Wednesday night in Calgary. Progress like a slow morphine drip. Sitting down to watch the game, I went through a pretty embarrassing checklist as the guys took the ice. Skating hard? Check. Taking decent shots? Check. Limiting Calgary offensively? Check. Bobrovsky not hopeless? Check. It is never the kind of game you want to watch as a fan, waiting for a similar implosion like that which we witnessed on Tuesday in Edmonton. These events can be small blips on the radar, and I am optimistic that Columbus was able to turn the page after Tuesday and improve upon some massive mistakes.
Statistically speaking, shots on goal were pretty unremarkable last night for Columbus. Six in the first, seven in the second, a lowly three in the third, and two in the overtime. That said, many of the shots were with purpose, and they found pay dirt midway through the first period on a great shot by Nick Foligno. Offensively speaking, in a normal situation, I would walk away underwhelmed by the 18 shot performance. That Calgary was able to block more than twenty shots taken by Columbus is a statistic worthy of concern, but again, I could not help myself to compare it directly to the Edmonton game.
The thorn in my side from last night is obviously the lack of production. Throwing away the Edmonton game, their effort was not up to par with the Ottawa game. Not having Dubinsky, Gaborik, Calvert, and Horton in the lineup absolutely hurts offensive productivity, but I would like to see a game where they hit the net more than they get blocked. Fedor Tyutin, who is pretty notorious for hitting everything but the net, was 0/3 on shots, firing all three wide.
Defensively, they played much better. Guys who have been the center of negative attention, like Nikita Nikitin, mustered some of the best hockey we have seen out of him this year, including an opportunistic goal in overtime. While the rest of the defense looked overall improved, they still allowed Calgary to sneak by them numerous times, and that will need to continue to be remedied as they play more capable offensive teams. Ryan Murray remains the most effective defenseman, making the right play nearly every time, skating with the puck with his head on a swivel, making most things look easy.
Bobrovsky was worlds better than he was against Edmonton. Making 17 saves on the night, beaten only by a quality backhander on a semi-breakaway, his .958 performance really helps his season total, and he gave his team an opportunity to win the game. There’s something to be said about confidence in goaltending, and Bob absolutely needs to provide this somewhat brittle team with the mindset that they won’t lose games because of him.
All in all, a very productive return to the ice after the Tuesday night mess. But, they must do better. Games will not get easier, and they are about to face a couple teams who know how to put the puck in the net. Columbus returns to the ice Friday in Vancouver, and I hope to see solid contributions across the roster. It’s time for guys like Anisimov to get back to scoring ways.
Carry the Flag!