The Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Buffalo Sabres in the final matchup of the 2016-17 season between the two clubs. The Blue Jackets certainly were looking for revenge in this game, having blown a 3 goal lead in their last matchup in Buffalo, a matchup that saw Cam Atkinson injured and require 17 stitches thank to Marcus Foligno.
Torts noted that he was changing the lines before the game and that he wanted to try to jump start the offense by doing so. Sergei Bobrovsky would get the start in net for the Blue Jackets in their third to last home game of the season. The Sabres would be missing Rasmus Ristolainen due to suspension.
How did they do? Let’s find out!
The Blue Jackets opened the game by generating the first two shots on goal. After that, Buffalo responded with two high danger chances from just at the top of the crease that Sergei Bobrovsky was able to steer clear with the help of Jack Johnson. Bobrovsky then denied William Carrier absolutely undressed Zach Werenski entering the zone. There was some end to end action to open the game, but neither team could open the scoring.
At the 6:25 mark, Brandon Dubinsky went off for hooking Evander Kane. Kane took exception after the whistle, getting into an argument with Josh Anderson, but no further penalties would be called. As a result, Buffalo’s league leading power play went to work agains the Jackets’ 9th ranked penalty kill. The Jackets did a solid job and killed the penalty successfully. Seth Jones made a great defensive play to clean up a Sam Gagner turnover. That play resulted in a great look for Josh Anderson after a Jones pass that went the length of the neutral zone to spring a mini breakaway. He’s such a monster.
Seth Jones took a nice shot from the blue line at the 12:30 mark that Lukas Sedlak was in perfect position to tip, but it was saved by Anders Nilsson. Bobrovsky then followed up with several great saves. Buffalo certainly had the better run of play through the first 15 minutes - they outshot the Blue Jackets 13-6. At one point, Sam Gagner lost two faceoffs ina row and was replaced on his line by Brandon Dubinsky so that the Jackets could clear the defensive zone.
Finally, Kyle Quincey opened the scoring! With his first goal as a Columbus Blue Jacket, Quincey put the Jackets ahead on the scoreboard. There was some chaos in front of the net thanks to Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno, and the rebound came right to Quincey who buried it at 14:47. A nice gesture from Atkinson to grab the puck and give it to Quincey.
At 16:40, Scott Hartnell got leveled in the open ice on a clean hit and lost his helmet, but was alright to continue. At the 17:48 mark, Cam Atkinson made it 2-0 on his 34th goal of the season. Seth Jones took the puck, made it a strong play in the offensive zone, and found a streaking Cam Atkinson who wasted no time burying it.
At 19:25, Evander Kane went to the penalty box for hooking Zach Werenski behind Bobrovsky’s goal. Jones replaced Werenski on the top unit to close the period.
At first intermission, the Blue Jackets led 2-0 behind the Quincey and Atkinson goals.
The second period began with 1:26 of power play time for the Blue Jackets. Despite this advantage, the new look power play that the team had worked on in practice on Tuesday could not find any goals. The power play, long a staple of the team during the streak, continues to struggle mightily.
After killing the penalty, the Sabres pushed hard to find a goal of their own. Ryan O’Reilly and Justin Falk both found scoring chances on a very extended stay in the defensive zone. With a near two minute shift in the defensive zone for Dubinsky’s line (including a high stick to Jack Johnson), Torts would take his timeout to rest the line after an icing call. After the timeout, the team was able to change lines. Nick Foligno was able to draw a penalty on Brady Austin at 4:54 for holding, giving the Jackets their second power play of the night. Seth Jones had several nice chances but the Jackets were unable to capitalize with the man advantage.
At the 9:21 mark, Josh Anderson went off for hooking Zemgus Girgensons. Anderson was not happy with the call. Bobrovsky came up HUGE at the 9:40 mark, denying Kane who had an absolutely gaping net. What a save. Unfortunately, the league leading power play would cash in shotly after. Evan Rodrigues cashed in on the short side of Bobrovsky at 10:53.
There was some end to end action following the goal, but there was little danger generated by either team. I should note, following his latest rip from the blue line, that Seth Jones was everywhere tonight. By basically every metric, Jones is one of the best defensemen in the NHL. How amazing is it to have someone like him on the team for so much longer?
Buffalo pressured hard again, pinning the Wennberg line deep into the defensive zone yet again, but the defense and Bobrovsky held strong. Buffalo absolutely dominated the last 5 minutes of the second period which prevented Columbus from setting up in the offensive zone, much less getting any sort of shot on Nilsson’s net.
After 40 minutes, the Jackets led the Sabres 2-1. The only goal in the second period was the Rodrigues power play goal for Buffalo.
The third period opened with Cam Atkinson stealing the puck in the Buffalo zone and dishing to Kyle Quincey only to be denied by a Nilsson pad save. Torts shuffled the lines in the third period, including putting Dubinsky with Sam Gagner and Brandon Saad. Credit Torts - even as the team pushes for the playoffs, he has no shame about shuffling the lines to find a grouping that works. Josh Anderson was denied at the 3:40 mark by a sparkling Nilsson save.
Of note: Sam Reinhart dressed tonight but, early in the third period, hadn’t left the bench or taken a shift. How strange.
At 5:15, Jack Eichel went off for holding Nick Foligno, giving the Jackets their third power play of the night. Bobrovsky denied a big shorthanded chance early in the power play. The Jackets remained completely disconnected on the power play. The generated no shots, and it was killed. What a momentum killer. It’s almost sad at this point - not only did they generate no shots, they didn’t even set up in the zone.
Ryan O’Reilly was sprung on a breakaway at 8:20 before the puck rolled off his stick as David Savard hustled back to get in the way and prevent a deke. That was the second nice defensive play in a couple minutes for Savard, breaking up a saucer pass from Jack Eichel.
Sam Gagner hit the goalpost at 10:07, representing one of the best chances since the first period. Which is kind of depressing. Cam Atkinson had a nice break at the 11:00 mark but turned to pass. He definitely should have shot it there. The Jackets pressed hard following that effort as Anderson and Boone Jenner both had nice opportunities.
Bobrovsky was just magnificent last night, standing up O’Reilly and Kane time and again. Seth Jones also played exceptionally well in his own zone.
William Karlsson tipped a shot just wide with 2:20 to go before Evander Kane and Jack Eichel were both turned aside by Bobrovsky.
Nilsson left the net with 90 seconds to go in search of the equalizer.
Brandon Saad found the back of the empty net with 1:05 to ice the game.
Nilsson left the net again as Buffalo continued to search for goals,
FINAL Columbus Blue Jackets 3 Buffalo Sabres 1
Our power play is a mess now. Despite changing personnel over the last few weeks, nothing has gone right. It’s time to tweak the actual system - be it dumping it in or eliminating the stupid drop passes, something has to change. Try entering the zone with speed for once, please, before I die. I’m tired of dumping to guys standing still on the blue line that inevitably sees the puck cleared.
Seth Jones is a national treasure. Thanks, Nashville!
41 saves for Sergei Bobrovsky last night. What an amazing season for the man who should, undoubtedly, win the Vezina Trophy. His stellar month of March continues.
Good for Kyle Quincey to get his first goal in a Blue Jackets uniform. Hopefully it’s the first of many the rest of the way.
On to the next one. 105 points is great, but 113 this time next week would be a lot more fun, yes? With the win tonight, the Blue Jackets move two points clear of the Penguins in the standings ahead of what is shaping up to be a monstrous matchup next week. With only 7 games to go this season, every point is vital.