Erik Karlsson finally got traded, NHL 19 came out and our official 2018-19 Pacific Division Season Preview just so happened to be this week too. Nick and Connor place their bets on the San Jose Sharks and more.
Columbus Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella, received a two-year extension with the club and will now be under contract through the 2020-21 season. Since being hired by the Blue Jackets on October 21, 2015, Columbus has made the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past two seasons– a franchise first for consecutive playoff berths.
The Blue Jackets have a 129-87-23 record with Tortorella in 239 games. He currently holds the franchise’s all-time records in wins (129) and points percentage (.588).
A native of Boston, Massachusetts, the 60-year-old head coach doesn’t show any signs of slowing down and is looking to win his second Stanley Cup from behind the bench. His first came at the helm of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.
Tortorella’s career as a head coach in the NHL spans stints with four clubs including the Lightning (2000-08), New York Rangers (2008-13), Vancouver Canucks (2013-14) and Blue Jackets (2015-present). He’s a two-time Jack Adams Award winner as the NHL coach of the year and has the most all-time NHL victories among U.S.-born head coaches. He’s also coached the U.S. national team twice in his career– once at the 2008 IIHF Men’s World Championship and again in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
The extension comes at a crucial time for the Blue Jackets as the roster is stacked with talent in the likes of Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and Sergei Bobrovsky. Panarin and Bobrovsky are both pending-unrestricted free agents at the end of the season and Panarin’s already indicated he doesn’t intend on re-signing with Columbus.
Wednesday evening, the National Hockey League announced Nashville Predators forward, Austin Watson, would be suspended for all preseason and the first 27 games of the regular season for “unacceptable off-ice conduct”. His suspension is without pay and the NHLPA will be filing an appeal.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman referenced Rule 18-A of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and his ruling came following an investigation by the NHL and an in-person hearing in New York City on Friday, September 7th.
Watson was arrested on June 16, 2018 in Tennessee relating to an incident with his domestic partner. He pled no contest to a charge of domestic assault on July 24, 2018.
Per the League’s Public Relations department, Bettman released the following statement, “I have determined that Nashville Player Austin Watson engaged in a physical confrontation with his domestic partner. Today’s ruling, while tailored to the specific facts of this case and the individuals involved, is necessary and consistent with the NHL’s strongly held view that it cannot and will not tolerate this and similar types of conduct.”
There is no standard length for the suspension of a player involved in domestic violence, but Watson was suspended for seven more games than Vegas Golden Knights defender, Nate Schmidt, received for seven billionths of a performance enhancing drug found in his urine.
Nick, Colby and Connor talk the Max Pacioretty trade, Eugene Melnyk’s latest antics, John Tortorella’s extension, Adam McQuaid and Steve Yzerman stepping down in Tampa. Also in this episode– DTFR’s official 2018-19 Atlantic Division preview.
Second Round predictions, Minnesota needs a new GM, Calgary’s got a new coach, award finalist reactions, a Game 7 breakdown between Boston and Toronto, and where do the Leafs go from here? All that and more as Nick and Connor discuss on the latest DTFR Podcast.
Led by Captain Alex Ovechkin‘s two-goal game, the Washington Capitals beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 6 by the score of 6-3. The Capitals closed out the first round series 4-2, winning four-straight games after losing the first two at home.
The first period was pretty even. The Blue Jackets saw a lot of the puck and seemed to get into the Caps’ zone, but couldn’t get many clear-cut chances. It was a full-team effort for Columbus, as even the Jackets’ defensemen were getting deep into the zone, looking to get the attack going. However, Braden Holtby was having none of that early.
As a result, the Caps were forced counter Columbus’ lengthy possessions with fast outbreaks until they grew into the match and got their own cycle game up and running. Unfair to the game, Washington got the contest’s opening goal with Dmitry Orlov getting to the slot and beating Sergei Bobrovsky with 7:48 remaining in the frame.
The second period saw Columbus find an answer as they tied the game at one just before the halfway point of the period. Nick Foligno beat Holtby with a nice wrister to the far post, with Ryan Murray and Ian Cole picking up the assists on the fast rush.
The tie didn’t last long though, as four minutes later Ovechkin took over.
His first goal came in the slot off a rebound. He collected the puck and scored backhanded to restore the Capitals’ one-goal lead.
