On the dark side, almost everything else.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times in today’s battle between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Montreal Canadiens. The first period saw the Habs claim an early 2-0 lead, including a shorthanded goal, playing fast enough to throw CBJ off their stride. As is their habit in times of trouble, the Blue Jackets leaned heavily on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who made some spectacular saves early on.
The second period didn’t look much better at the start; CBJ gave up a messy short-handed goal that seemed indicative of the kind of overall game that the Blue Jackets were playing. But as has so often been the case with these boys, the severe deficit kicked the game into gear and we saw them play their best–a level of play that is easily worthy of a playoff and Cup run–to come back with two quick goals, the first from Boone Jenner and the second from Ryan Johansen. This was Jenner’s first goal in the NHL. (Congratulations, buddy!)
The issue is not that CBJ isn’t a talented, cohesive team with the skills to go all the way. The issue seems to be that they start so many of their competitions with a serious case of the yips. It takes the heat of a deficit to kick the Blue Jackets into high gear, and while that makes for some entertaining television, it’s a terrible habit for a team to have. The Canadiens in particular are not a team you want to give a head start.
It wasn’t until the third period that we saw the CBJ at their absolute best, when Boone Jenner’s second goal against Carey Price brought the score to an even 3-3. Both teams played good, hard hockey in the final minutes, looking to avoid OT. Possession stats fell fairly even between the two teams, though Montreal did seem to have a bit more control when on the offense.
It’s hard to say exactly when it fell apart for the Blue Jackets, but by the last five minutes they were definitely in a downward spiral. Montreal stole a goal with just a few minutes left on the board. Columbus earned a power play with less than a minute to go and pulled Bobrovsky to up their man advantage. Unfortunately, this ended in another shorthanded goal for the Habs, who pulled ahead 5-3 when the buzzer sounded.
The thing is, when CBJ manages to pull themselves together and play hockey, they’re a good team. They deserved better than a 5-3 loss tonight. They made some remarkable plays to come back form a 3-0 deficit; Bobrovsky’s off night (his save percentage by the end of the game was just 88.6%) might not have spelled disaster for the team if they’d managed to keep it together for the last five minutes of the game.