First and foremost, for those of you who celebrate Christmas (no judgments here!), we hope you have a safe, happy, and stress-free holiday. We apologize that we weren't able to recap the Philly game from Saturday, but sometimes the holidays and work and family pre-empt our abilities to sit in front of the computer. Suffice it to say, it was pretty awesome to see the Jackets come out in the third period and lay all kinds of funk down on the Flyers.
That said, the game wasn't without trepidations. The Jackets lost Marian Gaborik again after just a few shifts to a broken collarbone. Matt Calvert left the game as well, and won't be in the lineup tonight. Philly also managed another crazy flurry in which they scored twice in under 30 seconds to tie the game late in the second period. Ugh to all of it.
But, the Jackets came out in the third period, and scored three strong goals to knock Philly's you-know-what in the dirt. And, even when Philly pulled their goalie and managed to cut it to 5-3, all credit to R.J. Umberger for creating an empty-net goal to completely seal it with nothing but effort and hustle.
So, that's where tonight comes in. This game has some importance, as a regulation win would push the Jackets into a tie (in which they hold the tie-breaker) with these Hurricanes (and could put them ahead of the Rags, pending their game tonight). The Jackets do get some guys back in the form of Derek MacKenzie and Jack Skille, so the loss of Calvert is mitigated a bit (I don't really think of Gaborik as a "loss" at this point because they've been playing without him for over a month anyway). If the Jackets, honestly, can play like they did in the third period--and most of Thursday's road effort in Philadelphia--I really like their chances tonight. And, here's why.
Carolina is getting it done with smoke and mirrors this year. They can't score with any regularity, and they're only slightly better defensively than the Jackets and middle of the pack for the league. They're not strong on special teams at all, including a pretty atrocious Power Play. They do a few things well: they stay out of the penalty box (fourth best in the league in PIM/game), they manage shots on goal (almost 30 a game), and they have been good at getting to overtime and earning those extra points. Columbus has more wins than this team, but Carolina has four more OT points, hence the standings. There's something to be said for that. To that point, they've lost five of six games, but they've managed to grab five points in that span (1-2-3). When the Jackets have had losing streaks, they don't steal those points.
So, that's where this game will be won in my opinion. The Hurricanes don't score at home (just 36 goals in 18 games). They don't score on the Power Play. They don't kill penalties with total efficiency. They do, however, play good defense at home, with just 44 goals allowed in those same games. The Jackets need to get ahead early, and impose their will with forechecking and strong defense. They need to watch the top line of Carolina, with Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal driving the bus.
But, most of all, if they have a lead in the third period again, they need to slam the freaking door. This Canes team can hang around and steal those OT points, and the Jackets have shown that they can falter a bit with a lead on the road.
If the third period from Saturday is to have meant anything, the Jackets will need to not let that happen tonight.
Columbus Blue Jackets
(15-17-4, 34 Points; 7th division, 13th conference)
|Brandon Dubinsky||Artem Anisimov||Cam Atkinson|
|Nick Foligno||Ryan Johansen||R.J. Umberger|
|Blake Comeau||Derek MacKenzie||Jack Skille|
|Boone Jenner||Mark Letestu||Corey Tropp|
|Fedor Tyutin||Jack Johnson|
|Ryan Murray||James Wisniewski|
|Nikita Nikitin||David Savard|
(14-14-8, 36 Points; 5th division, 10th conference)
|Jeff Skinner||Eric Staal||Tuomo Ruutu|
|Nathan Gerbe||Jordan Staal||Alexander Semin|
|Jiri Tlusty||Riley Nash||Patrick Dwyer|
|Drayson Bowman||Manny Malhotra||Radek Dvorak|
|Justin Faulk||Andrej Sekera|
|Brett Bellemore||Ron Hainsey|
|Tim Gleason||Jay Harrison|
12/23/13 - Columbus at Carolina
01/10/14 - Carolina at Columbus
01/27/14 - Columbus at Carolina
03/18/14 - Carolina at Columbus
03/29/14 - Columbus at Carolina
Head to Head Stats
Carolina Columbus 2.28 (27) GPG 2.67 (13) 2.72 (16) GAPG 2.83 (20) 12.5% (27) PP% 19.0% (14) 79.5% (23) PK% 82.5% (15) Jeff Skinner, 12 G leader Ryan Johansen, 14 Eric Staal, 20 A leader James Wisniewski, 17 Eric Staal, 29 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 29 Eric Staal, 38 PIM leader Brandon Dubinsky, 68 7-7-4 Home/Road 6-9-2 12/21 @ Tampa Bay, L 3-2 (OT) Last Game 12/21 vs. Philadelphia, W 6-3 4-3-3 Last 10 5-4-1