2-0 Jackets.
- Steve Mason was great tonight, picking up the shutout.
- All of the offense came from the Russian defense pairing of Tyutin and Nikitin. Both goals were hard, accurate shots that beat countryman Varlamov. I wonder if this duo will be preventing goals for Varlamov if NHLers go to Sochi for the 2014 Olympics?
- Derek MacKenzie was his usual warrior self. Love that guy.
- Props to JJ for dropping the mitts.
- Vinny Prospal with a pair of assists to help my fantasy team take the lead in the first week of the playoffs.
Bottom of the Barrel:
Ryan Johansen played the second fewest minutes, with only Ryan Russell playing fewer minutes. Russell likely would have played more then Johansen if he didn't split his PK minutes with Darryl Boyce. I understamd that a rookie need to earn his spot, but with the Jackets' bottom two lines essentially comprised of fourth liners, I would expect Johansen to get more minutes. Bottom of the totem pole on the 30th-place team can't do much for confidence.
- I think Colorado needs a sweater update.