He wasn’t done there though. After a bad holding penalty on Seth Jones (against Ovechkin, no less), Ovi doubled the lead and his goal total in the game with a power play goal from his usual spot in the left face-off circle. This time, it was John Carlson who set him up for his patented one-timer bomb past Bob.
After the second intermission, the 3-1 score lasted only 2:25 into the third period as Columbus came out on a mission to live up to John Tortorella’s promise of a Game 7. Pierre-Luc Dubois takes credit for the goal that cut the Caps’ lead to 3-2.
Washington had an answer though, as Devante Smith-Pelly sniped one past Bob for his second marker in the playoffs. The Capitals continued to bury the Blue Jackets as Chandler Stephenson scored a shorthanded breakaway just a minute and a half later, giving Washington a 5-2 advantage.
The Jackets didn’t give up though, most notably at the 8:22 mark when Foligno was in the right place at the right time to deflect a pass from Boone Jenner into the net for his second on the night.
And Foligno’s goal wasn’t the last offering Columbus tried either. The Jackets kept right on firing, but Holtby stayed strong. The Capitals also had some vital penalty kills during the third period that saw players blocking big shots at the right time.
Finally, with only 14 seconds left in the game, Lars Eller put the final nail in Columbus’ coffin by sealing the game at 6-3 with a long-range empty-netter.
For the third-consecutive year, the Capitals will play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Dates, times and broadcast information have yet to be determined for any of those contests, but Washington’s third-straight Metropolitan Division title has earned it home ice for the series.
Most of the focus in analyzing the playoff performance seems to focus on Sergei Bobrovsky. This is understandable given Bobrovsky’s history of giving up three or more goals in playoff games, but it ignores another reason that the Jackets may be struggling against the Capitals as their series has progressed and that is player usage.
The Jackets played 82 games prior to the playoffs and that data tells us a lot about which players were making positive contributions to the team and which players weren’t. Yet, John Tortorella’s player usage in this series suggests that some old school thoughts about playoff hockey may be leading to the Jackets deploying players in a sub-optimal manner. In a series defined by close games and, more importantly, overtime games, choices in player deployment can be the difference between being up 3-2 and being down 3-2.
Let’s take the case of Oliver Bjorkstrand. Bjorkstrand finished the season with a 5-on-5 CF% of 51.64 percent and was fifth on the team with 40 points. Furthermore, Bjorkstrand had become a very solid player at both ends at the ice, something that Tortorella had him focused on at the start of the season. Yet, through five games of this series, the only players with less time-on-ice than Bjorkstrand were Alexander Wennberg (who has only played in two games due to injury), Mark Letestu, and Sonny Milano (a healthy scratch for Game 5). After scoring a goal in Game 5, Torts finally started playing Bjorkstrand more in the rest of the game and the result was a number of solid shifts where the puck was held in the Caps zone–something the Jackets have struggled with in this series. Bjorkstrand’s line had two of the best opportunities in the overtime period of Game 5.
One of the players getting less ice time than Bjorkstrand is Milano, who was a healthy scratch for Game 5, but played little to no minutes in the prior four games. Like Bjorkstrand, Milano had a positive 5-on-5 CF% of 50.91 percent. He put up 14 goals in only 55 games and his return to the lineup was one of the things that helped the Jackets down the stretch. In fact, Milano was paired with Bjorkstrand on a line centered by Nick Foligno that provided a scoring threat when the top line wasn’t on the ice during a part of March. That line was scuttled by Foligno’s injury.
So, who has been getting ice time over Milano and Bjorkstrand? Thomas Vanek, for one. While Vanek had positive possession numbers in 19 games for the Jackets, his possession numbers in Vancouver were less than stellar with a 45.01 percent 5-on-5 CF%. Seven goals and eight assists in 19 games was also probably not a sustainable pace for the 34 year-old Vanek.
You have to wonder how much of the decision to play Vanek more than Bjorkstrand and Milano comes down to an antiquated view of “playoff hockey.” Neither Milano nor Bjorkstrand are known for a gritty or grinding style. They aren’t veterans. And, while Bjorkstrand is solid in his own end, Milano is still a work-in-progress in this respect. However, none of this changes the fact that the team is better off with them in the lineup and playing. The fact is that Milano is a dangerous player in both good ways and bad and the good still outweighs the bad based on what the advanced stats tell us. Given Vanek’s own unforced-errors in Game 4, it hardly seems like playing him more has solved anything and it has, arguably, taken a more skilled player off the ice and certainly taken a quicker skater off the ice.
