The Blue Jackets had opportunities on Thursday Night in San Jose, but couldn’t find the back of the net when it mattered.
On the second night of a back to back, against an Anaheim team who had just humiliated the Predators 6-1 on Wednesday night, they needed to push their way into the game, and make the most of every opportunity they could find.
Thanks to some strong work from their Captain, another stellar game from Sergei Bobrovsky, and a contribution at one point or another from every man on the ice, they did just that.
Withstanding an early attempt by the Ducks to take charge of their home ice, the Jackets pushed right back, with Josh Anderson dropping the gloves and setting a tone that the rest of the team quickly followed, skating hard and delivering physical punishment to Anaheim without over committing in the process.
Smart puck decisions were the watchword of the night, and midway through the first period that paid off in a big way, starting with Sam Gagner going behind the net to dig the puck out and push it to a driving Scott Hartnell, then following up the play at the side of the net to slam home the rebound for his first (regular season) goal as a Blue Jacket.
In case that wasn’t exciting enough, the next shift after the goal saw Brandon Saad doing Brandon Saad things, picking up a pass from Nick Foligno as the third man in, weaving straight down the center of the ice, and firing a blast into the net. Initially waved off because the referee believed the puck hadn’t completely crossed the goal line, video review confirmed the puck had indeed beaten John Gibson, and the Jackets established a 2-0 lead in the space of twenty seconds.
The Captain would set up last season’s top goal scorer for the second time with just over six minutes left in the period (putting Saad back atop the goal scorer’s list, for now, and Foligno atop the overall points list for the Jackets - and he wasn’t done).
Down 3-0 and getting frustrated, the Ducks did themselves no favors when Shea Theodore went to the box for a tripping call on the next shift, and the power play went to work.
This time it was Foligno feeding Gagner from behind the net, and the journeyman took his shot, collected the rebound off Gibson’s legs, and roofed it home to hammer down a 4-0 lead that the Jackets took into the first intermission.
From there, it sounds straightforward to say the Jackets just had to lock things down and trust in Sergei Bobrovsky, but anyone who watched this team last season knows that’s easier said than done.
The Blue Jackets came out into the second period with the same level of intensity they demonstrated in the first, and even though they could not find the back of the net again, they sought the puck aggressively, they created turnovers, and even though the shot clock appeared even through end of the second period, it was obvious that Columbus was setting the tempo, and the Ducks were struggling to keep up.
(Oh, and I hear that Cleveland won some kind of baseball game tonight?)
The third period would be more of the same, and even though the shot clock and the faceoff dot said the Ducks were still in this game, you wouldn’t know if from the way the Jackets always seemed to be there to take the puck away, drive the Ducks into the corners, and keep Anaheim from putting any extended pressure on Bobrovsky as the clock ticked down.
There’s no other word for it - this was a complete game, and every single player in a Union Blue jersey was a part of it, ending in a perfect result. There are a lot worse ways to wrap up a week out on the Left Coast.
After a demanding road trip, the Jackets are coming home with a 3-3-1 result after 7 games, with two of those wins by shutout.
The Jackets will fly home and get a chance to catch their breath, and then dive back into the fray.
If they can play against Dallas at home on Tuesday the way they shot down the Ducks, I suspect it’s going to be a game worth watching.