Both of these teams came in having broken losing streaks over the weekend, and were looking to build a winning streak against a division opponent. The Blue Jackets talked a lot about "urgency" and also "patience" for this home-stand. You need patience to play the Devils with their trap. You're not going to win "pretty" against them.
While the first period showed a lot of that, the urgency certainly became evident in the second, and the Jackets simply shut the door in the third. James Wisniewski went from a game-time decision (he said he decided to play about three minutes after warm ups were done) to a three-point night, Sergei Bobrovsky was strong, and the Jackets were solid enough defensively to hold off the struggling Devils in a 4-1 win.
The period got off to a... let's call it slow start. The Devils aren't known for their offense, and let's face it, neither are the Blue Jackets. There wasn't a lot of action early; as I noted in the game thread, there seemed to be a general malaise in the building early on. Not a lot of scoring chances, not a lot of energy, and the crowd responded to that in kind. The first 10 minutes were largely uneventful, with the exception of a solid Sergei Bobrovsky glove save off of a mini rush by Andrei Loktionov.
The Jackets would get the first chances, as around the 10:30 mark Dalton Prout would fire a shot from the right point which Cory Schneider was able to stop. The rebound, however, popped right out to R.J. Umberger, who couldn't put it past the Devils' netminder.
Columbus would get a chance on the Power Play, as Travis Zajac would head off for a high sticking call at the 11:19 mark. The Jackets would get a couple of shots, but not much to speak of. They seemed a bit too content to cycle the puck out high and rely on point shots. One thing of note, however, was that we saw a LOT of Ryan Murray on the Power Play, whereas Fedor Tyutin only got six seconds of PP time. That tells you a bit about the kid's game. "It's the first game I've really seen [PP time]," Murray told me, ever the humble one. "I was just glad to get the opportunity out there."
The teams would trade close calls, with Marian Gaborik executing a perfect wrap-around that snuck past Schneider only to have Bryce Salvador keep the puck out of the net with his skate allowing Schneider time to recover and dive to get his glove on it. The Devils got two prime chances, as a point shot from Mark Fayne would get partially blocked in the slot, only to land on the stick of Rostislav Olesz. Bob's right pad was there to keep the game scoreless.
Bob stood up huge again about 30 seconds later, as a Jack Johnson clearing attempt from below the goal line would ricochet off the skate of a referee, and drift right into the slot in front of Bobrovsky where Zajac had all day to set and fire. Bob smothered the shot and gave no rebound.
The Devils would get their chance on the man advantage as well when Blake Comeau would go off for boarding at 18:17, but it was Columbus that got the better scoring chance. After a defenseman whiffed on holding the puck in the zone, Mark Letestu and Derek MacKenzie broke out for a two-on-two rush. Letestu drew both defensemen to him on the right, and he feathered a pass to Mac at center. He had time to settle and shoot, but put the puck wide left.
End of 1st Period - 0-0 tie
Where the first period was sluggish, the second period did not lack for action. Both clubs' Power Play units would figure into this one, and the teams combined for 20 shots, a much more lively output than the first. The Devils would get the first chances, as Jaromir Jagr again proved that he is ageless. He and Rostislav Olesz would combine to get several cracks at Bobrovsky on the left doorstep early on, and later the puck would get past Bobrovsky coming across where Jagr had nothing but air between himself and the net. Thankfully a Jackets defender was able to get a body on him and keep his stick off the puck.
The Devils' PP unit would again get a chance to get going, as Gaborik would go off for a hook at 4:43. The Jackets PK was good... until it wasn't. The puck ended up on Jagr's stick on the right half-wall, and there was too much space afforded to both he and Michael Ryder. Jagr fed the puck to Ryder, who had time to turn and send one in on Bobrovsky's blocker side into the upper corner while Bob was being screened by Olesz.