With Wennberg back in the lineup, one of Brandon Dubinsky or Letestu should be out of the lineup to make room for Milano. The sole reason this apparently hasn’t happened would seem to be face-offs. Wennberg is clearly being sheltered from this part of his duties, while Boone Jenner is actually being put in for spot face-off duty.
I’m not sure this is good enough justification to keep them both in. Jenner has been strong enough in the face-off dot, as has Foligno. Letestu been so-so this series and Dubinsky has been strong, though Dubinsky has taken three penalties while Letestu has taken none. Flip a coin, but one of these two should sit instead of dividing minutes and taking a roster spot that could be held by a better player. If you want to see how smart coaches can make dumb decisions about players based on overemphasizing face-offs, take a look at Jay Beagle‘s possession stats sometime. Woof.
That’s another thing, here. The Caps have dog crap for depth. They had six forwards who played regularly who finished the season with a 5-on-5 CF% above 50 percent. One of them–Burakovsky–is out for the series. How many regular forwards did Columbus have above that mark? Eight, all of whom who are available to play in this series. That means the Jackets are one line deeper than Washington. Josh Anderson is playing bottom-six minutes for the Jackets. I’ve got no problem with that as long as (1) the right people are getting more minutes than him and (2) the Jackets more evenly divide the minutes.
Why should the minutes be divided more evenly? Because the Caps have dog crap for depth AND these games are going into overtime. The Jackets should be taking more advantage of their depth by spreading minutes more evenly. Keep the legs fresh. This isn’t the old days. Penalties are called regularly in the playoffs now and the old grind and hold game doesn’t work. The team with fresh legs is best prepared to capitalize on mistakes in overtime. You look at the last shift yesterday and the Jackets’ top line was gassed and the Caps took advantage on the cycle. Divide minutes more evenly and the story might end differently. The Jackets can afford to do it because the skill difference between their third and second lines isn’t as pronounced as it is for Washington.
If the Jackets want to take it to Washington tomorrow, John Tortorella needs to face his fears and embrace the fact that speed and skill is what wins games in hockey in 2018, even in the playoffs. Yes, Milano will make mistakes, but so have the guys who have played in place of him. Show faith in your young players. They are the future of this team and they didn’t let you down for the 82 games that preceded this series. Don’t abandon them now because of fear, embrace them as your hope. Depth is your advantage, press your advantage. Divide playing time more equally not just because you expect these games to go to overtime, but because it is to your advantage even over 60 minutes of hockey. Torts needs to think about his own motto in a new way. When it comes to coaching playoff games in 2018, Safe Is Death.
With an overtime-winning goal from Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps became the first team to win a game on home ice in this series as they moved within a win of the second round. The Jackets have now lost three straight after starting the series with a 2-0 advantage.
The Jackets had played a solid first period, but the Caps got a power play that felt like it could shift momentum. Instead, Matt Calvert scored a short-handed goal to give the Jackets their first 1-0 lead of the series off of some nice board work by Seth Jones. The lead wouldn’t last long as Backstrom got a lucky break on a shot that went off of David Savard‘s skate, Sergei Bobrovsky‘s mask and into the goal.
As the second period started, it felt like the Caps were the hungrier team. Dmitry Orlov sent a long stretch pass to Evgeny Kuznetsov that he buried to give the Caps their first lead of the game at 2-1. It was one of several poor line changes by Columbus and Washington took advantage. Despite continued pressure from the Caps, the Jackets would even it up when Calvert got his second of the game on a breakaway after initially whiffing on a shot and then making a spin move to put it in the net. With 3:18 left in the 2nd period T.J. Oshie redirected a point shot from John Carlson to put the Caps ahead 3-2. Once again, it felt like maybe the Caps were going to take control of the game.
However, Oliver Bjorkstrand had other thoughts. Ian Cole took a shot from the point that Bjorkstrand tipped to knot the game at three early in the third period. Bjorkstrand had seen little time throughout the game (and the series), but he seemed to gain confidence in this game and John Tortorella rewarded him with additional time in the third period and overtime. All of the momentum was with Columbus in the third period, but they couldn’t solve Braden Holtby. The Caps were outshot 16-1 in the final frame of regulation.
