Aftermath No. 46: San Jose
It's not just that they're doing it. It's how they're doing it.
One would imagine that rival Western Conference fans watched intently as the San Jose Sharks erased a 3-1 deficit in the third period and stormed back to tie the Blue Jackets. The Shark Tank was rocking, all the momentum was in the home team's favor and the Sharks looked the part of a team that (pardon me) smelled blood in the water.
But as the Blue Jackets have done time and time again - almost to the point where you expect it - they shrugged off a game-tying goal by Joe Pavelski and got right back to work.
The big-time finish from Ryan Johansen on the game-winner with 97 seconds left in the third period was the cherry on top of a Sunday sundae that was filled with ebbs, flows and turbulence but what happened after the Pavelski goal can't be ignored. Rather than sit back and let the Sharks continue to attack, the Blue Jackets stuck to their guns and got the puck in deep to re-establish their forecheck.
In watching Johansen's goal on replay, the one thing that stands out is the pressure. How many times have we seen teams in the NHL (especially in a playoff race where the loser point is so coveted) lock the doors and get to overtime, making the final minutes of regulation into a good time to change the laundry over? The Blue Jackets weren't having any of it, and sent two men in on the puck, resulting in a crushing turnover by - guess who - Pavelski.
RJ Umberger got his stick on Pavelski and disrupted him just enough to allow Johansen to swoop in, and a few strides later, the 20-year-old center was staring down Antti Niemi.
The confidence, the release, everything was impressive as Johansen sniped in the winning tally.
Let's break it down.
1) SHUT IT DOWN: The Blue Jackets knew they could have success against the Sharks' big forwards if they could close on pucks quickly and shut down their cycle game. Mission accomplished; the Sharks did not have much sustained attack time and much of their offense was generated on one-off chances and on the power play. It was to the point where San Jose had to get Joe Thornton's line away from Johansen.
2) SPECIAL TEAMS: Yes, the Sharks got their tying goal on the power play but the Blue Jackets' penalty killing was back on form tonight after a brief lull. The NHL's 10th-best PK unit (entering the game) did its job with some key kills in the first 40 minutes, and the struggling power play cashed in with an enormous goal in the second period.
3) TEAM WIN: For as much attention as their goaltender gets (and deservedly so because Bobrovsky has been tremendous), the Blue Jackets have been wrongly accused of only being able to win games because of him. Tonight was a great example to the contrary; Bobrovsky made 32 saves and did his job between the pipes, but his teammates played a very solid, structured game in front of him and gave him some much-needed run support.