For as skilled as the athletes in the NHL are, hockey remains a game which relies a lot on luck. This is no more evident than the season-to-date of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Entering tonight’s game, they had played seven straight games decided by one goal. They were 4-1-2 in that span, but easily could have been 7-0...or much worse.
Thankfully, though tonight was another one goal game, it featured the Blue Jackets overcoming some bad bounces to rally and earn a win in overtime, 4-3 over the Carolina Hurricanes. I spoil that result now so I can recap this non-linearly to show just how real hockey karma is.
GOOD BOUNCE: Rookies get a goal
3:21 into the game, the Jackets matched their start in Toronto by scoring a goal on their first shot of the game. Thanks to a heads-up defensive play, the fourth line found themselves on a 4-on-1 breakaway. Riley Nash fed Emil Bemstrom on the left side, who delivered a perfect pass to fellow rookie Alexandre Texier for the wide open shot.
Overall, Bemstrom had his best game as a Blue Jacket. He was noticeable with and without the puck. He and Texier showed a lot of chemistry setting each other up for shots, and I hope they continue to play together. They only played eight minutes tonight, and that’s not enough. They’ve earned more.
BAD BOUNCE: Hurricanes respond
For the last few years, two habits have emerged for this team that are incredibly frustrating: giving up goals in the final minute of a period, and giving up goals immediately after scoring. This was the latter. Just 1:11 after Texier’s goal, the Hurricanes responded with their own odd-man rush. Dougie Hamilton got his sixth goal of the season on a shot that Joonas Korpisalo probably could have stopped. Some more players getting back on defense would have helped him, however.
BAD BOUNCE: A literal bad break
How often does this happen: a defenseman collects the puck in the corner of his own defensive zone, with no pressure from the opponent. He has time to turn around, scan the ice, and make an outlet pass. This was one of those times for Ryan Murray. He loaded up to pass, and then...the damn stick broke in half. Martin Necas reacted quickly and picked up the unattended puck. His attempt to stuff it through Korpi’s pads failed, but Ryan Dzingel (remember him?) got the rebounded, waited a beat for Korpi to vacate the crease, and scored the go-ahead goal. Dzingel now had half as many goals tonight as he had in Nationwide in his entire CBJ tenure. He scored four goals overall in Nationwide last season (two with Columbus and two with Ottawa).
GOOD BOUNCE: Murray’s redemption
As awful as Murray must have felt after that play, he got it back with seven minutes left in the middle frame. There’s not much to say about this one aside from Murray making a really nice shot. Props to David Savard (who was given the kepi tonight after the game) for the opening pass and Boone Jenner for powering into the zone and delivering the drop pass to Murray.
Murr, with speed, fire! pic.twitter.com/Yjz1T3OsWB— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) October 25, 2019
BAD BOUNCE: Watch your step
Just 49 seconds after the Dzingel goal, there was another “are you f@&*ing kidding me” kind of play. This time, the player looking to clear was Sonny Milano. While searching for the puck he ended up stepping on it, and slipping. Lucas Wallmark recovered and fed Brett “I’m funny, how?” Pesce, whose bomb of a shot was tipped in by a net-front Sebastian Aho.
GOOD BOUNCE: How the hell does he make these shots?
Like Murray, Milano got redemption for his turnover with the game-tying goal. It joins his goal vs. Dallas last week as another which should make the highlight shows. With assists from Savard and Murray, Milano carried the puck up the left side with speed. As he approached the crease, he went forehand to backhand and managed to flip the puck over the far shoulder of Petr Mrazek.
After this goal, given that Murray and Milano had tied it up after their earlier mistakes, FSO announcer Jeff Rimer mused, “There’s just an illustration that there are, indeed, Hockey Gods.”
BAD BOUNCE: About that power play
We’ve been talking about it all week, so we need to address the power play. They finally tried something different, putting both Seth Jones and Zach Werenski on the first unit. The first time, they only produced one shot on goal, but all five players moved a lot more. That’s progress. Their passing left something to be desired. Commenter AKbax observed in the gamethread, “Too many passes to the backhand side. Having to move the puck to the forehand gives the other team time to get in position. Our passing sucks and is costing us opportunities.” The next power play resulted in four shots on goal. That’s good! None went in. That’s bad! But it’s progress.
GOOD AND BAD: The ice tilted in the same direction all night.
Let’s look at some even strength stats period by period (including overtime):
Shot attempts (Corsi):
Unblocked shot attempts (Fenwick):
Shots on goal:
High danger shot attempts:
As you can see, each team dominated when heading towards the west. Huge props to Korpi for his work in the third period to keep Carolina off the board.
GOOD BOUNCE: Camsanity
This one wasn’t lucky, but it featured a player who has been unlucky in shooting all season despite many attempts. With a minute and a half left in an overtime period that Columbus had mostly controlled, Pierre-Luc Dubois bullied his way into the zone. (Sidenote: he’s been playing really well over the last couple of weeks. His strength stands out. He can bulldoze his way to wherever he wants to go.) He waited for Mrazek to commit to defending his shot, then passed instead, across the crease to a wide open Cam Atkinson. This was Cam’s first even strength goal of the season and first goal of any kind since the third game of the season, 17 days ago.
- Eight games in a row decided by one goal. Six straight games with a standings point earned. Four straight games ending in overtime. Two wins in a row.
- The win moves the Jackets into fourth place in the Metro, ahead of Pittsburgh (who has played one more game). We’re just one point behind second place Carolina.
- The Blue Jackets return to action on Saturday night in Philadelphia against Gritty and the Flyers.