Once again, the long change seemed to cause problems for the Jackets as momentum again shifted to the Caps in overtime. The Jackets have struggled with the long change throughout the season and this trend seems to have carried into the playoffs. The Jackets best chance in overtime was with Bjorkstrand and Jenner on the ice together. It is a pairing that work at times in the early part of the season and which made some sense here given the game Bjorkstrand had played to that point and the series that Jenner has had. But it wasn’t to be and the game-winning goal came on a shift in which the Caps managed to sustain pressure and, again, re-direct a point shot past Bobrovsky.
There were some encouraging signs for the Blue Jackets and John Tortorella was emphatic in the press conference that his team would be ready for Game 6 and that they would force a Game 7, but they are running out of chances and now they have their backs against the wall. Getting Bjorkstrand involved in the game is definitely a positive as the Jackets have been over-relying on their top line. Cam Atkinson finished the game with 28:25 time on ice and Artemi Panarin and Pierre-Luc Dubois weren’t far behind.
There are also some things to be concerned about. Bobrovsky’s subpar save percentage in this game is probably not as big of a concern given that more than one of those goals was off a redirection. What is more of a concern is that Panarin seemed less dynamic than usual after a slash to his knee. While his 80 percent is still better than most players at 100 percent, his line has also been a big driver in this series and, as noted above, spends a lot of time on the ice. The Jackets also need to make a decision about Brandon Dubinsky with Alexander Wennberg back on the ice. Dubinsky’s struggles have been a story line this season, sometimes to the point of being tabloid material. His struggles as this series have progressed are real and time on ice of just 7:28 (despite getting time on penalty kill) suggests the coaching staff is well aware of the issue. Mark Letestu looked to be the better option as this game progressed.
The Caps will have the chance to finish the series off in Columbus on Monday and will have confidence having beaten the Jackets twice on the road. Should they lose, however, the old doubts might start to creep back in, so the series still isn’t over yet and could have some surprises in store.
After winning Game 4 at Nationwide Arena 4-1, the Washington Capitals have salvaged losing Games 1 and 2 to reclaim home-ice advantage in their Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The first two periods of this game were so exciting, even people with insomnia were falling asleep with ease. Whether that was due to lazy offense by Columbus or incredible defense by Washington (the Blue Jackets managed only 15 shots in opening 40 minutes), the fans at Nationwide Arena had very little to get excited about.
Playing a major role in hampering the Jackets’ offense all night was none other than D Brooks Orpik, who blocked a (t)game-high four shots (D Seth Jones matched him in that effort for Columbus), and Third Star of the Game RW Tom Wilson with his team-leading three hits.
Perhaps Columbus’ best scoring opportunity of either of the first two periods came with 5:37 remaining in the opening frame. LW Artemi Panarin had not one, but two shots from prime real estate right in front of G Braden Holtby‘s crease, but the netminder rejected both offerings to keep his young shutout alive.
However, that’s not so say there wasn’t any offense in those periods, as there were two goals struck – but both those markers belonged to the visiting Capitals. Wilson (First Star F Evgeny Kuznetsov) took credit for the first tally at the 6:16 mark of the first period with a slap shot from the top of the zone, followed by F T.J. Oshie‘s (Second Star W Alex Ovechkin and D John Carlson) power play wrist shot 23:03 later.
Oshie’s play started at the 8:49 mark of the second period when Panarin was caught slashing Kuznetsov. Washington’s resulting man advantage lasted only 30 seconds before its third-ranked postseason power play achieved its goal of setting the score at 2-0. After both Carlson’s and Ovechkin’s offerings were rejected by G Sergei Bobrovsky, Oshie collected the loose puck in the slot and beat the netminder’s glove to the far post.
While Oshie’s tally will go down as the game-winner (the fourth of his playoff career), Ovechkin’s (Kuznetsov and Wilson) wrister 2:49 into the third period proved to be the most important goal of the game. Not only was it the Caps’ purest snipe of the night (Ovi elevated his shot from the right face-off dot over Bobrovsky’s glove to beat him near side), but it also forced Head Coach John Tortorella to pull Bobrovsky for an extra attacker even earlier than he would have liked.
