The consistently inconsistent Columbus Blue Jackets continued their up and down season with a performance that was night and day from Tuesday’s game, but still did not result in a win. For all the offensive struggled in the first month of the season, this game was the first shutout loss of the season for Columbus.
The Jackets started the game with another set of reshuffled forward lines, and they stayed intact for the most part:
These lines dominated possession for the first period, allowing Chicago just three shots on goal. Overall shot attempts were 17-6 in the Jackets’ favor, but each side had just two high danger attempts. Malcolm Subban started for the Blackhawks, marking the first time this season that the Jackets weren’t facing the red-hot Kevin Lankinen. Subban looked shaky early, but the Jackets didn’t keep up enough offensive pressure to make him pay.
The second period was a typical second period, i.e. GARBAGE. The shot attempt battle swung to 25-12 in Chicago’s favor, though most of the damage came in the first ten minutes. Over the back half of the period the defensive structure of the Jackets re-established itself.
The Jackets bounced back to start the third, with seven of the first eight shot attempts at 5v5 in the period. The longer the game went on at 0-0 and the Jackets controlling the flow, the more it felt like Chicago would strike first on something weak. To wit:
Calvin de Haan made a loooooong outlet pass to Alex DeBrincat as the Jackets were in the middle of a line change. Vlaidlsav Gavrikov intercepted, but couldn’t control the puck as he got tied up with DeBrincat. Patrick Kane was there to pick his pocket and skate into the zone. Eric Robinson was nearly to the bench but rushed out to stop, but couldn’t get there in time. Michael Del Zotto also was unable to get between Kane’s shot and the goal, and it sailed over Joonas Korpisalo’s right shoulder.
Carl Soderberg added a long distance empty net goal in the final minute to seal the victory.
The Blue Jackets controlled the pace and flow of play in a way they seldom have this season. Outside of a ten minute stretch in the second and one lapse in the third, they played the way they want to defensively.
Faceoffs have been a problem lately in terms of maintaining possession, but the Jackets turned that around tonight by winning 67% of draws. Boone Jenner and Riley Nash were each above 80%.
Three of the forward lines had a positive shot attempt ratio:
16/42/52 62.50% (10-6)
38/96/13 56.25% (9-7)
50/11/20 53.33% (8-7)
Putting the two best forwards on the same line didn’t work. The Laine/Foligno/BJORKSTRAND line had the most minutes of any Columbus line at 5v5 but had just 33.33% of the shot attempts in that time. They only produced 0.05 expected goals in their 12:58.
The power play was back to its old, bad self after that three goal explosion on Tuesday. In four minutes with the man advantage, the Jackets’ power play got as many expected goals as the Blackhawks’ kill.
To give a more stark example of the special teams impact, at 5v5, Columbus led expected goals (per Natural Stat Trick) 2.19-1.31. During the six minutes of combined penalty time, Chicago had the edge 0.24-0.04.
The Blue Jackets travel to Nashville for a pair of matinees on Saturday and Sunday.