1-0 Devils - Michael Ryder (4th) at 6:24 from Jaromir Jagr and Rostislav Olesz - PPG
The Jackets would not wait long to get the equalizer. Chasing the puck deep into the Columbus end, Jagr would essentially wrap up Johnson for a slew-foot throwdown. Johnson took exception, and it seemed to liven up the Jackets bench a bit. Jagr went off for holding, and the Jackets' PP would go to work. Similar to their first man advantage, it was a lot of perimeter passing and point shots, which was uninspiring. Until it all of a sudden bore some fruit.
The puck came high to James Wisniewski at the right point. Wiz unloaded, and Umberger was screening Schneider. The puck bounced off of Umby's legs, right to the stick of Brandon Dubinsky, who was crashing hard. With a defender draped on his back, Duby got a stick on it to put it into the open net and tie the game.
1-1 tie - Brandon Dubinsky (2nd) at 9:56 from R.J. Umberger and James Wisniewski - PPG
"We weren't scoring a lot of goals for a little while," Dubinsky said, "and it was important for us to get traffic to the net, especially on the Power Play. RJ does a great job, Wiz gets it through, it ping pongs around, and it's just laying there for me. It was an easy goal that those guys did a lot of hard work for. You've gotta find a way to get traffic and get rebounds, and that's the way you're going to put them in the back of the net."
"I think [that Power Play] was when it started to change, started to shift back to us." coach Todd Richards said. "We seemed to have some intensity on that Power Play. You could tell by the way we were passing and the battles for the loose pucks. After we scored, it carried over to five-on-five."
I asked Wisniewski about the need for those dirty goals and needing to build off of those. "I 100% agree with that," he said. "If you look at our lineup up and down, we don't have the most skilled lineup. We're that blue-collared working team. We need to put our nose to the grindstone and just outwork every other team, and that's how we're going to win hockey games."
The teams weren't done trading chances. Wisniewski would commit a series of brutal clearing failures, the last one resulting in a turnover to Jagr. Jagr fed the puck cross-ice to a streaking Dainius Zubrus, who tried to beat Bob. But, the Vezina winner was quicker, getting across to take away the shooting lane.
Not long after that, a brilliant individual effort from Cam Atkinson would give the Jackets the lead. After getting the puck deep, Atkinson was hanging out at the point. He stopped a clearing attempt, and skated the puck into the high slot. Just past the circle, he loaded up a backhander that snuck by Schneider inside the far post as Boone Jenner provided the screen.
2-1 Blue Jackets - Cam Atkinson (3rd) at 15:30 (unassisted) - EV
"I got a pass from Boone or Duby, and went into the zone and tried to give it back to [David Savard]," Atkinson said of how he found himself at the point. "It was kind of a fumble play. [Savard] kept it in the zone, and I was just kind of at the blue line at the time. There was a little bit of open space, and I just went with it."
The Devils' PP would get another chance, with Jenner going off for a slash at 17:02. But, the Jackets' PK was equal to the task, and after a good kill Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno found themselves with several chances off of a rush.
The period would end with Zubrus taking a delay of game call for covering the puck with his glove off a faceoff with just over two seconds left, which would set the Jackets up for the third period.
End of 2nd Period - 2-1 Blue Jackets
The Jackets weren't able to get anything done on the Power Play, and at first it felt like they might be content to try to sit on the 2-1 lead. The Devils are offensively-challenged, but that didn't seem like a great strategy. Thankfully, fortune and timing would combine to reward the Jackets. With Atkinson deep, the puck was moving out off of a Devils skate. The Devils tried to make a break out play, but Wisniewski was able to hold it in at the blue line, and with no one in front of him he loaded up a slapshot. It went off a Devils defender in front and redirected under Schneider for a huge insurance goal.
3-1 Blue Jackets - James Wisniewski (1st) at 4:12 (unassisted) - EV
"I saw Cam going to the net," Wisniewski said, "so really I was just kind of throwing it on net to try to get a tip or a rebound. It happened to find its way into the back of the net."
"Wiz deserved that [goal] after his sickness," Atkinson said. "Good for him to get that one."
