The handful of Blue Jackets that were healthy enough to lace up some skates spent Halloween night taking on the Maple Leafs, who are coming off an effortless victory over the Buffalo Sabres.The goaltending matchup featured Curtis McElhinney against Jonathan Bernier.
The good news for the Jackets prior to the game was that Nick Foligno was ready to return to the lineup after his scary injury against the Kings. Foligno played on a line with Alexander Wennberg and Jack Skille tonight.
The game didn't get off on the right foot for the home team, with David Savard heading to the box early after committing a hooking penalty after a turnover. Luckily the Jackets were able to kill the Toronto man advantage. The Jackets followed up the kill with a strong shift by the top line of Ryan Johansen, Cam Atkinson and Scott Hartnell. Johansen actually drew a penalty, but the Jackets were unable to convert on the powerplay.
The top line for Columbus was dangerous all night. The problem for the Jackets was when they weren't on the ice. The difference between the Johansen line and any of the other three was apples and motorcycles. With the top line on the ice, the Leafs were on the heels. When they were on the bench, the beatable Leafs looked like world beaters.
After some back and forth action, the Leafs opened the scoring with 4:30 left in the opening period. After a scramble in front, Phil Kessel gathered the puck, firing it on net. The shot beat McElhinney, but Fedor Tyutin got his skate on it. The problem was, Tyutin's skate was behind the goal line. After a review, it was deemed a good goal.
1-0 Maple Leafs: Phil Kessel - Daniel Winnik, Nazem Kadri
The Jackets had some chances late in the period thanks to a powerplay, but were unable to solve Bernier. In fact, the Leafs had the best chance with the Jackets up a man, thanks to a Tyler Bozak intercept of a Fedor Tyutin pass. Bozak skated in alone on McElhinney, took a shot, but found iron.
The first half of the middle period doesn't warrant discussion. It was shit hockey, with neither team standing out in any way, shape, or form.
A two-on-one featuring Corey Tropp and Alexander Wennberg momentarily brought the fans to their feet. The play was broken up, but at least it woke a few people up.
Jack Johnson was sent to the box for intereference later in the period. While on the powerplay, Dion Phaneuf wired a point shot on net, with David Clarkson redirecting the puck into the net.
2-0 Maple Leafs: David Clarkson - Dion Phaneuf, Peter Holland
Here's the problem. Clarkson was all by himself in front of McElhinney. The defense pairing of Ryan Murray and David Savard flanked him, but did nothing to prevent him from scoring. In fact, the defense pairings tonight were a disaster. With James Wisniewski out, some reshuffling had to take place, but the result was three sets of defenders who looked out of sync with one another, who made it easy for the Maple Leafs to get to the front of the net. The coaching staff seriously needs to rethink the pairings prior to the next game.
The Toronto goal gave the visiting team all of the momentum. A Clarkson penalty in the latter stages of the second gave the Jackets a moment of hope,, but nothing could be done on the powerplay.
Like the second period, the final period started off with each team trading scoring chances, with moments of sustained pressure by each squad. That was, until the 2:38 mark of the third, when Phil Kessel showed patience in feeding Nazem Kadri on a two-on-one for the goal that blew it wide open.
3-0 Maple Leafs: Nazem Kadri - Phil Kessel, Daniel Winnik
Here's what bothers me. Kadri did nothing all night, except for making sure he had his stick on the ice to receive Kessel's perfectly-timed feed. Yet he finished the night with two accidental points.
Marko Dano was given a chance to play with Hartnell and Johansen midway through the third, but the trio were unable to get anything going. This had nothing to do with Atkinson, but was more to do with trying to spark somebody on another line.
On a late powerplay, the Jackets were able to finally break Bernier's shutout streak, with Cam jamming in a puck that Bernier couldnt't freeze after a Johansen shot.
3-1 Maple Leafs: Cam Atkinson - Ryan Johansen, Jack Johnson
The Jackets were unable to build any momentum after the goal, and the final nail in the coffin was scored with under four minutes left in the game, when after a Jared Boll defensive zone turnover, Daniel Winnik scored to ice the game.
4-1 Maple Leafs: Daniel Winnik - Phil Kessel
The problem for the Jackets tonight was simply a lack of scoring. The effort was there, no doubt about it, but when the Johansen line wasn't on the ice, the Leafs looked elite. We all know the Leafs are anything but. With so many crucial and productive players out of the lineup, the Jackets just couldn't hang in there. With a full lineup, with the way the Leafs played tonight, the Jackets would have walked away with two points.
It's frustrating to lose games like this. It sucks. These are winnable games. A healthy lineup can't come soon enough, so the NHL can really see who the Columbus Blue Jackets are.
- Ryan Johansen keeps the point streak alive- now at ten games.
- Thanks to a blackout up here, I had to watch the SNO feed, whicih featured the play-by-play of Paul Romanuk. For me, this was a treat. I grew up on Romanuk's call, and I'll watch the Spengler Cup at Christmas time specifically to listen to him call a game.
- Marko Dano looked dangerous a couple of times. That's good, right?
Bottom of the Barrel:
- Whoever the hell is operating the voodoo doll that keeps knocking Columbus players out of the lineup. Seriously, you're an asshole.
- I heard way too much "Go Leafs Go" tonight. Uggh.
Here's the advanced stats for this game, courtesy of Hockeystats.ca: CLICK HERE
The Jackets take on the Devils tomorrow night. Perhaps Anton Forsberg gets the start.