Coming into Columbus with a three game winning streak, the Blues seemed to have an unfair advantage over their opponent, the 2-4-1 Blue Jackets. I almost expected a blowout victory by the Note and for 20 minutes it looked like that would be the case. Hopefully the Blues realized, as I did, that there’s no place for cockiness when you’re battling division foes, no matter how tall they appear in the standings.
St. Louis dominated play in the 1st period Thursday night, out-shooting the Jackets 12-6 and posting a 3-0 lead. Barrett Jackman scored his second goal in as many games on a hard working shift by the fourth line forwards. He did exactly what the Blues have been so good at so far this season, simply getting the puck to the net. On the first Blues power-play of the night, Patrik Berglund blasted a slap shot through traffic, beating Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky to make it 2-0. Three minutes later, Vladimir Tarasenko swooped into the offensive zone, jumped on the puck and demonstrated, once again, his incredible play-making ability, slamming on the breaks and putting a wrister through Bobrovsky for his 5th goal of the season.
And then the wheels came off for the Blues, or at the very least they got stuck in the mud. They had some chances to widen the lead in the 2nd period, showing some decent puck movement on a couple power-plays but they weren’t able to get many pucks through a stubborn Blue Jacket defense. To make matters worse, St. Louis played very sloppy hockey in their own zone throughout the frame, failing on multiple occasions to clear the puck, making bad choices on a few ill-timed passes, and allowing Columbus to out-shoot them 12-9.
In fact, for probably the firs time this young season, the Blues were out-shot in the 2nd AND 3rd periods. The final shot tally was 25-25. Prior to Thursday, St. Louis had 82 more shots than their previous six opponents.
Coming in to the night, Columbus lead the NHL in fighting majors, and the trend continued with four bouts erupting in the 2nd period. Jackman was involved in the first skirmish, and he ended the night only an assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat-trick. The brawling apparently helped the Jackets dictate play in the 2nd, and I’ll give credit where it’s due: Steve Mason started the 2nd in place of Bobrovsky and Mason looked very sharp, robbing David Backes on more than one point blank effort. Columbus eventually got on the scoreboard with a power-play goal of their own by Derick Brassard, after a Jackman cross-checking minor. After 40 minutes it was 3-1 Blues, and the Jackets were back in the game.
The 3rd period was more of the same sluggish play by St. Louis as they appeared to be back on their heels for most of it. Personally, I’d like to see them being more aggressive with the lead, putting teams like Columbus away, though I heard the announcers speaking to the contrary, John Kelly wanting the Blues to “play keep-away” and Bernie saying the Blues “don’t need to score another goal being up 3-1.” I disagree, but an attempt to stick-handle around two defenders on a power-play by David Perron DID lead to a turnover and a Blue Jackets break, so maybe there’s something to being a bit more protective of a lead.
Brian Elliot, while not tested often and looking a bit slow early in the game, was sharp late in the 3rd and kept the Blues up 3-1 until Backes buried an empty-net, power-play goal with under a minute to play. The Jackets had pulled Mason to skate 5-on-5, but a very calm, cool and collected Vladimir Sobotka was strong on the puck in the Columbus zone and fed a pass across the slot, giving the captain his first goal of the season.
Once again, not a pretty win, but I’ll take it, and in this shortened season the Blues will take 2 points pretty much any way they can get them.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!