It was a bad weekend before the Columbus Blue Jackets even took the ice on Sunday in Vancouver. Both teams currently in a wild card position - Carolina and Montreal - won on Saturday, and in their game against each other Sunday evening, they went to overtime, so Montreal got their Bettman Point and Carolina got a ROW. This put the Blue Jackets four points behind the Canadiens for the last playoff spot, with two games in hand.
Of course, none of that matters if the Jackets can’t take care of business themselves. Would they?
For much of the first period, it appeared the lackluster play of Thursday’s Edmonton game was continuing. Sergei Bobrovsky - who missed Thursday’s game due to a nagging upper body injury - was great but not getting help from his teammates. One early flurry from the Canucks ensued after Artemi Panarin made a half-assed attempt at clearing the puck, which was then intercepted in the defensive zone.
Luke Schenn made his presence felt with several dangerous hits against the Jackets. The first was an elbow to the head of Boone Jenner, which was not called for a penalty. Later, he slammed Ryan Dzingel into the boards behind the net, again hitting him too high. Again, there was no penalty despite Dzingel being slow to get up. He went to the locker room for evaluation but fortunately was able to return to the game (more on that later).
The highlight of the period came late, with Pierre-Luc Dubois winning a puck battle for an Adam “Randy” McQuaid outlet pass. The puck found its way to the stick of Big Josh Anderson, who carried it into the zone with speed and buried it past Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko.
that's 25 goals on the year for andy! pic.twitter.com/EjtSuv2wCh— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) March 25, 2019
Things finally started to click for real in the second period. In the first minute, the top line - which had been ice cold in March - finally made things happen. Panarin made up for his early lapses by forcing a turnover at center ice. He passed to Dubois, who scored to break a 14 game goalless drought.
Dzingel returned to the game and he made the Canucks pay. He stole the puck and fed Anderson, who once again stormed into the offensive zone. Anderson passed across the crease to Matt Duchene, but two Canucks got in the way. They collided with each other, which left the puck loose. Dzingel collected and scored just his second goal as a Blue Jacket.
I covered the 9/18/13 and 19/95/77 lines scoring, but one of the most energizing lines of the game was 38/10/28. They were finally rewarded with an insurance goal in the third. It was a beautiful breakout play, which started with all five players on the left side of the defensive zone to start. Dean Kukan (playing for the nicked up Scott Harrington) made a nifty backwards D-to-D pass to McQuaid. McQuaid passed to Wennberg skating up the neutral zone, and Wenns in turn dished to Jenner at the blue line. Wennberg continued skating down the slot, which drew attention from defenders and left a passing lane from Jenner to Oliver Bjorkstrand. BJORKSTRAND then unleashed his gorgeous, lethal snipe.
Anderson added another goal (unassisted) for his third point of the night. My favorite part of this play is the way he keeps faking a pass to Jenner, and how the defense bites.
Your final score was 5-0. That’s seven shutouts on the season for Bob, which ties his career high (in the 2016-17 season, in which he won his second Vezina Trophy). In the 16 games since acquiring Matt Duchene, the Blue Jackets have recorded four shutouts, and have been shutout three times. It’s been a feast-or-famine month.
Give them credit - they did well to get chances around the net, and they kept the pressure off Bob for the final two periods:
The win moved them within two points of Montreal, with a game in hand. Those two teams face each other on Thursday in a game with massive playoff implications.
The Jackets return home Monday morning with just two points collected in Western Canada, and just three points overall on the four game road trip. That’s not good enough, but hopefully ending with a win gives them some confidence and momentum. Next up is a big game on Tuesday against the New York Islanders. The last three games in the friendly confines of Nationwide Arena have been victories over playoff teams (Pittsburgh, Boston, Carolina).