Probably the kindest way to describe the Blue Jackets in recent seasons has been to call them “underdogs.” They certainly lived up to the label last night, when they forced overtime against the Islanders and came away with a shootout win, courtesy of Cam Atkinson.
The game showed nearly the opposite rhythm of Friday’s disappointing home opener against the Calgary Flames. On home ice, the Blue Jackets came out strong and hard but were rattled early and never got their game back. But against the Islanders, the first period was spent largely on defense, and by the second intermission the Blue Jackets were down 2-0. Maybe this is a team that needs a deficit to catch fire, because in the third period the team came out looking determined and playing for keeps. A power play goal by Mark Letestu put them on the board, and the momentum from that definitely helped Nick Foligno shovel in the tie-maker.
While being clutch in a crisis is obviously a handy skill to have for any hockey team, as we’ve seen from the Blackhawks again and again, needing a crisis to play your best game is dangerous. There’s no denying that Columbus played hard and well last night, but it seems as if we mostly see that kind of play from them when we’re in the zero hour. Imagine if they came out in the early minutes playing with that intensity. They’ll have to figure out how if they want to do well in the Metropolitan Division. Teams like the Bruins and the Penguins aren’t the kind of teams you want to find yourself staging a comeback against.
That being said, the Blue Jackets did play excellent defense in the first period, and didn’t seem too rattled after the Islanders’ goals. It looked like everybody really kept their heads, and made beautiful use of the power play when they were given the opportunity.
As a side note, apparently there’s a new “Jack Johnson isn’t allowed to touch people” rule in effect that nobody warned Columbus about, and he was in the box at the end of the third period on a holding call. This is coming after Friday’s abominable interference call on Johnson after a defensive play which prevented an empty-net goal. (To be fair, the third-period holding call on Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky also seemed a little suspect.)
Statistically speaking, shootouts are really all about luck and are an awful way of determining a game’s winner in terms of fairness, but as a spectator they’re fun to watch. Cam Atkinson’s lovely deke slipped passed goalie Evgeni Nabokov for the win, reminding us that little guys can do big things too.
The Blue Jackets next play the Buffalo Sabres on October 10.