After a 3 day break between games, the Columbus Blue Jackets got back to action in Nationwide against the Anaheim Ducks. Both sides played an uneven brand of hockey, Columbus jumping up 2-0 early and Anaheim surging late. Eventually the game went to overtime, and the Blue Jackets finished off the Ducks with Zach Werenski’s first career game-winning goal, a 3-2 final score.
The OT play was great, and the first period was excellent. It’s the rest of the game that leaves a bit to be desired for Columbus. Thankfully, the home team picked up two points, and the loser point goes to a Western team (minimizing the impact on future playoff issues for the Eastern CBJ).
Let’s get to the superlatives.
The Redemption: The Overtime Players
When we last saw the overtime Blue Jackets, Vladamir Tarasenko scored the OT winner. On paper, this doesn’t seem especially unusual (Tarasneko is really, really good). More the issue: Brandon Saad was a bit lacking on the play, as the St. Louis star swooped around the Columbus player with (relative) ease.
Tonight, yet again, Brandon Saad made a big difference in 3-on-3 play. Only this time? It was in the other direction. Saad lost control of the puck in the offensive zone, and Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell jumped at the chance to fly down the ice into the Ducks’ offensive zone. Ryan Murray sped back alongside Rakell, forcing the Duck to center the puck, a pass to Ryan Getzlaf. This could have been the perfect chance for Anaheim to bury the game-winner, the puck on their captain’s stick.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, just as Brandon Saad lost the puck in the offensive zone, the CBJ winger jumped to transition into recovery. His backcheck timed perfectly. Just as Getzlaf received Rackell’s pass, Saad squared to the Duck and lunged forward, connecting stick to puck with a perfect pokecheck. Brandon Saad had completely neutralized the attack, and Alex Wennberg recovered the puck.
From there, the Swede circled around and led an end-to-end rush before dropping a perfect pass into the waiting hands of Zach Werenski.
Werenski did not miss.
After the game, Foligno shared in feelings of redemption for Brandon Saad. The captain remarked, “It was nice to see one go his way… We know he cares and he’s gonna have a lot more plays like that in him.”
Stick tap to our own Alison for the Foligno quote.
The Good: The First Period
The Blue Jackets came to play in the early going. The home team opened the scoring within the first two minutes. Scott Hartnell gathered a puck near the net, his attempt came out into the slot, and Boone Jenner managed to bury his first goal of the season. Hopefully this’ll get Jenner rolling again, as the Jackets could use his some of his 2015-16 magic in the new season.
Columbus kept firing in the first, turning pressure into more scoring chances. Eventually, Ryan Murray did his best Zach Werenski impression and delivered a beautiful pass to an open Brandon Saad.
The Columbus Blue Jackets shared video of both plays.
The goals were enough to get the CBJ into overtime. Which was needed because…
The Not Very Good: The Second and Third Periods
Last year, the Anaheim Ducks finished first in the Pacific Division, and still have a lot of that core in place. That’s a big part of why the Ducks stayed afloat in the contest, and took control in the latter two-thirds of tonight’s game.
Via Natural Stat Trick, the Ducks out-attempted the Blue Jackets 13-7 in the second period, and 13-10 in the third. There were score effects, to be sure (the CBJ did have the 2-0 lead going into the second). However, the slipping and loss of lead are not an ideal way to build points. Ultimately, the Ducks gained ground on the scoreboard over the course of the final two periods. Rickard Rakell netted the first goal late in the second, and Nick Ritchie pulled the Ducks even early in the third.
The Getzlaf-Perry combo were the game-long shot leaders for Anaheim, with Getzlaf’s on-ice shot attempts tilting 18-5 in the Ducks’ favor. The Anaheim captain spent most of his time matched against Jack Johnson and Ryan Murray, and that scenario was tipped heavily to the visitors’ advantage. When facing Johnson, Getzlaf’s on-ice shot attempts were 16-3 for the Ducks (again via Natural Stat Trick).
The two top Ducks will always be hard to match, and maintaining a lead is never simple in the NHL. You can pick whether tonight was more about CBJ in a defensive shell, or Anaheim pressing the issue. However, this was a first glimpse at the No Seth Jones reality of the CBJ defense, and for one of the two big pairs? Rough sledding.
(The other pair? Werenski-Savard largely matched Kesler and dominated the Anaheim players. That’s a good development, meaning the team-wide situation is complicated.)
Tweet/Promotion of the Game
This Friday, the US Men’s National Soccer Team faces Mexico in a World Cup qualifier at Mapfre Stadium. Tonight, the Columbus Blue Jackets hosted members of the USMNT, and Jozy Altidore did the ceremonial puck drop. Very cool!
No rest for Columbus: the Blue Jackets are on the road to face the Bruins in Boston tomorrow night.