Looking through the stats, I was almost stunned to discover that today's 3-0 win was the first shutout of Sergei Bobrovsky's career.
In his 99th NHL start, the 24-year-old Russian goaltender earned his first "donut," making 29 saves against the Detroit Red Wings and acting as the foundation behind the Blue Jackets' four-game winning streak. Not only has he given the Blue Jackets a chance to win every night, the team in front of him has played a sturdy brand of hockey that's translating to points in the standings -- and once again, Columbus is within four points of the playoff bar.
And with today's 3-0 win, the Blue Jackets won the season series against Detroit for the first time in the franchise's 12-year history. Through four games of five (one to go tomorrow afternoon at Joe Louis Arena), Columbus holds a 3-0-1 record and has a chance to go without a regulation loss to the Red Wings with a win in the finale.
Back to today's game.
The Red Wings made a ton of mistakes - and uncharacteristically so given their strong play of late entering the game - and fed right into the Blue Jackets' speed and forechecking game. Case and point: Matt Calvert swooping in and stealing the puck from Niklas Kronwall, which led to Cam Atkinson's game-winner in the first period. That's not a play that Kronwall usually makes, and it was a blatant giveaway - credit to the Blue Jackets for making Detroit pay for its recklessness with the puck.
Let's break it down, shall we?
1. PUCK PURSUIT: The Blue Jackets and coach Todd Richards clearly have a reliable formula for success against the Red Wings, and it starts with their relentless pursuit of the puck. Loose pucks, pucks on sticks, anywhere...the Blue Jackets want to win the "first battle" on pucks and make sure they convert their pressure into turnovers. They did that today, and Henrik Zetterberg commented on Detroit's sloppiness with the puck post-game.
2. SPECIAL TEAMS: Once again, the Blue Jackets penalty kill stepped up and got the job done today. Columbus has not allowed a power play goal against in nine straight games - an extension of the franchise record set with the spotless performance on Thursday against Vancouver. Richards has credited Dan Hinote and Keith Acton with an effective game plan and the players with executing it; this afternoon, the Red Wings took most of their shots on the power play from the perimeter and never had anything of high quality in the scoring areas.
3. WHAT ABOUT BOB: Bobrovsky might have called it a "team shutout" after the game when talking with his teammates, but there's no denying the calming presence he has between the pipes. The Blue Jackets are playing with confidence from the net on out, and it's translating to productive play in all three zones. As we mentioned in the post-game story, Bobrovsky is 5-1-1 in his last seven appearances and his goals-against average (2.30) is currently eighth-best among all NHL goalies who have played 15 or more games.