The best way I can describe most of the third period is that the Jackets seemed content to let the Devils expend their energy trying to catch back up, and they never panicked in their own zone when things got dicey. Let me expand on this a bit. Both Dubinsky and Wisniewski talked post-game about "urgency" and Wiz elaborated on it a bit. He talked about guys working hard enough that they were "uncomfortable" with how hard they were working. He talked of guys working hard, and then being willing to go a little further. Certainly he walked that walk tonight given the illness.
But, with all that talk of "urgency" and "discomfort," I never felt like the Jackets were scrambling for long periods of time. There were some moments in the second period, yes, but many times in front of their own net in the third, a Jackets defenseman would collect the puck and calmly make a pass. That interesting synergy of urgency, discomfort, and yet also calmness would be how I would describe the third period. The Devils had some chances, but I never once felt like the Jackets were letting the game slip away.
Let that last sentence sink in a bit.
"I thought that we played really well defensively tonight," Murray said. "Once we got the lead, we did a good job of holding on to that and minimizing their chances out there."
The most interesting part of the third period centered around Anton Volchenkov. Around the 8:00 mark, Jared Boll finished a MONSTER check on Volchenkov that left the latter slow to get up from the ice and the crowd fired up. Not two and a half minutes later, Volchenkov laid out Dubinsky as the latter entered the Devils' zone. Duby called it a legal hit in the dressing room (it was), but showed why he's becoming the leader of this team. Rather than let it go, he grabbed Volchenkov by the neck, gave him a nice face wash, and tackled him backward to the ice as a pile-up ensued. Duby got the gate for roughing, but it was worth it as the Jackets killed off the penalty with aplomb.
"He's our leader, for sure," Atkinson said of Dubinsky after the game. "I think it's pretty obvious. I love playing with him. It was a tough play [for him], but that's what he does. That's what he brings day-in and day-out for us."
The game would finish with the Jackets getting an empty netter from the stick of Gaborik to seal the deal.
4-1 Blue Jackets - Marian Gaborik (4th) at 19:35 from Brandon Dubinsky and James Wisniewski - EV/ENG
Final Score - 4-1 Blue Jackets
- James Wisniewski- Have to lead off here. For whatever defensive issues he had, he still brings the leadership. To be ill enough to be a game-time decision and then come out and have a three-point night, you have to give him credit. He said he felt OK on the ice, but between shifts and between periods he wasn't feeling great. "He wasn't feeling too good," Murray told me. "He showed up ready to go and had a fantastic game. It's awesome to see. Right until the last shift he's taking a hit to get the puck out of the zone. He's battling all game. It's great to see, and it's great to have leaders like that on this team."
- 38--17--13 - This was the Jackets' most consistently dangerous line all night. As Boone Jenner continues to find his way in the NHL and Cam Atkinson continues to show how dangerous he can be when 100% healthy, they're going to continue to provide some much-needed secondary scoring.
- Ryan Murray - Found his way onto the Power Play, never looks rattled at all. I remember all the hype about Adam Larsson in his draft year. He was sitting in the press box with me tonight. Murray was playing 18:04 minutes in all phases of the game and finishing +2. He's [edit: just turned 20, my bad], folks. He's not even really started getting "better" yet, especially on offense.
- Ryan Johansen - Another solid game for Johansen. He was 11-for-19 in the faceoff circle, played 18:27, and notched three hits and a takeaway. Todd Richards praised him in the post-game presser.
- Jaromir Jagr - Sorry, but he goes here by virtue of being almost 42 years old and still being a capable, impact NHL player. This is the first time I've ever gotten to see him play in person, sadly for me.
Bottom of the Barrel
- Anton Volchenkov - Dude, you got punked. Twice. Seriously, the slo-mo replay of the face he was making as Dubinsky absolutely washed his face was priceless.
- Playing From Behind - They escaped it tonight, but this is six of nine games in which the Jackets' opponents scored first. Not the best trend.
I got nothin' else for BotB. Just a solid, if not flashy, win for the Jackets tonight against a team they should handle. Columbus gets a couple days off before Toronto comes to town on Friday night.