Game 3 of the Claude Noel era was simply, dominant. On paper, this game looked like like a sure fire disaster. But that was against the old Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Sharks, who had won 9 straight road games and looking for a franchise tying 10th, mosied their way into the freezing cold streets of Columbus to face off with the Jackets. As always, the key is to establish your pace, and dominance on the ice early. The Jackets did just that.
There were 3 keys that lead the Jackets to victory:
- Shutting down the Sharks with stingy defense
- Steve Mason's highlight reel saves
- Being physical
I thought the first 10 minutes of the game were played perfectly. Its easy to see that everyone is playing smarter and you can really notice that everyone's energy has shot up since Claude Noel took over.
The line of Heatley - Thornton - Marleau is probably the top line in the entire league and they turned into a non-factor. Our defense played a great game to shut these guys down. I can't recall a single turnover on our end of the ice.
Anyone else really like the pair of Kris Russell and Milan Jurcina? I feel like we have a fourth forward, and with Jurcina's size, I can't notice that he's the only defenseman back there. My only wish for Milan is for him to shoot the puck more. 1 shot isn't enough. Tyutin and Methot also played well together, logging the most ice time on the team (22:03 and 21:15 respectively)
The Jackets went 3-3 on the PK and have been lights out in recent games. Its great to see Noel show faith in his younger players to get ice time during the kill. I think part of the success lately has been the killers want to show they can be a valuable asset in every situation.
On the offensive side of things, we got to see Nasher being Nasher. He netted his 26th goal on a feed from Huselius. He used his size and strength to fight off Douglas Murray and was able to get his stick on the puck at the last second to tip it in.
Part of being a leader is to put the team ahead of yourself. Late in the game with the net empty, Antoine Vermette stole the puck near center ice and with Nash, headed towards the net. Rick had the chance to take the puck and pot his second goal of the game. Instead, he held up at the blue line and let Vermette score his 19th of the year.
There was a huge, enormous, monstrous sigh of relief for Jakub Voracek in the 2nd. It all started with a turnover forced by Raffi Torres. Brass collected the puck and made a slick move to get away from one Shark, then chipped the puck ahead to a streaking Voracek who slid the puck between the pads of Thomas Greiss. This ended a 2 month goalless drought.
Side note: I think we should start calling Voracek "The Babe." In case you missed it, Jeff Rimer mentioned that Voracek said he WILL score tonight. In my book, thats just as good as the Babe calling his shot.
Earlier in the year, we've watched Mason struggle and bounce back a time or two. We talk about how he's shown flashes of his former self, but he looks like he's in a zone. 3 straight wins, only one goal allowed on 90 shots. He made some incredible saves. Its games and stretches like this that really make you realize how special a hockey player he is. All the naysayers who wanted him sent back to Syracuse need to look at the bigger picture and see what he's doing.
There's no doubt that he was the reason we won this game. Congrats, Steve. He's going to hold every Blue Jackets franchise record for a goalie. Mark my words. He recently passed our good friend Pascal LeClaire and Fredrik Norrena in wins and games played, respectively. He also sits in third in career saves, and is the franchise leader in career shutouts.
All in all I thought the effort was there all game long, but I think it could've been a bigger blowout. The number of rebounds Greiss gave up was astonishing. What was more astonishing was the fact that none of them were converted for goals. It was the best chance for Torres to score...a lot.
Mancrush: Jakub Voracek. In the last couple games I've seen him flying around a lot more than in recent memory. He's got a swagger about him that is really going to propel him to the next level. Keep it up!
Doghouse: Juice and Clarkie. Its not that they did anything that changed the game in a bad way, but they both had one on ones with the goalie and missed on their shots. Those are the freebies that need to be converted all the time.
It seems to me like things are finally turning the corner. Playoffs or not, the team gave everyone reason to believe again.
Post Game Content:
Tonight v. Vancouver