The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 tonight, but that score does not tell the whole story.
If you were watching the first 30 minutes of the game, you would assume that Columbus was on the second leg of a back-to-back and Carolina had three days of rest. It was the other way around, but still Carolina dominated play.
The Canes scored their first just over five minutes into the game, after the expiration of a Seth Jones penalty. The PK was not in too bad of shape, but Boone Jenner overpursued the puck behind the goal line, and that left Sebastian Aho with room to do his thing. He delivered a gorgeous no-look pass that fooled everyone, and Micheal Ferland scored off a one-timer.
A tic-tac-toe beauty pic.twitter.com/H6S1GnYOn7— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) January 5, 2019
Important lesson for the Blue Jackets power play: look at how Aho moved the puck. He wasn’t staying stable, just waiting for something good to present itself. Look at how Ferland shot the puck immediately. He didn’t worry about the traffic between him and the net; he used it to his advantage. Good things can happen when you put the puck on the net.
“‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’ - Wayne Gretzky” - Michael Scott
Just over a minute later, Greg McKegg (great name, by the way) - a journeyman forward making his season debut for the Canes - won a puck battle behind his own net, and carried the puck out of the defensive zone and into the offensive zone. Just past the blue line he left the puck for Dougie Hamilton, who fired away from long distance and the puck went in over Bob’s glove. It looked very soft, though the puck may have changed direction after hitting Brandon Dubinsky’s stick or Seth Jones’ gloves.
Dougie is heating up pic.twitter.com/QR6WJF9Zkl— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) January 5, 2019
Jones was having a rough period to this point.
Carolina totally dominated that first period at even strength:
Scoring Chances: 12-6
High Danger Corsi: 5-4
Oh yeah, the Jackets did have a power play in the firsts, but it was predictably terrible. It took them too long to establish themselves in the offensive zone. Once there, they did get 45 seconds or so of sustained possession, but only three shot attempts and one shot on goal. I feel like a broken record, repeating “SHOOT THE DAMN PUCK” during each power play. But seriously, shoot the damn puck. You’re not going to score by cycling the puck around the top of the zone.
And when they do shoot? They have a 10% shooting percentage on the power play this season, entering this game. That’s third worse in the league (better than only Philadelphia and Carolina).
On to the second period, where things didn’t look much better to start. The Canes scored at the 6:52 mark, thanks to some great play from Brett “not Joe” Pesce. Pesce set up Brock McGinn for a shot on target. Bob’s rebound went far and Pesce was there to collect it. He fired in towards the crease again, as McKegg (again) was coming on from a line change and used his momentum to drive the puck in the goal.
The game appeared to be over at this point, but John Tortorella made a couple of important moves at the next media timeout:
First, he pulled Bob from the game. The loss isn’t on Bob, and Torts didn’t appear angry or frustrated with him. Instead, because the team in front was helping, there was no point in leaving Bob out to dry. With it being the first leg of a road back-to-back, it’s better to give him more time to recover and rest. To his credit, Joonas Korpisalo made some very nice saves and stopped all 14 shots he faced in 30:26 of play.
The second change was switching the forward lines. Oliver BJORKSTRAND joined Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson on the first line and Artemi Panarin dropped down to the second line with Alexander Wennberg and Anthony Duclair. These changes paid immediate dividends.
Dubois got stuffed at the blue line, so he passed back to Seth Jones who was able to carry it in. Jones passed across ice to Zach Werenski, who then passed the puck back across the royal road to BJORKSTRAND. He did a quick crossover move, then lifted the puck past Curtis McElhinney, high glove side.
BJORKSTRAND puts the #CBJ on the BJOARD: pic.twitter.com/VmzsRBwlbQ— The Cannon (@cbjcannon) January 5, 2019
25 seconds later, it was the second line’s turn to shine. It started with the Breadman winning a board battle behind the net. As he circled out, he passed to Jones, who fired inside, where Duclair attempted to tap in the rebound. That shot was deflected and after some pinballing, Panarin had completed his circuit of the offensive zone and was there on the opposite side of the crease to score.
After that terrible start, it was suddenly a one goal game. Could they complete the comeback?
NARRATOR: They could not.
The Blue Jackets finally had a positive Corsi in the third period, but the shots on goal were 7-8 in all situations. There were fewer scoring chances overall in that period than the first two, as Carolina was content to lock things down defensively and hold their lead.
A final chance to score with an extra skater fell short as a PLD shot was blocked by Jaccob Slavin, then collected by Sebastian Aho and deposited at the other end for an empty net goal.
What did Torts think of the game?
Yep. He also said that too many players had bad games tonight. Too often they were passengers, waiting for something to happen rather than driving play themselves.
The Jackets have to put this behind them quickly, as they play at Florida tomorrow night. Scott Harrington left the game with illness, so expect to see Dean Kukan play tomorrow. Perhaps we will see Eric Robinson play as well?