The Columbus Blue Jackets decided the outcome of Saturday’s game against the Nashville Predators eight hours before puck drop, when we found out the Jackets would ice a team without all these players:
You can quibble about whether the club should’ve tanked that hard (though it doesn’t seem like many are); they rested some extremely good players who could have definitely used a night off and the best-case scenario would’ve yielded a playoff date somewhere not in Pittsburgh. In the end, it worked: the players got their rest and the Jackets will face the Washington Capitals in the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But players don’t tank. Management does. The Blue Jackets, as much as you could call them that, put up a spirited effort after an abysmal opening period to lose by a respectable 4-2 margin. Josh Anderson and Brandon Dubinsky scored for the Blue Jackets, Filip Forsberg completed a hat trick on visor night, Joonas Korpisalo made 23 saves.
The Jackets were supposed to lose, and they did.
The Predators scored three goals in the first period, two of them on the power play from Forsberg. That’s probably all you need to know. But if you want more:
Nashville scored its first goal 7:52 into the game. Matt Calvert turned the puck over in a fall and Austin Watson finished for the Preds going the other way, making it 1-0 for the home team.
Ian Cole mashed Colton Sissions into the boards for a cross checking penalty a few minutes later and it didn’t take long for Forsberg to cash in on the power play. Scott Hartnell sent Forsberg a perfect pass to set up the goal that gave the Predators a 2-0 lead at 11:04.
Forsberg and Nashville struck again with one second left in the period, converting on their third power play (Cole again) made it 3-0. A perfect slapshot into the corner from the dot that any goalie would’ve been hard-pressed to stop.
Tortorella apparently crossed a line with the officials during a lengthy goal review for Forsberg’s score, giving the Predators another power play to open the second.
Despite the lopsided score, the Jackets posted 13 shots to the Predators’ 15…but gave the puck away 11 times and won 35 percent of their faceoffs.
Only real items of note from the second: a Josh Anderson goal and some big Korpisalo saves. The Jackets, firing shots at Pekka Rinne, finally managed to cut into the lead at 7:55. Mark Letestu made a heads-up play to spring Josh Anderson, corralling a loose puck at the CBJ blue line and immediately throwing it to Anderson for a breakaway. The big forward finished in close, wristing one under Rinne’s glove to put the Blue Jackets on the board.
Korpisalo held the deficit at two with some spectacular saves down the stretch, stopping a Craig Smith backhand before stoning Ryan Johansen through traffic for a 3-1 score at the second intermission.
Brandon Dubinsky, thorn in Sidney Crosby’s side and perpetual Penguin-hater, apparently didn’t get the memo that the Jackets were supposed to play the Caps. The Jackets, down a man on an Ian Cole (huh, weird) penalty, took advantage of a messy Nashville change and Dubinsky got free to score a shorthanded goal from Markus Hannikainen and Scott Harrington at 7:20 of the third.
The Jackets continued to apply pressure to the Predators’ defense and show some spark—Anderson and Emelin both earned roughing penalties with 2:50 to go for some extracurricular activity.
Tensions rose as it seems the CBJ might actually be able to tie the game late (the visitors held an 8-2 shot advantage in the third), but a Forsberg empty netter in the final minute sealed the 4-2 win for the President’s Trophy-winning Predators.
- The Capitals, huh? This should be fun.
- Pierre-Luc Dubois is going to be a wrecking ball against the Caps. He played the agitator role quite well in Nashville, at one point throwing a Predator into Rinne in the third period and receiving a game misconduct with 40 seconds left in the game.
- Eric Robinson played in his first NHL game, tallying two shots and finishing +1 in 11:21 of action. You could see the nerves, but you could also see the tools. He threw his body around on the forecheck and showed some impressive speed. Not a bad first game for the Princeton product.
- Taylor Chorney made his CBJ debut and finished +2 on the night. Hooray for him. Alex Broadhurst logged 14:47 and even saw some power play time. Good luck this summer.
- Josh Anderson scored his 19th of the season. Hate that he got hurt and missed some opportunities to be a 20-goal scorer, but a healthy Anderson for the playoffs will be huuuuge for this team.
- Korpisalo played a solid game, despite the numbers. Look at those defensemen in front of him. Four goals is impressive.
- The book on Cole coming from Pittsburgh in the trade was that he loves to take penalties. Three minors for him tonight, all leading to goals. Yuck.
- The Blue Jackets are in the playoffs. It’s real. And it’s almost here.