It is amazing to me how much changes when momentum builds late into a game and into the extra frame. The tone for this post changed dramatically with the conclusion of the third period, and of course, improved even more after the shootout victory thanks to Letestu and Atkinson. Yes, the Blue Jackets played and won their first road game of the season on Saturday night, yet I still feel the need to return to much of what concerned me in the early stages of the game (followed by brief elation, I promise).
The first period started poorly. New York was quick to the puck, smart with their passing, and stymied the CBJ defensively. By first period end, the shots favoured the Islanders 9-4, but there was plenty of positive in the possession Columbus maintained later in the period. Notable efforts from Dubinsky and Jenner to get physical and press the play forward pushed the play into the Islanders zone; however, shots remained a premium, and defensive efforts to get the puck on net were met with shin pads or the glass behind the net. Unfortunately the lone defender to take the spotlight was David Savard, who seems to be struggling with when to be patient with the puck and when to get rid of it. Shots into midsections from the point also come to mind.
The second period was a source of great frustration. Offensively the Blue Jackets were lackluster, generating some chances but not capitalizing, and once again finding a great deal of difficulty in executing more than a couple of passes prior to shooting. On the opposite side of the ice, New York scored two goals during the period, and they had plenty of additional chances due to some very shoddy defensive coverage of players not possessing the puck. I snapped a photo of my television after the first New York goal, showing a pretty telling issue;
As you can see, five Blue Jackets players have their eyes locked on the puck, and all are at or below the hash marks, on the one side of the ice. This was happening time after time, allowing New York to make a pass across the ice to a streaking teammate. This was causing some very good scoring chances, but fortunately for Jackets fans, Bobrovsky was up to the challenge time after time. Aside from a couple of late period efforts by MacKenzie leading to harmless shots on Nabokov, there really wasn’t much positive to take out of the second period.
The third period, however, brought about the type of change that can bring a team back above water. Shots in the third period heavily favoured Columbus 12-7, but the biggest shift of momentum came on a powerplay six minutes in. Some solid puck movement left Letestu with an uncontested shot inside the slot, and he made no mistake high glove side, bringing the deficit to only a single goal. A mere four minutes later, Columbus got some great puck luck when a Foligno shot deflected off an Islander and behind Nabokov to tie the game at two.
At this point, it seemed like Columbus really got their bearings. Entering overtime, it felt like a bonus point with their lackluster efforts in the first couple periods, but they showed resilience and in the shootout, found themselves victorious thanks to some great goaltending and excellent goals by Letestu (again) and Atkinson (who made Nabokov look like a fool). If Cam hasn’t earned himself a spot in the shootout with his abilities, I am not sure what it will take.
This game was the second game in a row where I walked away believing they can be better. I hope they can find some better connections on both passing and getting more aggressive on their shot taking is paramount to improved success in the early goings of this season. Defensively, something major needs to happen in order to reduce the number of passes onto opposition tape inside the slot, along with partial and full breakaways. With all this constructive criticism aside, they managed to find a way to win a game they were not in control of for the majority of the game, and they did not quit. That has to be worth quite a bit for those watching at home.
Final note to makes was Bobrovsky’s .933 save percentage tonight. As I mentioned yesterday, this is above his 2012/2013 average, leaving little surprise that the team had a chance to win. I’ll be keeping a close eye on how many games he falls below that mark and the team still provides him with enough offense on the other side of the ice to secure victory. With a realistic opinion that he can’t possibly continue such stellar numbers for another season in mind, I would hope the lamp is lit with greater frequency off the stick of Columbus players.
Carry the Flag!