A slow start and a matchup against Connor McDavid doesn’t seem like a recipe for success. And yet, 60 minutes later, the Columbus Blue Jackets pulled off another victory, beating the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 to open a western Canada road trip. The Jackets are now on a seven-game winning streak, and nine-game point streak, a run they may need to keep pace with the rest of the red-hot Metro division. Yes, Columbus leads the NHL in point percentage. Also true, the Jackets had played the least number of games in the league (going into tonight). It’s nice to have games in hand; it’s also crucial to do something with that advantage.
As suggested, tonight’s contest was uninspiring in the early going for the CBJ. The Jackets surrendered the first goal of the game, and were outshot 11-5 in the opening period. While some of the Edmonton edge came thanks to less-than-obvious penalty calls (more on that later), play at 5-on-5 also favored the home team. You can credit a sluggish Columbus team or a quick-jump Oilers; either option wasn’t so friendly to the Jackets.
And then the second period started. After a good-enough penalty kill, the tide finally turned in the Jackets’ favor. A deflection goal from Sam Gagner brought the CBJ even at 1-1, and the shots started to flow.
From here, Columbus imposed their will. In the final two periods, the Jackets out-attempted the Oilers 33-19 at 5-on-5 play (via Natural Stat Trick). With a powerplay goal and a Calvert Hustle goal, the visitors pulled away and knotted an impressive win in Edmonton.
The Great: Sergei Bobrovsky
The Columbus skaters made for a fun second and third period. However, those same Jackets were largely ineffective in the first, and were forced to weather a double minor penalty (that spanned the first and second periods). The reason the CBJ held strong: Sergei Bobrovsky.
The numbers alone are impressive, Bob putting up a .971 SV% stopping 33 of 34 shots on goal. It’s the timing and acrobatics that lift Bobrovsky’s night to excellence. All saves qualify as “timely.” Bob’s work to keep a sluggish set of skaters alive made the goalie a team-sized life jacket. When the rest of the Columbus team finally came to life, the score was only 0-1 against, a manageable deficit to overcome.
Then, late in the game, Bobrovsky showed off his most incredible move of the night.
My legs hurt watching this happen, it’s an outrageous move.
Sometimes a hockey team needs their goalie to steal a game. Bobrovsky wasn’t responsible for the entire victory, but he sure carried a big part of the load.
The Snipetastic: Cam Atkinson
The game-winning goal came off the stick of Cam Atkinson, firing a powerplay laser past Cam Talbot. Yes, Sam Gagner gets a lot of credit for a nifty pass. But, man. That shot:
Earlier today, Micah Blake McCurdy shared a fun update at his invaluable Hockey Viz site: shot location heat maps for individual players. Take a look at Cam Atkinson’s player page to get a feel for the current CBJ powerplay configuration.
Cam’s clearly found his role in the 2016-17 Columbus powerplay, and it’s working well right now with 5 tallies on the year. Tonight’s goal was no exception, Ovechkin-esque in calculation and execution.
The Bizarre: The Double Minor Against the Blue Jackets
Take a look at this first:
To review that series of events: Milan Lucic accidentally hits fellow Oiler Connor McDavid with a high stick. Jack Johnson is generally involved in the play. Alex Wennberg several strides away from this trio of players. The officials call Alex Wennberg for a double-minor. The officials then realize a part of their error, and assign the penalty to Johnson.
Thankfully for Columbus, the penalty was completely killed (see above about Bobrovsky). A strange call seems an unfair way to decide a game, but then I suppose life isn’t fair!
Tweet of the Game
When it comes to solid player puns, you’ll find little resistance from me.
The Blue Jackets continue their western Canada swing Friday night at Calgary.