The Columbus Blue Jackets were coming off their most complete game of the year, a 5-2 win at Winnipeg on Tuesday. Could they keep that going against one of the top teams in the East?
The Jackets struggled to find their legs in the first period. Late in the first period, Mikhail Sergachev opened the scoring with a long range blast past Bob. This was the teenager’s first NHL goal. This goal was controversial, as the scoring sequence began with a takeaway along the boards. Vladislav Namestnikov knocked Cam Atkinson down to free the puck:
Is it boarding? Certainly looks like a dangerous hit to me. But there is a key passage in the rulebook that I think applies here:
There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees. The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize contact. However, in determining whether such contact could have been avoided, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule.
I do think that Namestnikov tried to minimize contact. He hits Cam to the left rather than straight on. I also think the case can be made that Cam “put himself in a vulnerable position” by bending over so close to the boards.
Fortunately that goal seemed to wake the Jackets up, and they drew a penalty as the first period ended.
“Had a really good second period; couldn’t solve the goalie. Our power play has to give us a goal somewhere along the way to spark us.” - John Tortorella
The second period started with a power play, but like every game since the opener, the Jackets not only failed to score but they also failed to generate any serious threats to score. Back to even strength, however, the Jackets began dominating the play. They had 6 high danger shots in that period, while allowing none.
Alas, it was all for naught as the Lightning struck again (sorry) with five minutes remaining in the middle frame. Again it was Sergachev, this time on Bob’s glove side. Probably one Bob should have stopped.
While Nikita Kucherov failed to score in a game for the first time this season, that ever-dangerous Namestnikov-Stamkos-Kucherov line was on the ice for both Sergachev goals. Despite that, that forward line had a negative Corsi on the evening, mostly against the Columbus top line.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was great. The Jackets got 43 shots on goal, and 64 shots overall. They shot from all over, including a good number up close in front of the goal. Vasilevskiy was just too good tonight. It sucks, but that sort of thing happens sometimes. Certainly we’ve seen Bob do that to other teams.
Shorten the bench. This was a bit curious, but in the third period many of the younger players found themselves glued to the bench. Torts was desperate to get on the scoreboard, and so he relied on his top forward line and his offensively gifted top defensive pairing.
In Torts’ defense, you can see from this chart that those top players did dominate the Corsi battle. Sometimes these nights happen, where you face a hot goalie and/or have bad puck luck.
The Power Play is TERRIBLE and needs to be fixed soon. In 3 power plays, the Jackets generated just 5 shots, 3 shots on goal, and no high danger shots. The first two power plays included too much time outside of the offensive zone, due to giveaways and takeaways. The final power play was a lengthy sustained possession, but featured too much passing and not enough shooting. The passing was crisper than it has been, but that’s still not enough. Here’s what Torts said after the game:
“Gotta keep working at it and hopefully some good things happen. I think the scheme is good. I think we have some really good players.”
I don’t disagree. We DO have good players. There’s no excuse for them to be so tentative on the power play. All of that puck movement is doing nothing to create the perfect shots they want. They need to work on getting the puck inside and hope for good things to happen as a result of chaos around the net.
Another point Torts made is that a power play goal is necessary sometimes to create a spark. In the previous 4 games, the Jackets played well enough in 5v5 that they did not need a spark. Tonight, as they weren’t getting bounces, a power play goal would have given them confidence and momentum to erase the 2 goal deficit. I also think that the bad habits from the power play have carried over into 5v5 play: certain players are overthinking things. They’re trying to hard to make the pass rather than take the shot. For example, Oliver BJORKSTRAND had no shots in just over 9 minutes of ice time. He needs to snap out of his funk.