Blue Jackets follow the script to earn impressive win over the vaunted Ducks
Columbus Blue Jackets left wing RJ Umberger (18) celebrates with Columbus Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu (55) and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski (21) and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson (7) after scoring a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period at Honda Center.
With the teams around them earning points with alarming regularity, it was imperative for the Columbus Blue Jackets to get off to a good start on the daunting three-game swing out West. Consider the first mission accomplished; now it’s time to try to build off the impressive win Monday night over the Ducks of Anaheim.
Whether the victory over the NHL’s best team propels Columbus to earn more points in the final two games of the swing remains to be seen. But the manner in which they beat the vaunted Ducks should give this team, which is now 12-4 since the calendar flipped to 2014, even more confidence.
It was imperative the Blue Jackets start the game — and the road trip — with energy and physicality. They did, jumping out to the 2-0 lead in the second period, then responding (as good teams are wont to do) when the Ducks Mathieu Perreault cut the lead in half early in the third.
Along the way to these critical two points, the Blue Jackets were relentless and disciplined, allowing the Ducks only two chances on the power play, while going on the man advantage five times themselves. That’s how road games are won, especially over elite teams. The Blue Jackets were constantly moving their feet and making the Ducks do a lot of the chasing.
There was no greater example of that than the work on the first goal of the game. The Jenner-Johansen-Horton line absolutely owned the Ducks defenders on the shift that led to Johansen’s 23rd of the year. Jenner was in his usual beast-like mode down low, and Horton and Johansen were playing a lot of keep away.
Then, in the second foray into the zone on the same shift, Horton found Johansen for the one-touch snipe from the left circle that is just one of the reasons coaches like Bruce Boudreau are asking (rhetorically) who wouldn’t want Ryan Johansen on their team?
And did I mention Columbus received out-of-this-galaxy goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky? Sure the save he made on Daniel Winnik was one of those a goalie only makes if he’s determined never to give up on a shot. It was a case of having the glove in the right place at the right time, and it was highlight-reel worthy.
But the save he made on Andrew Cogliano in the second period off the odd-man rush was even more eye-popping. Not only did Bobrovsky catapult himself from his left to right across the crease, but he did it so quickly that he made the save about a third of the way up his right leg pad. What looked like an automatic goal for the Ducks morphed into a save that Bobrovsky turned from near-impossible to almost-routine. Crazy.
Now, let’s talk Nick Foligno, again. Sure, it’s only three games. But remember the Blue Jackets had lost their previous three games and were in a 0-0 battle with divisional foe Washington when Foligno challenged bruising Capitals winger Tom Wilson in last Thursday’s game at Nationwide Arena. Since then, the team has reeled off three straight wins, outscoring the opposition 13-5 in the process.
And the fight apparently motivated Foligno, too. The Blue Jackets winger has three goals in his last two games, after scoring only one in his previous 14. The goal he scored from the doorstep Monday night to answer Perreault’s tally gave the Blue Jackets a two-goal cushion again, and the team moved forward from there. It was arguably the biggest goal of the game.
Truly, Monday night’s victory was about as good a start as the team could have scripted for this critical road trip. The question now is whether or not the Blue Jackets can finish what they started. Come Saturday, they will all be passengers as they head off to Sochi or other (likely warmer) destinations. In the meantime, the Blue Jackets need to be a team of drivers, as they were Monday, steering this pre-break trip to the team’s most important destination.