The Aftermath Game #23: Blue Jackets @ Coyotes

Columbus Blue Jackets v Arizona Coyotes

A franchise record for shots on goal in a game isn’t something you’d expect to come in a stressful affair. But then, nothing about the Columbus-Arizona contest made a whole lot of sense last night in Glendale. The final, a 3-2 shootout victory for the Blue Jackets, doesn’t begin to unpack the ups and downs of the entire experience.

In particular, the final 20 minutes of regulation, and the 5 minutes of 3-on-3 overtime should be enough to require most Jackets fans to check with a cardiologist. Somehow, after picking up the first goal just 13 seconds into the game, and then controlling most of the first two periods, Columbus was down 2-1 entering the third. A one goal deficit against one of the worst teams in the NHL doesn’t seem too hard to overcome, right?

And thus began a period-long battle: Coyote goalie Mike Smith against the Blue Jackets. Shot after shot after shot after shot, the Jackets completely tilted the ice. In total, the Blue Jackets fired 23 pucks at Smith in the third period (compared to just 4 against Curtis McElhinney), and Smith turned them away time and again. That we already know the outcome spoils some of the suspense; at the time, fate seemed to be uninterested in a second Columbus goal. Everything was working for the Jackets, and yet the scoreboard just. Wouldn’t. Change.

And then finally, finally, with about two minutes to play, the Jackets beat the unbeatable and clawed back to tie the game. With a bit of poetic justice, Alex Wennberg (the man who needed to shoot more) was the player to get the Jackets’ second goal.

And just as soon as the relief from Wennberg’s backhand washed over Columbus, the tension returned in the form of the most thrilling 3-on-3 overtime period I’ve seen to date.

Chaos reigned. 3-on-1 rushes for the Coyotes. 2-on-0 rushes for the Blue Jackets. The most ridiculous toe drag move you’ll ever see from Seth Jones, a defenseman. The teams combined for a wild 17 shots on goal in the 5 minute overtime period (via Natural Stat Trick). Mike Smith resumed his amazing play, seemingly undeterred by his late-game goal against. And then, on the other side, Curtis McElhinney played unexpected hero for the Jackets. His fantastic work kept Columbus in the game as OT was spiraling wildly out of control.

The CBJ PR Twitter account confirmed: the team’s shot total was the highest single-game performance in Blue Jackets history. (Their tweet notes 58 for the CBJ, that was since updated to 60.)

After that final 25 minutes, the shootout was a bit of a step down in excitement. Thankfully, the Jackets managed to put the game away on the strength of a brilliant move by Cam Atkinson, and the game-winner from Sam Gagner.

The drama between the Jackets and Mike Smith is the real superlative highlight of this game. None of the tension exists if the Arizona goalie is even slightly more pedestrian. He finished the game with a .967 SV%, an utterly outrageous individual performance. And that comes paired with a massive late-game push by Columbus. Brandon Saad led the way with 9 shots on goal, while Boone Jenner and Zach Werenski each put 6 on Smith.

In all, Saturday’s match was one of the best all-around performances by the CBJ this season. And thanks to one opposing goalie, the Jackets were two minutes away from earning zero points in the effort. Hockey is weird.

Also This Game: Super Sloppy Hockey

An element not discussed so far: this game was sloppy in every way imaginable. Aaron Portzline suggested that the ice in Arizona was bad, and the visual evidence seems to mesh with his observations. Both teams were severely over- and under-skating pucks that seemed routine. Players were knocking up lots of snow, and falling over at weird times.

Early in the second period, Scott Hartnell flubbed a puck while relatively unchallenged. The puck just died on him, seemingly stopping before the Columbus winger expected. The Coyotes jumped on the opportunity and created a 2-on-1 rush down the ice. This isolated example isn’t meant to exonerate Hartnell, but to point out the bizarre style of play afforded both sides by unexpected puck movement (or lack of movement).

Also sloppy? The penalty sheet. From’s official game reports, both clubs were on a parade to the penalty box all night long.


With a combination of weird ice and stoppages to assign penalties every few minutes, the game never seemed to set into a sensible rhythm.

Tweet of the Game

Seeing the other side of a 60-shot game can’t be fun. Especially when you’re the guy responsible for stopping those shots. Not hard to understand the anger flowing from Mike Smith.

The Blue Jackets and Coyotes are back at it on Monday. It’s a rematch in Nationwide, with the game starting at 7:00 pm.

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