Aftermath No. 10: Los Angeles
I think Todd Richards summed it up well: "We lost our game."
He's referring to the response after what was an ideal first period from the Blue Jackets, in which they forechecked hard, forced the Los Angeles Kings to turn pucks over, and put a ton of pressure on goaltender Jonathan Quick. They did what they had to do against a struggling team, but the Kings are also a proud team that's a few months removed from a Stanley Cup championship.
The Kings found their game, and were the better club in the final 40 minutes tonight.
Anze Kopitar's backhander was probably one that Steve Mason would like to have back, but goaltending was not the Blue Jackets' ailment. They failed to carry any momentum from the first period to the second, and got back on their heels when the Kings brought a feverish charge in the meat of the game. At one point, Los Angeles held the Blue Jackets to one shot on goal in a 20-plus minute span, and that's just not good enough especially when playing from behind.
The game wasn't without some drama, and that's almost to be expected nowadays when the Kings and Blue Jackets get together. Former Blue Jackets center Jeff Carter was given a warm welcome by the Nationwide Arena crowd whenever he touched the puck, and in the second period, Brandon Dubinsky was ejected for boarding Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi.
Mike Richards immediately engaged Dubinsky and dropped the gloves in a fight that was more of a brief tussle, and Richards got four minutes of his own (two instigator penalties). Neither side would comment much on the hit after the game, but Todd Richards accepted the penalty and said his team would now deal with whatever comes next.
Here's my breakdown of tonight's game:
1. Start then stalled: The Blue Jackets -- much like they did for 40 minutes against Detroit -- seemed determined to wear down the Kings by finishing checks and putting pressure on their defense in the first period. They were the aggressors, no doubt, and earned the 1-0 lead they carried into first intermission...but when the second period began, it was totally different. They weren't crisp on the breakout and struggled through the neutral zone, and it allowed the Kings more time with the puck than they had in the opening 20 minutes.
2. Face-off prowess: Los Angeles is a pretty stout team in the circle and has great depth through the middle of the ice, but the Blue Jackets were handily better tonight. Columbus won 61 percent of the draws in the game, and had one player (Derick Brassard) who did not win at least 50 percent of draws when taking three or more. Ryan Johansen won 89 percent, Artem Anisimov won 57 percent, and Dubinsky won 57 percent. Though it didn't translate to a positive result in the end, the Blue Jackets' efficiency in the face-off circle is giving them more time with the puck and thus more opportunities in the offensive zone.
3. Young defense holds steady: Aside from the obvious, I thought the Blue Jackets' young defensemen (in particular the recent call-ups) played a simple, effective game and didn't look overmatched. Erixon made a nice play on the Brassard goal, Goloubef made a few nice reads to join the play, and Nick Holden was steady in his first NHL game in over two years. The blue line will get a boost with Nikita Nikitin expected to return Thursday vs. Calgary, but on this night, the youthful group on the back end did its job fairly well.