Who is this team, and what have they done with the Columbus Blue Jackets?
In Pittsburgh, everybody showed up to play. The defense was solid â€“ especially the play of frequent scapegoat Anton Stralman. Paired with Hejda, he was a +4 (note: actually +3, the NHL’s statistics gave him credit for the first goal, which he was not on the ice for). Rick Nash got the scoring going early with a beautiful one-timer fed by Derick Brassard. Samuel Pahlsson scored on a delayed penalty, Voracek on a partial break, and Vermette tucked one through on a Pittsburgh giveaway to lead the Jackets to a 4-1 victory.
Cue the excuses. Pittsburgh has no Crosby. No Malkin. No Kunitz. Despite injury trouble, Pittsburgh is (including the L to the Jackets), 7-3-0 in their last ten. That is not a struggling team. The Jackets were simply a better team than the Penguins last night, and for that they prevailed on the scoreboard.
And then they came home to meet San Jose…
For the first twenty minutes, they were buzzing. With two big power play goals from Kristian Huselius and Grant Clitsome, it was suddenly 2-0 Jackets with a whole forty left to go. Unfortunately, the chances stopped coming, despite a massive 44 shots on goal. Niemi stood tall after the first, even when guys like Derek Dorsett and Jakub Voracek peppered him relentlessly with shots (8 and 7, respectively). Even with San Jose’s three unanswered goals, the foot was never entirely off the gas pedal, perhaps just slowed in the middle frame. A heartbreaker. Can’t win them all, but it would have been nice toÂ take that one.Â
Where we are: 12th place, Western Conference, -6 points from eighth place Calgary
What’s next: Friday vs. the Foote-less Colorado, 7pm