The Columbus Blue Jackets entered their tilt against heated rivals, the Buffalo Sabres, looking for their first win of the season. After two rough losses to start the season that featured little defense, less goaltending, and almost no offense… well, there really was only way to go.
The Jackets played a strong game along the boards and on the shot counter, but both teams had success on special teams with a pair of power play goals each. A late penalty by Boone Jenner allowed the Sabres to capitalize and tie the game. In extra hockey, Nick Foligno stole Jack Eichel’s puck-shaped candy along the boards and whipped a pass to Alexandre Texier. Baguette lasered it past Linus Ullmark for the 4-3 win, earning two points for the Jackets, and a modicum of relief for the fanbase.
The first period featured a lot of puck possession and shooting by the Jackets, but not much in terms of finishing. David Savard was called for a holding penalty at 7:26 and the head-shaking began. It was a poor penalty to take and the team has been doing far too much of that to start this season. However, the PK was strong and Buffalo didn’t register a shot. Finally, with only a couple of minutes left in the period, Oliver Bjorkstrand took advantage of a Seth Jones misfire to bank a shot off Ullmark and into the net.
pucks. on. net.— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) October 7, 2019
no matter the angle. pic.twitter.com/4F3oITzyM9
45 seconds later, Boone Jenner drew a penalty for the Jackets. 11 seconds after that? Alexander Wennberg makes a nice little pass from behind the net to Cam Atkinson, who knows how to finish that kind of dish.
Pretty good first period, one can suppose. CLB outshot BUF 14-6.
This period didn’t start off so well. Atkinson was sent to the box for hooking Jack Eichel – one can’t say it definitely saved a goal, but the probability was high. However, that only delayed the pain as Marcus Johansson was able to get one past Jonas Korpisalo.
Columbus would go back on the PK after trying to play hockey with 6 skaters and a goalie. Wennberg slyly nullified that penalty by taking advantage of a tired Rasmus Dahlin to draw an interference penalty. No joy on the 4 on 4 though. At 11:58 of the period, Jeff Skinner basically de-pantsed Ryan Murray as he tried to pass out of the zone, grabbed the puck, found himself about 7 feet from Korpisalo and quickly tied the game up.
Thus ended the second period. CBJ still led on the shot counter – 29 – 13.
The slate was clean to start the 3rd period. Foligno was pretty invisible for the first 2 periods, but he made his presence felt in the last 20 minutes. At 5:38, he drew another interference penalty from Dahlin after the team held possession for, what felt like, 3 minutes in the Buffalo zone. In the ensuing power play, a Bjorkstrand shot turned into a pinball game until Foligno knocked the puck into the net. Emil Bemstrom earned his first NHL point when the puck bounced off him and on to Fligs’ stick. They can’t all be pretty, son.
The Jackets kept up the pressure and continued to limit Buffalo’s shots on goal. Korpi didn’t have much work to do for most of the period. And then… the kind of penalty that reminds us of the bad old days. Boone Jenner was called for a faceoff violation penalty with the net empty. The faceoff was more of a wrestling match with neither player gaining possession, but Boone knocked the puck back with his hand – essentially a hand pass, which is a no-no during a face off. In the ensuing 6 on 4 power play, Victor Olofsson scored the tying goal.
Shot counter after regulation: CBJ 41 – 15
Columbus was damn good in overtime last season. Seth Jones, Cam Atkinson, and… oh yeah. Well, new season, new players. Columbus won the face off but Pierre-Luc Dubois gave up possession 15 seconds later and Buffalo mostly kept the puck after that. Until Foligno decided that Eichel had had the puck long enough and Baguette slammed the point home.
Columbus led 4-3 when the game ended, so they won the game by that same score. The Jackets outshot the Sabres 44 – 18 (!).
Nick Foligno called this game ‘a self-inflicted test’ and that’s a damn fine description. The team controlled the play almost throughout, vastly out-shot the Sabres, played very strongly along the boards… but also made key mistakes to allow the Sabres to hang around. Credit to Buffalo for taking advantage, but the Jackets did up the difficulty level. That’s fine though…because a win is a win.
This felt like a very balanced game for the team. For most of the game, every line played well. If anything, the first line seemed the most listless, but that’s a matter of a few decimal points. The Identity Line isn’t the Identity Line without Josh Anderson, but they weren’t a black hole. Bemstrom wasn’t a liability. The Wennberg/Bjorkstrand/Baguette line was very good today defensively, on the forecheck, along the boards, and offensively. They maintained pressure on Buffalo throughout. The first line of Atkinson, PLD, and Nyquist was quiet for the most part – but still solid defensively. There’s a noticeable lack of chemistry there, but I think it’s just a matter of Nyquist getting acquainted with his partners. The 4th line featured the debut of Sonny Milano for the 2019-2020 season. He played well, stronger on the puck, created some offensive opportunities with his passing, and did not seem to lose track of the play. The 4th line got 4th line minutes, but nothing to complain about from them at all.
On defense, I think these are the 6 guys who should be playing most nights. Vladislav Gavrikov and Nuti are the calm, steady defenders that you want on the 3rd pairing. I cannot recall that pairing making a mistake…and I was looking!
The team did have 4 penalties, and two were particularly stupid. Still, 4 penalties technically decreases the average per game, so that’s a win. Also, two…TWO!...power play goals! Lots of movement on the PP and both units created chances. That’s a welcome improvement.
Korpisalo didn’t get a whole lot of work and I can’t say that the goals allowed were weak or anything. The only negative I saw from him today was that, in the third, he started oversliding and getting a bit out of position which left the net open. Luckily, his teammates made sure Buffalo stayed away from the puck in those cases.
This is the first win. It’s a solid win. Hopefully we get to see more of this kind of play throughout the year. It seemed like the players understood their roles well this game. Torts mostly kept the lines intact. I think that will be necessary to continue building chemistry.