|Columbus 4 - Buffalo 1|
No overtimes, no shootouts. Just a clean, regulation win.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, after four days off (which I maintain makes zero sense in a supposedly Olympic-condensed season), flew into HSBC Arena and blew the doors off the place - including the $8 million home team dressing room highlighted in my preview post. A 3-goal first period apparently led to a game of keep-away and clock-killing, and the host Buffalo Sabres were ready for the game to end when it was decided at 4-1.
Blue Jackets goals came from Marian Gaborik (nice start to the season, Mr. Magic Stick), Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 26 of 27 shots. Minutes were reasonably evenly distributed. Jared Boll, apparently healthy enough to play, swapped in for rookie Boone Jenner and did what the team pays him to do: Fight. Rookie Ryan Murray notched a +3 on the night, something I think pretty respectable even if plus/minus is a discredited statistic.
I won't lie to you folks. I was on tap to do this recap, and the evening got away from me. I tried following the game on my phone and listened to most of the third period on the radio while hanging out at the airport waiting for my guests to arrive. The feelings I inferred from the game were that of, say, an Ohio State football game: Guns a-blazing in the opening stanza, then everyone in the stands sit back in their seats and smokes victory cigars while drinking gin and tonics for the balance as they catch up on the latest news from each others' families.
This is good.
First, it's good that the Blue Jackets beat an obviously poor team in the Sabres. Whether this is an early-season speed bump for Buffalo or a "Scott Arniel-coached elimination from the playoffs by Halloween bad" season that we know too well, I can't tell at this point. What I was seeing and hearing was a team that wasn't taking the shots, wasn't blocking the opposing shots and out-"Hit" the good guys. Remember, I'm not a fan of "Hits" and surely would find some inverse correlation between out-"Hitting" the opponent and winning the game.
Anyhoo, great teams should be expected to beat good teams. Good teams should be expected to beat average teams. Average teams should be expected to beat bad teams. The Blue Jackets destroyed a bad team, so they're at least average by that standard. I'll take that after three games.
Second, it's good that the Blue Jackets can both overcome a way-too-long layoff as well as score a bunch of goals out of the chute. These are signs of a maturing, winning hockey team. Was this behavior displayed against a bad team? Yes, it was - so let's not start planning the Stanley Cup victory parade down High Street yet (Oh, hi, Toronto. How are your parade plans coming along?). But was it displayed when it hadn't been in days past? Yes. Yes, it was. Again, a good thing to build upon for the balance of the season.
That's about all I can offer for tonight's game. Thanks to Bob McElligott (Dude, you have some of the weirdest catch-phrases I've ever heard) and Jody Shelley for drawing the mental pictures tonight. Now, if I may, I'd like to offer a Haiku image of my own for you all to contemplate as you finish your gin and tonics: