|Columbus 4 - Dallas 2|
It was like hockey "Inception".
- Start by blowing the doors off the Stars in the first period, gifting the home fans with three-goal chili within fifteen minutes of game play.
- Fall asleep for a period. Take one shot. ONE SHOT.
- Fall deeper asleep. Give Dallas two goals to start off the third.
- Wake back up from that sub-level to skate around for a few minutes.
- Wake up again and find your inner competitiveness - and get that last goal with about 4 minutes to go.
Surprisingly after the mid-game lull and "only in Columbus" third period meltdown, I found myself wondering if I was going to have to toss perhaps my favorite CBJ hat, my St. Patrick's Day shamrock hat, if Artem Anisimov dropped a third goal in a Dallas empty net. Fortunately, Arty ran out of gas and had to sit for the last minute of play.
Anyway, weird game. Fun game...Maalox-inducing game...but a weird game. In the end, it was pretty much what I thought: A game between two reasonably even-matched, playoff-desperate teams. I never thought it would play itself out in such a manner, but the end result was the same as what I was figuring would happen.
It was my first time seeing the team live since the Olympic break, and there really is something to Seeing It Live. Here are a few observations.
1. If Marian Gaborik gets traded at the 3PM Wednesday deadline, everyone send a condolence card to Artem Anisimov. Maybe I'm reading what's happening on the ice wrong, but Arty appears to be using Gaborik as a decoy to draw defensive coverage away and get better looks. (Of course, having Nick "Tazmanian Devil" Foligno on the other wing helps create defensive chaos in the opponents as well.) Arty has a goal in four straight games. Gaborik has been back for four games. Do the math.
That said, I wish Gaborik would shoot a little more and pass a little less. But that probably won't be an issue this time tomorrow, so forget I brought it up.
2. On Foligno: On more than one occasion, I had the feeling that he was implementing coach Todd Richards' scheme better than Gaborik. But Foligno comes across as a pickup truck guy in Richards' pickup truck scheme. Gaborik is a Ferrari. Total mismatch.
3. Speaking of running mates, I think I've finally figured out Nathan Horton's role. He's Ryan Johansen's buddy. They both have wheels, they both are reasonably skilled passers. Johansen has a nice shot. (Horton? Not so sure yet.) Yes, I know that BOONE JENNER is on the other wing, and BOONE JENNER got a goal tonight, but that line clearly was the "Johansen and Horton Show".
4. After getting his sleep in the first period due to Dallas' ineptness, Sergei Bobrovsky earned his keep in the last couple periods. The defensive scheme kept doing this crazy "dribble the puck across the crease" thing that kept the Dallas forwards close, forcing Bob to stay on his toes...which he did.
5. Jarmo Kekalainen needs to get some defensive help. Even a rental-for-rental deal that moves Gaborik out would work to get the team through the season. The loss of Tyutin and Murray was noticeable. There was a healthy level of defensive disruption once Dallas realized that the game had begun.
6. If there is another NHL team that is so habitually unable to handle even the smallest inkling of on-ice success, show it to me. The Blue Jackets clearly have become good enough to decimate teams in short order - see the prior game's second period against the Maple Leafs and the first fifteen minutes of tonight's game - but they just can't shut the game down. They can't lock the neutral zone up. They can't run the clock. Two goal leads aren't safe. Three goal leads almost aren't. If I was Richards, I'd be running a version of Paul Westhead's run and gun basketball style. Keep the pressure on, don't let up, keep scoring. (Because as soon as you stop, you're liable to give up the lead.)
7. The insertion of Horton and Gaborik into the lineup has had the effect of pushing the talent back down into the bottom six. That MacKenzie, Calvert, Letestu line is really quite good - and their 12-13 minutes of playing time is much more than a standard 4th line would be expected to get. Sure beats the hell out of MacKenzie, Jared Boll and [Insert random Springfield Falcon].
That said, don't let the quality of your bottom six be an excuse to not trade Gaborik away.
NEXT UP: The trade deadline will be over on Wednesday afternoon.
The CBJ next take the ice on Thursday night at the United Center against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The CBJ need to basically go 3-2 over every five game stretch between the Olympic break and the end of the regular season to have a shot at the playoffs, and they're 3-1 right now. Turning that into 4-1 against the Blackhawks would be fantastic. March to the Playoffs, baby!