The Columbus Blue Jackets took to the ice at Nationwide Arena Monday night against the Detroit Red Wings. Having reviewed the schedule after it was released last week, I knew there would be some serious moaning and groaning regarding the season opener against Nashville, and then home opener against Detroit. Certainly two teams who have had their fair share of wins against Columbus in years past, the idea of taking two points out of the four possible was starting to look really good.
Nevertheless, Columbus came out to support the Jackets in a very big way. 19,202 was the (well past) sellout number provided to the fans, totaling what was later confirmed to be the largest turnout to a non-playoff Blue Jackets hockey game in franchise history. Couple that with the raucous cheers for the players, John P McConnell, John Davidson, and the distinct lack of red in the stands, and the boys in Union Blue were provided an ideal environment to steal the show.
I enjoyed the game from the comforts of the Social Station. #CBJsocial on twitter, it is a set up designed to give back to the fans, through contests and interactions where you can acquire tickets to the suite for upcoming games, and enjoy the company of CBJ social media folks, along with a handful of the CBJ community leaders. There will be plenty more on the social station in the coming week, but to satiate your interests, here’s a panoramic;
On to the game. Columbus came out of the gate cautious and caught themselves chasing in their own zone and focusing too hard on not giving an inch inside the red line. With shots totaling 13-5 in favour of Detroit (after sitting at 11-2), it was pretty obvious that while attention needed to remain on the defensive side of the ice, something would have to give offensively.
One thing I remind myself when Columbus plays “storied” franchises like Detroit, is that there is truly no sympathy from the referee staff. Endless were the tweets noting blatant missed calls, and the social station erupted numerous when Columbus was on the wrong side of a pretty clear obstruction.
With that off my chest, I circle back to a big messy turnover in the defensive zone, followed by poor coverage and an Ian White goal that should have never happened. For as much as that was a bright spot for Detroit, it also seemed like a turning point in the game. Columbus had fire to give, and it came in the form of a great pass by Ryan Johansen to Cam Atkinson, who made no mistake turning on the jets and beating Howard clean with a deke. A great goal, a resounding celebration from the crowd, and momentum!
The third period showed similar resilience to the effort in Nashville. Countless efforts towards the net finally turned to success when “El Dorado” dialed up a howitzer from the point (that’s a James Wisniewski slapshot from the blueline for those unclear) to tie the game at two. Shortly thereafter, a big rebound off an errant Nikitin shot landed on Prospal’s stick, and he made no mistake, helping the Blue Jackets take a 3-2 lead, and it nearly blew the lid off Nationwide.
But as it often goes with Detroit, they clawed back in and eventually won the game in the shootout (or tied, pending that review on Cam’s shootout attempt).
Sergei Bobrovsky faced 42 shots, allowing three goals, for a save percentage of .929, painting only a very small picture of how beneficial to the Blue Jackets the young Russian really has been. Another three saves in the shutout before having his pad forced into the net by Brunner showed the patience and poise of Bob, who won the crowd over quickly with a multitude of high end saves on turnovers. No question in my mind, he deserved first star merit for his efforts.
- Tyutin and Nikitin were somewhere between mediocre and okay. Absolutely brutal turnovers were becoming a norm late in the game, along with Nikitin who appeared to be a step behind the Wings all evening. For as much as they have been touted as the shutdown pairing of this defense, I was feeling more comfortable with Controlled Chaos on the ice, and that is saying something.
- Ryan Johansen, Matt Calvert, Cam Atkinson, and John Moore deserve to be acknowledged. They have found a place among their peers on this roster and are standing out in a very positive way. Cam with his speed, Johansen with his new size and effort, Calvert again with endless effort, and Moore with poise and some incredibly fluid skating.
- Our defensemen need to stand at center ice and fire slapshots at the net for hours. They are not allowed to stop until they have taken ten straight shots while on the move that are below knee height and ON THE NET! So many terrible shots from the point tonight that I cannot even begin to share my frustration on. Players do not get in front of point shots that are face height at any level of play, and shots that are inaccurate do not help to generate offense. Low, hard, and on target guys. Not a hard concept.
- Turnovers were an ugly sight late in the game. Soft passes off the boards to no one in the defensive end caused heads to roll in the stands. I sure hope it is something they talk about early this week in the dressing room. Sure thing passes need to exist, because Bob cannot bail them out every game as much as he did tonight. Not a chance.
- Three out of four points starting the year IN Nashville and then facing Detroit at home. If someone offered that to you a week ago, would you take it? Yeah… Me too..
- Did I mention how great Bob has been?
Carry the Flag.