There are only 3 games to go, including this one. Mercifully, this long season is coming to a close. Despite being a battle between teams at the wrong end of the standings, tonight’s matchup had serious implications for both teams- not for this season, but for perhaps the futures of the franchises. A win tonight would guarantee that the Columbus Blue Jackets cannot finish 30th in the NHL this season (which, honestly, Edmonton is going to anyway. I hope Austin Matthews likes northern Canada).
We’re 24 days from the NHL Draft Lottery. For (most) Blue Jackets fans, that’s all the team has had to look forward to this season. It’s been hard to get up for any regular season games since the season was basically over before Halloween. Tonight was a monumental game with respect to the lottery- a loss could go a long way to solidifying a bottom 3 finish.
Columbus had, to their credit, iced mostly a full lineup tonight. It was a lineup that, at the start of the season, had playoff aspirations. The Toronto Maple Leafs, on the other hand, were fully invested in the tank, icing a younger lineup than even Columbus was. In the race to the bottom, only would team could "win" tonight- who would that be?
Count me among the "play well and lose" group. Matthews (PLEASE, hockey gods) or one of the Finns would be a huge addition for this team, and the boys on the ice need all the talent we can add.
In team news, Scott Hartnell would return to the lineup after his 3rd healthy scratch of the season. Sergei Bobrovsky, losing netminder in 6 of his last 8 appearances, would man the net tonight. Honestly, no idea what to expect going into this one.
Let’s get to the highlights.
FIRST PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
Your CBJ starters: Matt Calvert, William Karlsson, Josh Anderson, Ryan Murray, Seth Jones, Sergei Bobrovsky
6 guys for Toronto skating tonight have fewer than 10 games experience. Tank on, Leafs.
Sergei Bobrovsky made a save 1:00 in on Sam Carrick (who was playing his second ever game) after a feed from Brad Boyes as David Savard went for a hit and completely missed.
Toronto completely controlled play for the first 3 minutes. That was ... unexpected. The Leafs had controlled possession and skated rings around Columbus.
Seth Jones registered the first shot of the period on Garrett Sparks at 5:42. Exciting stuff. Allow me to strike that. It was taken back as being wide of the net.
Sparks made a save at 8:25 on a bouncing puck from Boone Jenner.
This first period has been as exciting as watching caution laps in a NASCAR race.
Leafs power play. Ryan Murray went off for holding William Nylander at 10:10.
The Jackets killed the penalty, allowing one shot on net.
Scott Hartnell saw a slapper lazily denied at 12:33. This was Columbus’ first shot on goal of the entire game. Sweet lord.
SHOT NUMBER 2. Cam Atkinson saw a wrister juggled and held with 5:14 to go in the period.
Sparks made a pad save on Brandon Dubinsky at 17:30 after Dubinsky had wrapped around the net. Sparks had to be very sharp to deny Dubinsky.
At the end of the first period, the game was tied 0-0. Columbus trailed on the shot counter 6-9.
SECOND PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
Jackets power play at 0:44. P.A. Parenteau went off for delay of game for throwing the puck over the glass.
Leafs goal. Sweet lord. A 3 on 2 rush for the Leafs while shorthanded and the Leafs were on the board at 1:43 behind a wicked wrist shot from Morgan Rielly. Assists to Brooks Laich and Frederik Gauthier. It was a nasty shot, there wasn’t much Bobrovsky could do.
The Leafs killed the penalty. This is bad hockey.
7 minutes into the second period and Columbus had 2 shots on goal, a shorthanded marker given up, and no real chances of note. So that’s cool.
I mean … with all the veterans on the ice for Columbus, one would think the Jackets would be skating rings around the Maple Leafs. Naturally, that person would be wrong. Toronto owned the game.
Lots of play in the corners for both sides with no real chances on net.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL. Oliver Bjorkstrand forced a turnover in the neutral zone, got the puck to Brandon Saad, and Saad was able to hit the jets and put it 5 hole on sparks and tie the game at 11:13. Brandon Saad is so fast. Assist to Bjorkstrand (his 3rd game in a row with a point).
Leafs power play. Boone Jenner went off at 16:46 for tripping Colin Greening.
There was a massive mess in front of the net, Bobrovsky was out of position, Laich was all alone, and somehow the Leafs could not put the puck in the net at 14:30.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL. At 17:31, Brandon Dubinsky stepped on the ice right into a breakaway feed from Cam Atkinson. Dubinsky was able to roof it over Sparks to give the Jackets the lead. Assists to Atkinson and Matt Calvert.
After 40 minutes, the Blue Jackets led 2-1. They had outshot the Leafs 18-17.
THIRD PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
Brandon Dubinsky was all alone in front of Sparks at 0:30 and was unable to send it home. Seriously, there wasn’t anyone within 20 feet of him and he just couldn’t put it in.
Cam Atkinson fed Brandon Dubinsky at 3:30 in the slot and Sparks was able to kick out his left pad and deny the shot.
Jackets power play. Sam Carrick went off for tripping Alexander Wennberg at 5:13.
The Leafs killed the power play.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL. Oliver Bjorkstrand fired the puck at the net off of a faceoff win by Alexander Wennberg, and it beat Sparks at 8:43. It was a soft goal to allow, but they all count. Brandon Saad and Alexander Wennberg drew the assists. That makes 7 points in 11 games for Bjorkstrand.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL. Matt Calvert nearly immediately makes it 4-1. After Calvert let a shot go that went off of Sparks’ shoulder, he was able to bury the rebound at 9:39. Assist to Cam Atkinson.
Justin Falk hustled and broke up a Leafs breakaway at 11:30.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL. Brandon Dubinsky buried one on an extremely patient feed from Matt Calvert. Calvert had all of the attention, fed a trailing Dubinsky, and it was 5-1 at 12:50. Ryan Murray and Matt Calvert drew the assists.
Bobrovsky made a big stop around the 15 minute mark.
Columbus Blue Jackets 5 Toronto Maple Leafs 1
*** Sergei Bobrovsky
** Brandon Dubinsky
* Oliver Bjorkstrand
Stick taps to William Karlsson for his 100th NHL game.
Oliver Bjorkstrand looks more and more like a guy who has a real chance of making the roster next season out of camp. The kid is so offensively gifted. 7 points in 11 games is nothing to slouch at.
Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson, and Matt Calvert were EVERYWHERE when they were reunited halfway through the game. Those guys understand each other, and they were absolutely dominant tonight.
Dean Kukan has looked very solid since he was called up. He’s young and it is a small sample size for the young defender, but he has impressed me more than probably half the guys who have played on the blue line this season. Hopefully he gets a further chance next year in camp. His skating is something else to watch.
The kids are coming into their own. Hopefully the franchise can find a way to get them some playing time with the big club next season.
Stick taps for Sergei Bobrovsky, who won his 97th game for Columbus, moving him into sole possession of first place on the all-time wins list in Columbus.
Columbus travels to Buffalo to take on the Sabres in their final road game of the season Friday night. Faceoff is at 7:00 EST.
2 games to go.