But more on that after we discuss the Blue Jackets’ lone goal of the game: a redirection on RW Josh Anderson‘s clapper from above the left face-off circle by F Boone Jenner. For the first time in 46:22 of action, Jackets fans finally had something to cheer about – and cheer they did. Nationwide Arena sounded like it did Tuesday during Game 3, and Columbus rode that positive energy to firing nine shots on goal in the third period – the most it managed in any frame all game.
Just when it seemed like the party was beginning to die down, Bobrovsky ramped the fans back up with an impressive glove save on Ovechkin at the 8:46 mark after The Great 8 earned a one-on-one matchup against the netminder with a long breakaway.
However, all good things must come to an end, and that end started when Tortorella pulled Bobrovksy with 3:29 remaining in regulation.
If only Ovechkin hadn’t scored scored earlier in the third period and the Jackets were only trailing by one instead of two, maybe the Russian goaltender would have still been in the net when Kuznetsov came up with the puck with 2:19 remaining in the game. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and that ended up in Kuznetsov’s favor as he buried an unassisted wrister from the blue line to set the score at 4-1 with his third goal of the series.
Holtby earned the victory after saving 23-of-24 shots faced (.958 save percentage), leaving the loss to Bobrovsky, who saved 29-of-32 (.906).
After winning two games in Washington and having the tempting “sweep” word on the mind, the Blue Jackets need to regroup in a similar way the Caps did when the series transitioned to Ohio. If they don’t show a positive effort in Game 5, Columbus may be forced to wait another year to taste a playoff series victory.
Scheduled for a 3 p.m. Eastern matinee puck drop, the aforementioned Game 5 will go down on Saturday, April 21 at Capital One Arena. Viewers should tune their televisions to NBC, NBCSN, SN or TVAS to catch the action.
Entering Tuesday night, no team had ever lost three consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff games in overtime.
So when Game 3 of the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets First Round matchup went to overtime Washington sports fans began to sink in their seats imagining the ways the Capitals would surely disappoint them and become the first team to lose three consecutive overtime games in the postseason.
Just kidding, the Capitals won, 3-2, in double overtime.
In his first start for Washington this postseason, Braden Holtby made 33 saves on 35 shots against for a .943 save percentage in double overtime win. Meanwhile, Sergei Bobrovsky made 42 saves on 45 shots against for a .933 SV% in the loss.
Josh Anderson followed up with a minor penalty of his own for interference at 11:55 of the first period, sending the Capitals on their first man advantage of the night. Washington, however, could not get anything going on the power play and the score remained, 0-0.
After 20 minutes of play, Game 3 was tied, 0-0, with the Capitals leading in shots on goal (11-9), blocked shots (8-6) and giveaways (3-2). Washington was 0/1 on the power play in the first frame and Columbus was 0/2 on the man advantage entering the first intermission.
Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella, was not pleased as his team bungled a line change and cost themselves a minor penalty for too many men on the ice a couple of minutes into the second period. Luckily for Tortorella, the Capitals were not able to convert on the ensuing power play.
Tom Wilson (1) scored the first goal of the game on a shot from Matt Niskanen that Wilson tipped past Bobrovsky to give Washington a 1-0 lead at 5:52 of the 2nd period. Niskanen (1) and Alex Ovechkin (1) had the assists on the goal in Ovechkin’s 100th career postseason game.
Thanks to Wilson’s goal, Washington has scored first in all three games in the series so far.
The Capitals thought they had a two-goal lead when Brett Connolly capitalized on a loose puck, but thanks to a coach’s challenge from Columbus, the goal was overturned on the basis that Washington had entered the zone offside. Tortorella played his cards and robbed the Caps of some surefire momentum, had they been able to go up by a pair of goals.
Columbus made sure to take advantage of their new-found life as Pierre-Luc Dubois (1) fired a wrist shot past Holtby’s glove side to tie the game, 1-1. Dubois’s goal, his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal, was assisted by Artemi Panarin (5) and Seth Jones (3) at 11:18 of the 2nd period.
But just as quickly as things can go your way, momentum can swing equally as fast in the other direction and the Blue Jackets learned that the hard way.
Brandon Dubinsky slashed Vrana at 13:08 of the second period, giving Washington a 5-on-4 man advantage until Columbus defender, Ryan Murray, also slashed Vrana about a minute later.
Suddenly, Barry Trotz’s Capitals had a two-man advantage.
