On paper, this looked like a great opportunity for the Blue Jackets to dust themselves off after a hard loss to the Bruins and get back into the win column. The Detroit Red Wings, despite holding home ice, would be on the second night of a back-to-back and missing all star netminder Jimmy Howard due to a hand injury.
Even the loss of Nick Foligno to a personal matter and Matt Calvert to injury was balanced by Marian Gaborik returning to the lineup, and coach Todd Richards made the decision to sit Dalton Prout and put Nikita Nikitin back on the ice, giving them team (in theory) their most experienced D-men to face their old nemesis.
Things seemed off to a good start when the boys came out firing against Jonas Gustavsson, but an early power play for Detroit would put the Jackets on the defensive after Jared Boll was called for a hook.
Most of the penalty kill went quite well, but a late rush up ice by the Wings would see Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg going in to attack the net, and while Fedor Tyutin was able to get his stick into the passing late, the puck would carom away from the crease and land right in front of Daniel Alfredsson, who wasted no time in giving Detroit the lead.
Despite the early goal, the Blue Jackets seemed to collect themselves and play hard, eventually outshooting Detroit 18-7 for the frame, but Gustavsson had an answer for every shot. The Jackets would get several chances with the man advantage, but once again we saw too much passing or isolated shots, and a distinct lack of bodies going to the net or setting up deflection opportunities.
Things appeared to finally get going midway through the second period after Boone Jenner drew an interference call, putting Columbus back on the power play.
The Red Wings' PK was as good as advertised, but Cam Atkinson would unleash what is likely an early goal of the year candidate, starting in his own end and going 1 on 4 against the entire PK before catching his rebound off a sprawling Gustavsson and popping it into the net.
Ideally this kind of effort would have sparked the team, but unfortunately it would be the Wings who answered back. Just under four minutes later, the Jackets were killing a penalty of their own when Fedor Tyutin tried to block a shot in front of Sergei Bobrovsky, and while the official score says that Todd Bertuzzi put the puck into the net, from at least one angle on the NHL.com replay it almost looks like Tyutin might have deflected it behind Bob himself.
Trailing a goal, the Jackets made an effort to come back, including a couple of heroic shifts by both Dubinsky and Jenner, but could not find an answer despite firing 37 shots on goal and another 8 shots that were officially registered as blocked.
There were some...iffy...calls in the final minutes, but honestly, the greater concern here is that the Jackets could not find a second goal in a close match for the second game in a row.
Admittedly, both were against quality opponents, and in both cases their opponents got some remarkably good goaltending, but this team cannot and will not survive unless they start putting pucks in the back of the net, regardless of how good Bob is. (And make no mistake - Bob was quite solid tonight. Neither goal was on him.)
Perhaps, we hope, the road trip will give them a chance to figure something out. Certainly the trip to upstate NY didn't hurt them. But the fact that they'll be facing the Canadiens and Capitals at home before returning to face Vancouver is not filling me with a ton of good thoughts right now.
Final Score - Red Wings 2 - Jackets 1
- Cam Atkinson - Christ almighty, do I even have to explain this one?
- Brandon Dubinsky - If a certain boarding call hadn't interrupted his attack, I think Dubi might have been able to tie this game up. He spent all night buzzing around the net.
- Boone Jenner - Jenner seems to be adjusting to the NHL after his slow start. He's drawing penalties, getting into the tough areas, and generally making a nuisance of himself. Now hopefully we'll see a few pucks hit the net.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Fedor Tyutin - Tyuuts, I love you, but the fact is that both Detroit goals came off your attempts to block or play the puck.
- Faceoffs - On paper, the Jackets won about half their faceoffs, but the Red Wings dominated in virtually every "key" faceoff, particularly on special teams and in their defensive zone.
- Scoring - Nathan Horton can't get well soon enough.
The Jackets will travel now to Montreal, and get a day to gather themselves before facing the Habs. It's not clear if Nick Foligno will rejoin the team for that game, but regardless I wouldn't be shocked if we see some lineup changes. The team is competing, but they're not getting anything done offensively at all. It might be time to re-assemble the Jenner/Dubi/Gaborik line, and I could also see Mark Letestu being asked to take on a heavier role.