Tampa Bay Lightning (2) at Columbus Blue Jackets (1)
*note : instead of breaking this game down chronologically, I am breaking it down by subject matter. Enjoy this once in a blue moon style recap*
The Columbus Blue Jackets skated into this afternoon’s game well rested and looking to even up the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. A few changes to the lineup helped breathe a bit of life into the team. After sitting for two games with an injury, Cam Atkinson slid into the second line. On the newbie side of things, Kevin Stenlund made his 2020 post season debut and added a much needed big body to the mix.
Four, no wait, three goals
It seemed the Jackets were going to have the upper hand to start the game when Oliver Bjorkstrand launched Zach Werenski’s rebound into the net. Unfortunately, the goal was negated due to the Jackets being offsides 40 seconds before the puck went into the net.
In the moment following the negated goal, the Jackets showed an immense amount of maturity. They stayed focused on the task at hand and tried to set up meaningful plays. Past Jackets’ teams would have let a negated goal mess with them mentally until they imploded on the ice. Their resolve is what makes this team more successful than most of the teams the Jackets have iced since year one.
The Lightning scored two goals to kick off the second period.
Barclay Goodrow scored within the first 30 seconds of the middle stanza of play. His quick release gave him the edge. Had Goodrow taken the time to settle the wobbly puck he received from Blake Coleman, Korpisalo would have been in position and one of the Jackets would have been able to break up the play.
Yanni Gourde scored the second goal for the Lightning off a deflection. This happened because he was posted up on the crease for much of the game. A goal was bound to happen.
Nick Foligno was late to the play before both goals happened.
The Jackets finally got on the board 5:48 into the second period when Cam Atkinson bounced a rebounded puck off of his chest into the net. This goal put a pep in the Jackets’ step for the rest of the period. However, that energy did not translate into the third period.
It is worth noting that the Jackets and Lightning held each other to zero goals for almost 35 minutes.
Inconsistent energy does not win games
The Jackets started the game with the energy they needed to succeed in Game 3 on Saturday. However, they couldn’t sustain the energy all game. There were times where they looked mentally exhausted and physically beaten down. Then a few shifts later, they would be racing around the ice like Ricky Bobby at Talladega. Every time the Jackets found energy, the Lightning were there to match it stride for stride. In fact, the Lightning didn’t even play at full speed the entire game. This allowed the Lightning to really maintain control of the game at any moment.
Now, it must be said, the Jackets did manage to maintain control of momentum multiple times throughout the game. Especially while on the power play where they typically struggle. No goals were scored on the power play but the way the Jackets controlled the situation was beautiful. All of the plays they set up had meaning. None of them were thrown together in a haphazard manner. The Jackets’ power play units were able to assess the situation which laid in front of them and draw up plays that should have been successful. The only thing that would have made the power play better was if they scored.
Dicey judgement calls are hurting the Jackets
Throughout today’s tilt, the Jackets made a slew of questionable decisions and errors due to miscommunication. I’m not going to go through every single one but there were two which stood out to me the most.
Pierre-Luc Dubois has dicey judgement when going in for a hit near the boards and behind the net. Dubois’ big frame and muscular body puts even more force behind his hits. This causes players to go into boards awkwardly or getting tangled with other players on the ice. While not malicious, those types of hits leave the Jackets down a man or having to battle a slew of aggression from the Lightning.
Let’s be honest, some of these hits take place because there is no one on the other side of the net to protect Korpisalo from having to face a well-placed shot. Sometimes Dubois is in a tough position when he lays those hits. However, if Dubois can contain the power of his hits in such a way that it doesn’t cause too much friction, it will be a complete game changer for him and the Jackets.
Speaking of plays which take place near the net, the doorstep is no place for the Lightning to post up shop. The Lightning spent the bulk of the game sitting in front of Korpisalo. Seriously, guys like Gourde were just sitting there with no one boxing them out of the paint. Leaving opponents near the crease leaves Korpisalo vulnerable to redirections and extra whacks at the puck.
If the Jackets defense spends more time acting as an extension of Korpisalo, they will be able to shut down a good number of Lightning shot attempts.
Matiss Kivlenieks should have come in at some point
Since the Jackets got to the bubble, Joonas Korpisalo has been standing on his head like a break dancer auditioning for the next “Step Up” movie. Everything but the kitchen sink, including Yanni Gourde, has been thrown at him. Yet, it just isn’t enough right now. The defense keeps stepping in to do the offense’s job which means Korpisalo has to do even more work. Swapping goaltenders in the middle of the game, no matter how well the starter is performing, can change the mindset of everyone on the ice in a snap.
A good time to give Kivlenieks a whirl was at the start of the third period. It would have given Korpisalo a much needed break. As well as, show the team they need to get it together without shortening the bench. Now, they’ve lost their chance to give the young, unvetted netminder a taste of playoff hockey.
There is no way Kivlenieks sees the ice during a possible elimination game. A coach would have to have “balls as big as the arena” to put that move on their resume.
Blue Jackets Lines
Texier - Dubois - Bjorkstrand
Foligno - Jenner - Atkinson
Nyquist - Wennberg - Nash
Robinson - Stenlund - Foudy
Blue Jackets Pairs
Werenski - Jones
Gavrikov - Savard
Murray - Kukan