John Carlson (1) received a pass from Nicklas Backstrom and put everything into a one-timed slap shot that beat Bobrovsky and made it 2-1 Washington. Backstrom (5) and Ovechkin (2) notched the assists on the goal.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Capitals led 2-1 on the scoreboard and in shots on goal (25-16). Columbus led in blocked shots (12-9) and takeaways (2-1). Washington was 1/4 on the power play and the Blue Jackets power play unit was 0/2.
Despite trailing by a goal entering the third period, the Blue Jackets had the Capitals right where they wanted them— or so they thought.
Panarin (2) tied the game, 2-2, early into the third period on a great give and go with Cam Atkinson. Atkinson (2) had the only assist on the goal at 4:12 of the period and Columbus was in the midst of a huge momentum swing.
Brooks Orpik checked Blue Jackets captain, Nick Foligno, while he was away from the puck and was penalized for interference. Columbus would have another chance on the power play, but their special teams just could not beat Holtby.
With the game tied, 2-2, at the end of regulation, both teams exited the ice to regroup, refocus and refresh for sudden death overtime. Washington was outshooting Columbus, 31-26, after 60 minutes of play and the Blue Jackets were leading in blocked shots (17-12), as well as hits (27-17), despite going 0/3 on the power play up to that point.
For the third straight game in the series— and 22nd time in NHL history that a playoff series has seen three consecutive overtime games— overtime got underway at Nationwide Arena.
Both teams swapped chances early before the Blue Jackets settled into a rhythm of constant offense. Holtby was not wavered.
Not even after Carlson tripped up Zach Werenski late in the first overtime period and forced the Capitals to kill off another penalty— which they did, successfully.
One overtime was not enough, as the score remained tied, 2-2. Washington was still leading in shots on goal (37-33) and Columbus still had an advantage in blocked shots (26-16). After another 18 minute intermission, sudden death overtime resumed.
Nine minutes into the second overtime, Connolly threw the puck on goal where it deflected off of Werenski, then after Lars Eller (1) and into the netting behind Bobrovsky. The Capitals had held off Columbus long enough to attain complete control of the game flow in the second overtime and win the game on a fluke play.
Connolly (1) and Devante Smith-Pelly (1) had the assists on the game-winning goal in the longest postseason game in Blue Jackets franchise history.
Washington finished the night with a 45-35 advantage in shots on goal and 1/4 on the power play, but Columbus led in blocked shots (28-16), hits (36-26) and faceoff win percentage (54-46). None of that mattered as the Capitals had won the game, 3-2. The Blue Jackets inability to convert on a power play left them 0/4 on the night.
With Eller’s game winning goal having sealed the fate of Game 3, Washington had won in double overtime by a score of 3-2. The Blue Jackets take a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 at Nationwide Arena on Thursday night. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 7:30 p.m. ET and fans interested in catching the action in the United States can tune to USA, while fans in Canada can follow along with the action on Sportsnet or TVAS2.
Another overtime game, another Columbus Blue Jackets victory, as they beat the Washington Capitals 5-4 to take a two-tilt advantage going into Game 3.
Even though it was challenged for offsides, First Star of the Game LW Matt Calvert (D Zach Werenski and RW Josh Anderson) scored his fourth career postseason goal – and second-ever playoff overtime winner – to etch his name into Jackets lore on an elevated wrist shot to the near post from along the goal line with 7:38 remaining in the first overtime period.
For a franchise that has never escaped the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Blue Jackets are a mighty confident team right now. Going back to the regular season, Columbus has earned a 15-2-2 record in its last 19 games played and is showing no signs of slowing down yet.
That being said, tonight was not a game in which Columbus dominated play. That was made apparent right from the opening puck drop, as F Jay Beagle (D Brooks Orpik and D Jakub Jerabek) scored Washington’s first shot on goal to give the Capitals an early 1-0 advantage. That lead doubled to two 11:14 later when Third Star W Alex Ovechkin (D John Carlson and F T.J. Oshie) scored a power play slap shot from his usual spot in the left face-off circle.
In all, the Capitals out-shot the Blue Jackets 58-30, earning a dominating 28-shot differential that effectively demonstrated just how much action was taking place in G Sergei Bobrovsky‘s end.
However, it was the incredible play of Bobrovsky – who saved 54-of-58 shots faced (.931 save percentage) and earns the honorary DtFR Fourth Star – that not only kept the Jackets alive defensively, but also allowed Columbus to set up an effective counterattack on numerous occasions.
