Will the real Columbus Blue Jackets please show up? After two lackluster efforts in Pittsburgh and Ottawa, the Jackets rebounded to run the league-leading Washington Capitals off the ice for the second time in a week. The Caps have lost just six times in regulation - two of those losses are to the Jackets. I’m typing this and I still can’t believe it.
The first star of the game was goaltender Joonas Korpisalo. He got a lot of help from his defense, but he was excellent when he had to be. He tracked the puck well through traffic and made some great grabs. When he gave up rebounds, his teammates did an excellent job cleaning up and preventing second chance opportunities.
FLASHING THE LEATHER pic.twitter.com/6plDthHa2E— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 17, 2019
It’s great to see him flashing the glove like that. You could sense him gaining confidence as the game went on, with each additional save. All 30 of them.
BJORKSTRAND is a grinder, not a sniper
The Maestro, Oliver Bjorkstrand, had six chances in the first two periods but just couldn’t get one in the goal. Most were blocked or sailed wide, then there was this golden chance late in the second but he was too close and straight on to get it past Braden Holtby.
Fortunately he snapped his drought in the third period, but he did so not with skill but with using his strength and persistence around the net.
The first came after an all-important offensive zone faceoff win, with Gus Nyquist recovering the puck, skating to the corner, and passing it to BJORKSTRAND on the doorstep:
Bjorky on the doorstep! pic.twitter.com/3JQMjXpdJ9— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 17, 2019
Eight minutes later, he came through again with the insurance goal. The play started with a nice effort by Scott Harrington to force a turnover at the blue line. (Note: Harrington was not noticeable tonight in his return to the lineup. That’s a good thing.) The puck bounced to BJORKSTRAND and he was off on a breakaway. Radko Gudas tried in vain to get in the way, but BJORKSTRAND shoved him away and shoved another puck past Holtby:
The kids are alright
The prettiest goal of the night was the first one, which for a long time seemed like it may be the only one of the night. Old Man Riley Nash battled for the puck along the wall at center ice, and it sent Alexandre Texier on a breakaway down the right side. He waited for precisely the right moment and fed a perfect pass to a trailing Eric Robinson coming down the middle:
Killer penalty kill
The Jackets took too many penalties, but the kill was superb tonight, allowing just six shots on goal on four Washington power plays. The sticks were active and that successfully blocked many passes and shot attempts.
Here is a fun illustration of the Capitals’ PP strategy of feeding the puck to Alexander Ovechkin in his “office” on the left circle (courtesy of the indispensable Natural Stat Trick)
(side note: it’s encouraging in the 5v5 chart to see the Jackets get so many chances around the crease, and to finally capitalize on them)
Tom Wilson: still a piece of garbage
With two minutes left, trailing 3-0, Tom Wilson did a Tom Wilson thing and left his skates to hit Vladislav Gavrikov in the head along the boards behind the Columbus net. Gavrikov was slow to get up and did not return to the game. David Savard took issue and fought Wilson, earning a game misconduct for instigating. Wilson got the five minutes for fighting and two minutes for charging. I don’t expect anything to come of this, but it would be nice to see some supplemental discipline from the league since he is a notorious repeat offender. He can’t keep getting away with these blatantly unsafe plays. He obviously hasn’t learned his lesson from his prior fines and suspensions.
The Jackets go from the best team in the league to the worst team in the league with a game tomorrow night at Detroit. Hopefully it’s not a trap game after a hard-fought win tonight.