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Aftermath: All Cylinders in Motown

by Brian McCormack / Columbus Blue Jackets

Make it seven straight for the surging Blue Jackets, who played a very impressive road game en route to a 1-0 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings.

The Blue Jackets remain unbeaten in the month of December, and in the process have crawled up the Metropolitan Division ladder inch by inch. They've leapt past the Carolina Hurricanes, the Philadelphia Flyers, and the New Jersey Devils in the course of two weeks. While the difficult month of November was about finding a way to win, December has been about knowing how to win and playing to strengths no matter what the circumstances.

GOALTENDING DUEL
It goes without saying that when both goaltenders can earn a shutout, there was some pretty decent play in the paint. But Sergei Bobrovsky and Jimmy Howard went save-for-save on a night when both teams played strong defensively, and both teams managed to break through that defense late for tremendous opportunities. Howard made 29 saves on the evening, but saved some of his best for the third period when he robbed Corey Tropp while flat on his stomach and fought off repeated stuff-in attempts from a speedy and effective Jack Skille. In overtime, Howard made another game-saving stop when Kevin Connauton found the puck on his tape between the circles and looked five-hole for his second OT winner of December.

Not to be outdone, Bobrovsky was equal to the task. The rebounds were limited, but beyond that Bobrovsky made the big stop at the big moment. He stoned Pavel Datsyuk with just under three minutes to go in the third period after Datsyuk had broken away from the Jackets’ defense in the corner and walked to the front. He also made the game-winning stop, out-waiting one of the best players in the world in Henrik Zetterberg in the shootout.

(ANOTHER) PLAYOFF FEEL
Saturday night’s victory over the Penguins had a playoff feel in the sense that there was a very real hostility between the two teams, on the ice and in the stands. It was the kind of edginess that develops between two teams that have the history of a long series of battles. But Saturday night’s game had its share of mistakes by both teams that ultimately led to a shootout. Tuesday’s game in Detroit had a postseason quality of play.

As mentioned, the goaltending was terrific. Beyond the play of Bobrovsky and Howard, the Blue Jackets continued their recent trend of commitment to defense, clearing away second chances and registering 42 hits. The game was gritty and had that playoff mentality where it seemed the only way the game could end in regulation would be by a whacky deflection or a great individual effort. The Jackets got two such efforts in overtime. Nick Foligno toe-dragged his way to the front of the net only to be stoned by Howard. Before that, Cam Atkinson forced a turnover in the defensive zone, carried it around the Wings’ zone, and after pulling Howard out of position fed James Wisniewski, who missed an open net.

The Jackets and Wings both refused to give an inch in a game that could have used another period.

FREE HOCKEY ISN'T FREE
Without question, the Blue Jackets will take wins any way they can get them. During this seven-game winning streak, in which the last four games (and five of seven) have required overtime or a shootout, the extended sessions have been more a product of how well the Jackets have played rather than mistakes made. The only overtime game that the Blue Jackets were lucky to emerge from was their win on the road against the Florida Panthers, only the second game of the streak.

As Todd Richards said after the game, there is a long way to go for the Blue Jackets after digging themselves a hole in November, and giving away consolation points to opponents does not help that climb. With the Capitals coming to town Thursday, the Jackets need to find a way to win without their newfound prowess in the extra session.

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