Enter Second Star RW Cam Atkinson with 1:35 remaining in the first period. Having been the Jacket called for the goalie interference penalty that allowed Ovechkin to find the back of the net 4:59 earlier, Atkinson (F Nick Foligno) collected a long stretch pass that crossed both blue lines to beat G Philipp Grubauer‘s left skate to the post with a wrister, pulling Columbus back within a goal.
Even though it came late in the period, Atkinson’s play signified a major turning point in this game. The tally came on the heels of the conclusion of two minutes of four-on-four play (F Pierre-Luc Dubois and F Evgeny Kuznetsov were charged with corresponding slashing minors) that certainly boosted the confidence of Columbus’ defense.
Of course, it didn’t take long for Washington to try to reclaim control after the intermission – and it did with a little help from F Brandon Dubinsky, who accidentally removed Carlson’s helmet with a hi-stick while hitting W Devante Smith-Pelly.
The power play is usually Ovechkin’s (C Nicklas Backstrom and Carlson) time to shine, and he didn’t disappoint by burying another one of his patented clappers at the 4:09 mark of the frame – only eight seconds after Dubinsky took his seat in the sin bin.
However, a two-goal advantage is all the Caps could manage, as the Jackets started to turn the tides in their favor to score three goals before the second intermission.
Getting back to the counterattack point from earlier, Anderson (Werenski and LW Artemi Panarin) was the next beneficiary at the 8:49 mark of the frame. After W Brett Connolly fell down in the corner to Bobrovsky’s right, Anderson pounced on the newly vacated puck to set up a five-on-two rush for Columbus. With such a man-advantage, it’s no surprise that the Jackets were able to pass the puck back-and-forth enough times to confuse Grubauer and pull themselves back within a one-goal differential.
The theme of Game 1 was unwise and untimely penalties, and the Capitals decided to reprise that story line for the remainder of the second frame with two such infractions that resulted in Columbus goals.
First was a RW Tom Wilson roughing penalty against D Seth Jones with 9:24 remaining in the period. Like so often happens in a hockey game – regardless of if it is in the regular season or playoffs – there was a little scrum in front of Grubauer’s net after he froze the puck. However, Wilson took offense to this one in particular and elected to literally jump into the fray and take Jones down to the ice. In turn, Atkinson (Panarin and Jones) made his stay in the penalty box only 37 seconds long after tying the game with a power play wrister.
Old habits die hard, so it only makes sense that Smith-Pelly was sent to the box with 2:20 remaining before the second intermission for a holding the stick penalty. This power play lasted 1:12, but the net result as the same: Werenski (RW Oliver Bjorkstrand and Panarin) scoring another goal for the Blue Jackets, giving them their first lead of the night.
With the rumored hockey gods distributing power play goals like Oprah gives away household appliances, it’s only logical that the Capitals would be handed one last opportunity to level the game when Werenski flipped the puck over the glass for a delay of game infraction with 4:51 remaining in regulation.
Still looking for his first goal of the 2018 postseason, Oshie (Backstrom and Carlson) capitalized on the man-advantage to bury a power play snap shot, tying the game at 4-4 with 3:35 remaining in regulation.
But wait, there’s more! After Oshie scored, F Boone Jenner didn’t like him very much so he tripped him with 1:59 remaining in regulation. That’s right, ladies and gentleman: Jenner decided to give the regular season’s seventh-best power play a shot at winning this game in regulation.
Fortunately for Jenner, he escaped the wrath of Head Coach John Tortorella when Wilson absolutely whiffed on an excellent opportunity, allowing the game to advance into overtime which eventually ended in Columbus’ favor.
Though he didn’t start the game, G Braden Holtby takes the overtime loss after saving seven-of-eight shots faced (.875 save percentage) in the third period and overtime. He replaced Grubauer, who saved 18-of-22 (.818) and earned no decision, following the second intermission.
Of note, W Andre Burakovsky suffered an upper body injury on his first shift of the game, meaning the Capitals played almost the entire contest with only 11 forwards. It remains to be seen what his status for Game 3 and beyond will be for Washington.
After a short flight west to Central Ohio, Game 3 will take place at 7:30 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, April 17 at Nationwide Arena. American viewers can catch the game on NBCSN, while Canada will be serviced by SN360 and TVAS.