Game #81: End of the Road (Games)
Columbus, on the road in Buffalo, closed out the away portion of their schedule tonight.
With 2 games left in the season, the Columbus Blue Jackets ended the road portion of the schedule (officially, at least- Saturday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks promised to be a home game in name only) with a trip to New York to take on the Buffalo Sabres.
It was against the Sabres, in the third game of the season, where Jackets fans could begin to honestly wonder if something was wrong this year. Now, Columbus heads back to New York looking to accomplish two goals- get this horrible season in the rear view mirror as quickly as possible, and avoid being swept by the Sabres.
There’s not much to be said here in the way of a preview of the game- Joonas Korpisalo would get the nod ahead of Sergei Bobrovsky. Both teams are bad this year, though only one of them could’ve been predicted to be in this position 6 months ago.
Here we go.
FIRST PERIOD- THE MOST DULL LEAD EVER
The first period might’ve featured 21 combined shots on goal from the two teams, but only one of them was even remotely dangerous. Naturally, it was the one that went in. On the second power play opportunity of the period, Matt Calvert was able to snipe a goal from the left faceoff circle. It was a laser that beat first time netminder Jason Kasdorf for Buffalo at 18:45, assisted by Brandon Dubinsky. Moments later, Brandon Saad tried the same thing, but Kasdorf was able to get a glove on it.
This was an end to end period, but there was not much action to speak of at all. Oliver Bjorkstrand drove mostly all of the offensive chances for Columbus in the period. He just has a nose for the puck, and never seems to be out of position in the zone.
Troll so hard: Your IGS Energy performers for the Jackets tonight, per the broadcast on Fox Sports Ohio? The top 5 prospects in the draft.
SECOND PERIOD- SOMEHOW HANGING ON
Buffalo, by every single metric except goals scored, slaughtered the Jackets that period. The Sabres outshot Columbus 18-7, had multiple power play opportunities, dominated possession, and yet were outscored 2-1. That’s how the puck bounces, I guess.
Buffalo’s first goal, a power play tally, came courtesy of Sam Reinhart and a deflection right in front of Korpisalo at 13:37. 4 minutes later, the Jackets had taken a two goal lead behind markers from Nick Foligno and Dalton Prout, the latter making up for a terrible penalty in front of his own crease.
The Blue Jackets, unlike any time the rest of the season, were weathering a storm and playing with confidence (albeit against a young team with absolutely nothing to play for).
THIRD PERIOD-MORE OF THE SAME
Seriously, this period was boring. There was one goal scored, Brandon Saad notching his 30th. This gave the team 2 30 goal scorers for the first time ever.
Other than that? Nothing. Buffalo threw some pucks at the net, Korpisalo kept them out. Columbus threw some pucks at the Buffalo net, Kasdorf kept them out. Neither team really pushed the envelope, and with nothing to play for and the game decided, who can honestly blame them.
Columbus Blue Jackets 4 Buffalo Sabres 1
First things first, at least we got some GOOD history tonight. For the first time in franchise history, the Blue Jackets have 2 30 goal scorers in a single season (Boone Jenner and Brandon Saad). Pretty cool, and a nice bright spot in a terrible season.
Credit to Nick Foligno, who has played well the last few games. Where was this all season? It’s nice to see the captain at least start to rediscover his scoring touch, albeit late in the season. Maybe he can build some confidence and have some more luck next season.
This was not a great game for those who value draft standings, but it was nice to see Columbus win a game they should have, on paper, won.
That being said, the ability of Buffalo to just absolutely DOMINATE stretches of this game (and they did, for extended periods of time) is worrying. Columbus should not be scrambling in the defensive zone playing a young team with 3 guys making their NHL debut tonight. Torts has a full offseason to get the defense whipped into shape, and I have no doubt he will work on it.
I mentioned it earlier, but Bjorkstrand is really good. He’s capable of generating chances and shots out of nothing. That’s something this team sorely lacks, and hopefully he’ll get a long look in camp next season.
Columbus closes out the regular season with a visit from the Chicago Blackhawks tonight. Faceoff is at 7:00 EST.