It was Sunday afternoon, and both hockey teams were on day two of back-to-back game days. Each club had traveled from an Atlantic Division location to reach New Jersey in time for the early start. It’s the setup to the world’s most dreadful hockey game and for one period, the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils delivered on that awful promise. Luckily for Columbus fans, the visiting team found enough scoring touch in the second and third periods to escape the Garden State with a 3-0 victory.
While the score looks nice, the non-goal parts of the match didn’t provide much excitement. In the first period, shots favored Columbus 6-5, and in the third, shots were even at 5-5. The second featured a bit more open action, but 40 minutes of low-event gameplay doesn’t make for thrilling hockey. A bit of inter-club connection lingered into the Fox Sports Ohio broadcast, but even that subplot couldn’t carry the day (this was the first game after Dalton Prout and Kyle Quincey were traded).
An uncharacteristically poor outing for Devils goalie Cory Schneider did help to boost the goal totals for the Jackets (a .864 SV% on the game). Boone Jenner started the scoring, picking up the game-winner on a gritty netfront effort, and Sam Gagner found his second goal in as many game. Thankfully, one of those goals was a superb highlight to remember.
The Great: Oliver Bjorkstrand
Oliver Bjorkstrand continued his solid post-recall play by posting a two point night, a goal and an assist. Said so plainly, you miss the spectacle of Bjorkstrand’s goal. Luckily, Sam’s gif prowess has us covered.
Bjorkstrand maneuvers around and through the whole New Jersey defense thanks to his excellent puck handling and skating ability. The winger finds the back of the net because of his awareness and patience.
The Dane was also a few inches away from another goal tonight, with one of his laser shots ricocheting off the post.
Tonight’s performance came with the young forward in a few new roles. Bjorkstrand was moved to play with Scott Hartnell and Sam Gagner, and was shifted to get first-unit powerplay responsibility at the end of the game. The man-advantage is still a work-in-progress, but both of Bjorkstrand’s points came at 5v5, and the Dane finished positive in 5v5 shot attempt differential on the night (via Natural Stat Trick). At least for one night, the line transition has been successful.
In the post-game press conference, Columbus coach John Tortorella alluded to the potential value in Bjorkstrand’s play right now. “You hope that’s our deadline move,” he noted (as seen on Fox Sports Ohio). Since returning to Columbus in February, Bjorkstrand has 3 goals and 3 assists in 9 games.
There’s no telling if that pace will continue, so it’s worth being cautious. However, it’s worth remembering (for reference) that the 90th ranked NHL forward in 2016-17 points per game is at 0.67 (via Hockey-Reference, minimum 30 games played). Adding a forward with the potential to hit 6 points every 9 games is a very nice pickup for the Jackets.
The Excellent: Sergei Bobrovsky
Tonight, Bobrovsky faced only 20 shots and turned them all away. The (relatively) low workload makes a superlative a bit more difficult in this instance, but consider tonight’s praise a weeklong congratulation.
Over the past calendar week (February 26 through March 5), Bobrovsky is 3-0-1, with a .975 SV% (3 goals allowed on 118 shots). Tonight’s game also follows another shutout performance, which is a career first for Bobrovsky.
Bob is on fire right now, and the Blue Jackets are immediate beneficiaries to the “easy” points he offers.
You Learn Something Every Day: Illegal Substitution
Late in the second period, the Blue Jackets took a bench minor penalty. Initially, the call seemed to be Too Many Men, but Columbus had only 4 or 5 skaters on-ice at the time.
As it turns out, the call was for an Illegal Substitution. If you’re like me, Nick’s football tweet was the first thought that came to mind.
On Fox Sports Ohio, Jody Shelley explained the infraction: Kyle Quincey attempted to jump off ice to avoid being a 6th CBJ skater involved in a play. However, he hopped into the “bench” space between the actual player benches, which is an illegal action and, thus, was penalized.
The more you know!
Tweet of the Game
This is the part of the recap where we all realize that Bad Lip Reading will find hockey someday, and we will all eat it up.
I’m convinced Foligno is saying, “Yes, and I don’t have my car key!”
The next game for the Blue Jackets and Devils is a rematch, with New Jersey traveling to Columbus for a game on Tuesday.