Going in to this game on a night when 28 of 30 NHL teams were playing I was thinking to myself “what do we know about Carolina beside Staals and Malhotra?” Well we soon found out that what we need to know is Skinner and Peters…and oh, don’t hope for calls. But right about that time that the CBJ fan community was ready to accept defeat, this team turned on its heel and rewarded Mike McKenna with two late goals to give him the W. Arguably, it was the play of the ‘tender that kept the boys in Union Blue in it while they shuffled through the 2nd period and the better part of the third. And for once, the team with the surprise winning goals was our Jackets in a rewarding game against a division opponent for two much needed points. Merry Christmas indeed. The Jackets have 32 goals in the last nine games and need to keep that up through this run of divisional opponents.
Let’s look at what the boys from the NHL had to say as far as the three stars…
3rd Star: Ryan Johansen
Look. I’m passenger #1 on the Johansen train. But, for tonight’s game, there were more players keeping this team in it through the droughts of effort and production. My award might have gone to McKenna or perhaps even Skille or…Tropp…? But, to continue to acknowledge Johansen’s game this season isn’t something I’ll argue with much. Joey had the tying goal off an expert pass from Foligno and surely kept his presence in the game – even when an official tried to keep him out of it. And we can’t ignore the patience he showed on that goal. Again, not my pick, but a deserved acknowledgement for a guy who’s making this team what it is this season.
2nd Star: Jeff Skinner
Okay fine, Hurricanes, you get one star. Seriously though, Skinner scored goals #1 and #2 for the ‘Canes and that score motivated his team to keep their high speed offense going such that it made the Jackets look slow and confused. I could nitpick here too and say both goals were power play goals and he had the man advantage, but those tallies kept Carolina in it and established a feeling of control. Take your star, Carolina – we’ll take the points.
1st Star: Artem Anisimov
People I’ve watched games with this year often have a similar reaction to Anisimov: “he’s disappeared this year” <pull up stats> “Oh. I guess he hasn’t…he’s just quiet.” Yep. Anisimov had quietly earned nine goals and sixteen points before tonight’s game but people just weren’t talking about him. Was it because we were missing the flash of those shootout backhands? Who knows. But tonight Anisimov made sure you saw him in play. First, the initial goal of the game off a gorgeous pass from Atkinson was flashy and sound. Then, on the game winning goal that noone saw coming, Arty dishes a dirty dirty pass backhand pass to Jack Skille. You can’t help but say wow – and if you’re paying attention, you’re not sure if you’re more impressed by the pass or the shot as the key to the win. It’s that same amazing backhand – just in use in a different way. The attention went to Skille, but I’ll lean in favor of #42 tonight and say a first star is well deserved. Get ready for the Arty Party.
Game in One Picture (Poor Rockman had to work late)
Jack Skille. Ok this was a tough one. Honestly, I was torn between Skille and McKenna because Mike kept the team in it – particularly with that stick save in the final 1:30 – when the team seemed to be disengaged at best. But Skille has not only been the team’s resident journeyman (back and forth to Springfield) but he notched his 4th goal in the game winner tonight. And it was pretty. After being on the receiving end of the final penalty of the game. Skille has a rallying call around him from people around the team and in the fan community. With the Gaborik injury he might be sticking around this time and that doesn’t look like it’s a bad thing.
Officials. I do believe that good teams play sound games which means there are fewer bad calls, and better discipline to overcome the calls they do receive, but tonight was silly. And the reason I say this is not because of one egregious call but quite a few slip ups – like, literally slip ups. Apparently you can stand along the boards and block players from entering the play. You also can overlook a full body tackle in front of the goal. Perhaps if we had more insight into post game reviews of calls – much like suspensions and Shanahan-like activities – there’d be a better understanding of how to comprehend what’s going on on the ice. Oh well. It didn’t feel good, but the Blue Jackets weren’t on top of their game either and they go home with the win – so yay.
Next up – the Devils. Friday. This is the third of four meetings between the two teams. And the Jackets are looking to pull even (soon) in the all time series in which they are currently 5-7-2 (0-3-2 on the road). With the Metro knotted up around the .500 mark – the exact target for where the Jackets MUST be by Horton’s return – we’re smack dab in the middle of a very important divisional streak.
Let’s go Jackets!