Tonight was yet another statement game for the Blue Jackets, pitted against the team sitting slightly above them in the standings in the Minnesota Wild, the winner of which would take over or retain the spot above the other. Coming off a big win against Washington last night, the Jackets were expected to be tired and worn, but it certainly did not show.
Steve Mason once again got the start, with LaCosta watching from the bench. Once again, that seemed to be the best decision, as Mason was once again fantastic, turning away shot after shot, and making it look rather simple. He did not get another shutout tonight, but his focus and ‘injury recovery’ were wonderful signs for Jackets fans, looking forward to see their team return home after a tremendous road trip.
On the defense, Mike Commodore and Jan Hejda continue to impress me as a pairing. With Commodore actually finishing his checks, and Hedja being a standout defensively against big names like Alex Ovechkin, this is one pairing that truly vaulted their efforts after the recent injury spree. Add on young Kris Russell, who has been the Jackets best puck moving defensemen this year, and you find yourself watching a rather complete roster of players on the back end of this team. Tonight was no different, and their defensive style of patience paid them heavy dividends.
Finally, to the offense, and what has me writing this tonight, rather than tomorrow morning. Myself, along with 16,605 fans at Nationwide, along with almost the entire group of Columbus fans on the NHL Arena, as well as an entire nation of CBJ fans gripping their couches jumped for joy when Filatov scored his first goal of the game. I looked up from my computer to watch him split the defense, and sneak the puck past Harding, and I jumped out of my chair with both hands in the air. While this may seem like an overreaction to some, for me, it was the culmination of months of discussion about Filatov fitting into the Jackets roster.
It only took another two periods for Fily to find NHL goal number 3, which was scored as he sniped a wrister over Harding’s right shoulder, while looking pass the entire way. It was the kind of goal you expect Ovechkin to score. It was the kind of goal an NHLer scores. So there I was, celebrating and laughing about how excited I was, and in true Hitchian style, out came the Voracek – Peca – Filatov line almost immediately after the goal, and it was clear Peca and Voracek told the young Russian to find an open spot in front of the net. Not only did they get him one shot, they got him two, and that was all he needed to bury his third goal of the game, fourth as a Blue Jacket, and his first career NHL hattrick.
I will have much more on this soon.
Carry the Flag!!!!