"The Bob is risen indeed. Alleluia!"
-A minor heresy I just uttered.
Despite having to deal with cross-continental international travel yesterday, the Blue Jackets started things off on the right foot against a rested and dangerous Anaheim squad. In fact, it appeared they got things off to a VERY good start when a shot by James Wisniewski appeared to go in - fooling even the goal crew, who set off the horn and cannon, but it would be waved off by referee Dan O'Halloran, and play would continue for almost six minutes before it could finally be reviewed after Anaheim iced the puck following a constant, flowing battle through all three zones.
The puck was determined to have struck the post and slid right across the line, but did not cross into the net, and play would continue, eventually ending in a scoreless first intermission despite each team getting opportunities with the man advantage. Despite a relatively low shot clock (9 for Columbus, 7 for the Ducks), the Jackets maintained solid pressure and seemed to be controlling much of the tempo of play.
That same intensity carried the team in the second period, and the efforts would be rewarded when Mark Letestu shot the puck intentionally off the end boards, and Derick Brassard would clean up the rebound, hopping it over Jonas Hiller's leg and into the back of the net.
The club had more scoring chances, including a couple of beauties by Ryan Johansen and Matt Calvert, but they would not succeed in extending the lead. Worse, the period would end on a scary note when R.J. Umberger was clocked in the face by Sheldon Souray, and the veteran fell to the ice clutching his eye after being struck by the butt end of Souray's stick. The forward would need assistance from the trainer to make it to the dressing room, but no foul would be called on the play.
The team would take the 1-0 lead into intermission, and Umby would return for the third period, thankfully showing no signs of a major injury. Pressured heavily by the Ducks, the Jackets would collapse inward, trying to keep the puck to the outside of the zone and protect their goaltender, while Sergei Bobrovsky would come up with answers for the shots he needed to face.
Unfortunately, R.J. Umberger would figure into the next goal, but not in a positive way. Turning the puck over to Bryan Allen inside his own zone, the puck would make it's way to Emerson Etem, who fired a snap shot that slid just inside the post to tie the game.
The Jackets showed more and more fatigue as the period went on, while Anaheim turned up the pressure, particularly Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan. The captain and his Richard / Hart trophy winning linemate were challenged by the AA / Calvert / Atkinson line, and despite the size difference, they used their speed to help win battles and take away space wherever they could.
Things got increasingly tense as time ticked away, and the shot clock climbed higher and higher in favor of the Ducks, but Bob showed an impressive rebound after his rough night in Edmonton, and finally the horn would sound.
The point they earned was good news, but the real energizer was finding out that the Kings had defeated Dallas in regulation - meaning that if the club could earn the extra point, 8th place was theirs for the taking.
That seemed to put the spring back into their step, and once again the Hatched and Hungry lead the way. Cam Atkinson in particuarly had two beautiful chances to end the game, one stopped by a diving poke check from Francois Beauchemin, the other defeated thanks to Hiller making a last second kick save.
As OT ran down, it looked likely that a shootout was in the near future...but then everything changed.
Dalton Prout and Nikita Nikitin worked the puck back and forth at the top of the zone, looking for an opening, when Niki6 found a clear lane to pass the puck up to Mark Letestu.
Test Tube caught the puck right on the blade of his stick at the top of the faceoff circle, and unleashed a wrist shot that found the back of the net with exactly one minute left in overtime.
It's more than two points. It's more than the 8th seed, however long it lasts. It's more than beating one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
It's bending, but not breaking.
It's finding the ways to score.
It's having confidence in the Number One Cop.
It's rising above the adversity.
I couldn't predict what Wednesday's trade deadline will hold. I don't know if this team will be able to hang on above the bar. But based on everything we have seen? I know that this team is better than they've been in a long time. I know that this team will keep fighting no matter what. I know this team is more than the sum of their parts.
And I know that after so many years of frustration, this team is going to make their fans proud.
Final Score: Jackets 2 - Ducks 1 (OT)
- Sergei Bobrovsky - One save away from his fourth shutout of the season, Bob was incredible. This team needed him, especially the more their fatigue impacted the game, and he was there the entire way. Bob for Vezina, Bob for Hart, Bob for God-Emperor.
- Derick Brassard - Joyeuses Pâques, Derick! He continues his point and goal streaks tonight. It's huge for this team that Brass is getting hot down the stretch, and if he IS a possible trade target, it just makes his value that much better.
- Mark Letestu - Seriously, pay the man, pay the man, pay the man. Give him a nice little raise, buy him a nice little house in Upper Arlington, and let's keep this party rolling.
- James Wisniewski - Sorry, Wiz, but you still just don't look 100%. I'm hoping the three day break will help him get back into battery.
- R.J. Umberger - Not only was his turnover on the Anaheim goal a very ugly play, he was fighting the puck all night despite being double-shifted for much of the second and third periods.
- Dead Legs - I completely understand why it happened, but the Jackets cannot let the fatigue get to them over these final 12 games if they want to break into the postseason once again.
- Officials - I get the idea of letting the boys play, especially getting closer to the playoffs, but there were some pretty questionable calls on both sides.