|San Jose 4 - Columbus 3 (Shootout)|
I wrote in my preview for FOX Sports Ohio that this game wasn't direly essential, but a strong showing would do wonders for the team's confidence. A win would have been better, sure, but this game showed me a ton about the competitiveness level of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The team got out to an early lead. When they gave it up, they fought back and tied it up to get into overtime. The CBJ held off the Sharks' onslaught. They pinned San Jose's ears back and made them scramble to take the heat off of their crap-bag goaltender.
All told, I was impressed. In my mind, San Jose is an elite team. They're right up there with Chicago. The CBJ did not need to lose another game to an elite team like they did to Chicago over the weekend. And while the Blue Jackets lost in the shootout, they proved - most importantly, to themselves! - that they can take the hits from one of the best teams in the league and dish their share out as well.
Plus, they got the loser point. Again, the win would have been great...but an overtime game is nearly as good.
In other news...
Sergei Bobrovsky is All Man. Terrific save after terrific save. This team would be nowhere without Bob.
Speaking of nowhere, that's where Cam Atkinson is right now. Sadly, he squandered his "Get out of the doghouse because your teammate got suspended" card tonight. He's probably gripping the stick too hard, trying to hard to make plays in the hopes that he'll impress coach Todd Richards enough to return to the lineup on a full-time basis. Not that Richards made it easy on Cam; putting him last in the shootout was a nasty little test of Atkinson's mettle. Down one shootout goal, Atkinson had to score to keep the game alive. He didn't. I wish Richards had send Atkinson out first or second, as his nerves probably affected his game. As soon as new daddy Artem Anisimov and the Shanabanned Blake Comeau return, don't be surprised to see another edition of "Camsanity: Press Box Edition".
Nobody on the Blue Jackets hustles as hard as Nick Foligno. Nobody. What a treat to watch. It's not everyone who gets an assist on a broken play from their belly.
I'm not sure who the CBJ miss more, Fedor Tyutin or Ryan Murray. Tyutin is a physical force out there, but Murray has the ability to calm pucks - and games - down by his presence. Tonight, the pucks needed calming. Lots of funny bounces and mishandled passes...and a zillion whiffs on both passes and shots.
Nothing quite beats CBJ players pounding away at a second-rate goalie. R.J. Umberger had an awesome five-hole shorty in the first, and James Wisniewski had all day to pick his shot from the point, went top shelf and left the Sharks' netminder wondering how anyone could think that he was NHL-capable. Throw in Ryan Johansen's capitalizing on layers of chaos in front of him, and you've got yourself CBJ Chili.
Speaking of The Johan, he was getting owned in the faceoff circle. 35% against the Sharks, a team that he usually does well against? Yow. Now, I note that San Jose coach Todd MacLellan wisely kept Joe Thornton away from Johansen, as The Johan has made a point of destroying Thornton in games past. Perhaps the matchups just weren't happening tonight. Alas.
Ah well, the loser point pushed the Blue Jackets up to second place in the Metropolitan Division tonight. The third place (by a tiebreaker) New York Rangers play Winnipeg tomorrow, so the possibility exists that it might be short-lived. The lesson still has been learned: Better to lose with a loser point than lose without.
NEXT UP: Saturday night, at the Minnesota Wild in the Marian Gaborik Rights Holder Alumni Cup.