Game #40 Recap: Curbstomp Redux
Despite the emotional lift of having three players named to the All Star Game roster today, the Jackets were playing more like the All Star Break had already begun when they faced off against the Islanders.
I suspect it's been a very odd week for Sergei Bobrovsky.
On the one hand, he's had some pretty amazing highs between his new contract and his nomination to the All Star Game roster.
On the other, he's had some pretty crapulent lows as the team in front of him has allowed opponents to set up shooting galleries on him. He's gotten some scoring support, and even pulled a few wins out of the fire, but it hasn't been easy, and I'm sure it hasn't been fun.
Tonight was most definitely not fun.
Despite both teams being on the second night of a back to back, the Islanders attacked the Jackets like they'd had a week off, blasting into the offensive zone and setting up a scoring play that would pay off in the first 30 seconds after a blast from Nick Leddy redirected into the net off of Nikolay Kulemin's leg.
The Islanders would rack up four more shots, while the Jackets scrambled, not even managing to put one puck on Chad Johnson in that time, when they finally received a bit of a break after Nick Foligno managed to draw an interference penalty, sending Kulemin to the box.
The Jackets' power play needed some time to figure things out, but just about a minute into the penalty, Brandon Dubinsky broke into the offensive zone, then dropped a pass back to David Savard.
Savard and Jack Johnson played a bit of catch, which culminated in Johnson unloading a one-timer that threaded through the bodies around the net and in to even the score back up.
The Jackets had some life, but couldn't really do much with it for the rest of the period. Desperately chasing the play behind guys like John Tavares, Michael Grabner, and Kyle Okposo, it was like watching a skating drill against dummies who happened to have Columbus uniforms on.
After 20 minutes, the score was still tied, mostly thanks to Bob standing on his head, but the shot clock showed a 16-4 advantage for the visitor, and one of those Columbus shots was a "correction" from the scorer's table after some video review.
The second period started with a bit more life, but the Jackets were still chasing the play, particularly after Ryan Johansen took a bad interference call in the offensive zone. The Jackets killed the penalty, but Johansen would spend a few shifts in the doghouse - Brandon Dubinsky was promoted to his spot between Foligno and Scott Hartnell for a decent chunk of the frame.
Unfortunately, even though the team was getting some rubber on the Islanders net, the Islanders hammered Bob at every opportunity, and eventually that persistence paid off.
Matt Martin would open things up as the trailing forward following an aggressive breakout into the Columbus zone. Tic-tac-toe passes across the ice and back to the point ended with Martin unloading a shot on the fly that shipped past Bob, while the Jackets' D was left looking completely flummoxed.
Minutes later, another one was going in, this one squarely on Kevin Connauton, who bobbled the puck at his own blue line, allowing Anders Lee to poke it into clear space for a miniature breakaway, which he bombed past Bob at a sharp angle.
Insult to injury came with a few minutes left in the period, when another defensive turnover ended up in Brian Strait's lap. When someone scores his first goal of the year on you, and it's game 40? It's just a bad night.
Down 4-1 for the second time in two nights, and outshot 27-12 on the shot clock, the Jackets went into the locker room for the second intermission, and one can only hope that captain or no captain, SOMEONE stood up and gave the room a right and proper bollocking.
There was, perhaps, a glimmer of hope in the early third period, with Nick Foligno sending Scott Hartnell and Ryan Johansen into the offensive zone with some speed. Hartnell would send the puck to Joey, who fired a quick shot that rebounded back off Johnson's legs, and Foligno was in position to clean up the garbage, cutting the deficit to 4-2 with most of the final frame to go.
Sadly, that glimmer of hope was just that - fleeting, and ephemeral. Unable to generate any pressure, the Jackets collapsed again and again back into their own zone, desperately trying to prevent any further damage. Hammered at every turn, the only surprising thing about the third period is that the Islanders only scored one more goal - an odd man rush between Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey that saw them set up for Okposo to catch the rebound off Bailey's shot and hammer it home for his 9th of the year.
The Jackets didn't even crack 20 shots on goal in this game - the final tally would be a staggering 40-18 in favor of the visitors. Sergei Bobrovsky may get some criticism for allowing so many, but if he hadn't been there, my god, it would have been truly terrifying.
This team didn't play Blue Jackets hockey. They haven't really been playing Blue Jackets Hockey since they left on their road trip.
I'm not sure what's broken, or how it needs to be fixed. But this club is trying to get back into the playoff race. That should mean that every game matters,
Unfortunately, a lot of guys aren't playing like it.