Aftermath No. 27: Vancouver
We'll try and keep this one short and sweet.
The Blue Jackets, while disappointed in seeing their five-game winning streak come to an end tonight at Nationwide Arena, were willing to take some positives out of the 2-1 shootout loss to Vancouver. They got a point, yes, and despite not playing their best hockey for the first 40 minutes, managed to get something out of it.
Pending results of later games still going on around the NHL, the Blue Jackets could be anywhere between three and five points below the playoff bar with 21 games to play. Is it impossible? Certainly not, especially given the way they're playing lately.
Tonight wasn't so much a speed bump as it was a minor pothole -- nothing to deter them from moving forward and something that can be repaired with a little effort. Sergei Bobrovsky was strong once again, making 37 saves and improving his record to 6-1-2 in his last nine appearances. You could make the case that he's been the backbone of this recent run by Columbus, and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone in disagreement.
On the bright side: the Blue Jackets got Brandon Dubinsky back tonight and he played a strong game. His TOI clocked in at 19:36 with an active stat line: two shots, five hits, 11 face-off wins (69 percent) and 2:17 worth of penalty-killing duty. Having him back in the middle stabilizes the lineup and they'll be even better when Artem Anisimovreturns.
Let's break it down.
1. TAKE THE POINT: The Blue Jackets certainly had their chances to win this game and Todd Richards admitted his club didn't play a 60-minute game, which ended up costing them the extra point. But on the other hand, they were uncharacteristically sloppy with the puck - particularly in the second period - but got some key stops from Bobrovsky to hang in there. If this is an "off night," the Blue Jackets are headed in the right direction. Not their best, but they still managed a point.
2. BUZZ, BUZZ: That's probably the sound the Canucks heard when Dubinsky's line was on the ice tonight. He, Calvert and Atkinson look like a solid trio and were the Blue Jackets' best unit in this game, combining for four shots, some high quality shifts and each guy logging at least 15 minutes of ice time. Their forechecking was the most consistent part of their game; they made life miserable for the Vancouver defense all night long, and the only thing missing was a goal or two.
3. SPECIAL TEAMS: Columbus' power play only got two opportunities in the game (the first coming before the ice was barely cut up - 23 seconds in), and the penalty kill had a similar workload. The man-down unit has not allowed a 5-on-4 goal against in 11 straight games which is a franchise record, and they're doing so by executing a game plan that's detail-oriented. The shots are coming from the perimeter and Bobrovsky is cleaning up the mess, making it a "go fetch" power play for the opposition.