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Aftermath: Finding a Way

by Brian McCormack / Columbus Blue Jackets

Make it nine straight games for the Blue Jackets with at least a point in the standings after their nine-round shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

The win was the Jackets’ first over Chicago since Feb. 18, 2011, and it was just the latest example of “finding a way” offensively while the defense and Sergei Bobrovsky came up huge.

With their nine-round shootout victory, the Blue Jackets moved to 4-1 in the breakaway contest. The Blue Jackets didn’t play an overtime game at all until Nov. 7 this season, one of the league’s last two teams to go to an extra session. Now they’ve played in six straight overtime contests and seven in their last eight games.

“I think it only mentally taxes you if you let it,” said Jack Johnson regarding all the overtime games. “It’s just a game, and if you can’t come and put in 25 minutes of work then you probably shouldn’t be here.”

The constant in the Jackets’ shootout success has been Bobrovsky, who’s proving to be one of the NHL’s best breakaway goaltenders. Bobrovsky stopped eight of nine Chicago attempts last night, allowing only a nifty wrister from Andrew Shaw to beat him and getting a little help from the post on the attempt from Brandon Saad. In five shootouts, Bobrovsky has turned back 22 of 26 attempts (.846 save percentage). Last night, he managed to turn back both Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa en route to a win.

The Blue Jackets were outshot 41-19 in the contest, again coming out to a slow start and relying on Bobrovsky and the penalty kill, perfect for the fourth straight game, to keep them afloat. They only had two shots in the first five minutes of the game, a Jack Skille shot and the follow-up rebound by Alexander Wennberg. They wouldn’t find the target again until Skille redirected Fedor Tyutin’s point shot past Corey Crawford at 17:24 of the first, a 14-minute span without a shot. After registering only those three shots in the first, the Jackets then went the first eight minutes of the second with only one shot on goal.

And still, they found themselves with a lead. As Johnson joked after the game, the shooting percentage was high.

“It’s not really the game plan,” said Johnson. “We’d like to limit their chances a little bit more, but you’re not going to go far in this league unless you have a great goalie.”

“There are going to be games that you probably should win and some games you should win that you don’t throughout the course of the year.”

It’s not the first such lopsided shooting performance during this points streak, with the Jackets being outshot 55-20 in Florida, 34-20 in Tampa Bay, and 15-5 in the first period against the Capitals before a major second period pushback.

“The opportunistic plays that we make, obviously we’re capitalizing on them,” said Todd Richards.

The Blue Jackets struggled to generate offense, but they also had difficulty just breaking out of their own zone for much of the game. Part of that was sloppiness, but as Richards mentioned, some of it was the Blackhawks themselves and a suffocating forecheck.

“The thing I was really impressed with was their sticks,” said Richards. “They’re able to get their sticks on a lot of pucks and they win battles a lot of times by using their sticks and having strong sticks.”

The Blackhawks managed to knock down numerous passes through the middle of the defensive zone, turning some of them into opportunities that required Bobrovsky to come up big. With the neutral zone clogged and the breakout struggling, Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno had a difficult time gaining speed through the neutral zone and attacking, Foligno not registering a shot on the night.

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