Aftermath No. 36: Anaheim
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards hinted that one item covered in the pre-game talk with his team would be "emptying the tanks" tonight against Anaheim.
Though there wasn't much left after a week-long four-game road trip through western Canada and back - and Richards said they were running on fumes in a frantic third period - but it's hard to ignore their collective resolve to stare down one of the NHL's top teams and find a way to win another crucial hockey game.
At the end of the night, the Blue Jackets had accumulated their 36th and 37th points of this truncated regular season (15-14-7) and grabbed sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference standings. There's still much work to be done and the players will quickly remind you of that, but they've worked hard to get to this point and aren't ready to stop their climb up the ladder just yet.
The next few days will also be important. Columbus does not play another game until Thursday night in Nashville, leaving plenty of time this week for the standings to shift and alter. But regardless, the Blue Jackets are right in the thick of it and it's going to be a fire-wagon finish in the next four weeks.
Here's how it all went down tonight (in a relative nutshell): Derick Brassard got it started with a nifty goal on Jonas Hiller, the Ducks put a strong push forward and got a tying goal in the third period from Emerson Etem, and the Jackets held together as Anaheim feverishly tried to end this thing in regulation. Alas, no dice.
These Blue Jackets are mighty familiar with the concept of bonus hockey and they've strung together quite the run on home ice. They've picked up points in 12 straight games at Nationwide Arena, and with tonight's win, wrapped up a 10-2-4 record in March.
If you're a team looking to play your way into the postseason race, you'd prefer a run like that.
And with that, tonight's analysis...
1. BADGE, GUN, GLOVE & BLOCKER: Bobrovsky did his thing once again tonight, making 29 saves for his 12th win of the season and ninth victory in March. His best work came in the final period, including a pair of dynamite stops on re-directions from Corey Perry right in front of the cage. When called upon, he was spectacular and did exactly what you want your goaltender to do, which is give you a chance to win. "Bob" is 9-2-3 with a 1.49 GAA, .950 save percentage and three shutouts in March - and the three shutouts were the first three of his NHL career.
2. CHECK, PLEASE: The Ducks are one of the NHL's best 5-on-5 teams and they rely heavily on their top line (which tonight was Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry) to play big minutes and dominate games. On most nights, that trio is fully capable of taking over a game and they were fantastic in a win against Chicago on Friday, but not tonight. The Blue Jackets put forth one of their best team-checking efforts of the season and kept the Ducks' top line in check; all three guys played over 21 minutes and had a few quality chances but Bobrovsky and the group in front of the Columbus net kept a clean house.
3. STAY IN THE RACE: I'll leave you with what Richards said post-game, about his team earning its way into the mix: "We've put ourselves in a position to play some important games...our last 41 games last year, we really weren't playing for anything. Now, all these games mean something. The guys have earned it, they really have."