Blue Jackets fans had every reason to celebrate. Last night, the boys from Columbus took down the Red Wings, a rival who confounded their wish for a win for the better part of the season. Rivalry aside, there is another wrinkle, maybe an act of caprice by the sports gods that the Blue Jackets may have made their own kind of history by starting the Red Wings on a downward slide that could end their hopes for a 25-year playoff streak.
Ansar Kahn of MLive was brutal but accurate when he described last night’s game as “puzzling” and a “mess.”
The 5-3 victory over the Red Wings was a frustrating affair for followers of both clubs. The Blue Jackets began the first period of the start of a five-game homestand with a scoreless 20 minutes that felt more like a full hour. An argument could be made that the refs were handing out penalties at regular intervals because the boys were misbehaving. Maybe the officials were just trying to be fair, or maybe they were surreptitiously checking for pulses.
The second period was decorated with bookend scores by Columbus. A netter 35 seconds in by Savard with assists from Wennberg and Jones lit the lamp while the Blue Jackets’ goal cannon let the fans in the stands know they could put away their phones and start paying attention to the game. At the halfway mark, Justin Abdelkader put the Red Wings on the board with a little help from Gustav Nyquist and Mike Green. The second period wound down with another cannon blast celebrating a Blue Jackets goal by David Clarkson with assists from Matt Calvert and William Karlsson.
During the second intermission, everyone went for a quick visit to the double you see and to heat up a Hot Pocket while the teams lumbered down to event level to get B-12 shots and a stern talking-to.
The third period is the point when things got mysterious. Was this the same collection of Blue Jackets and Red Wings who occupied the benches and the ice during the previous 40 minutes of regulation play time? The guys who skated out to finish off the evening seemed to want to win this thing. It was 20 minutes of fighting and hooking and tripping with a lagniappe of roughing calls at the midway point and the last minute and a half of the game. Those weren’t even the parts that had Blue Jackets and Red Wings fans yelling at screens and throwing their Bleacher Creatures.
Twenty-six seconds into the third period, Boone Jenner lit the lamp for the Blue Jackets with assists from Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson. A little over eight minutes later, Atkinson scored his own goal with help from Seth Jones and Alexander Wennberg. This gave the Blue Jackets an almost comfortable margin that they almost let slip away. Anything can happen in the fastest game on ice, and it did at Nationwide Arena. At 15:44, the Red Wings rallied as Tomas Tatar scored a goal with assists from Mike Green and best tovarish forever Pavel Datsyuk. Forty-six seconds later, the Red Wings did it again. Andreas Athanasiou scored another one for the Red Wings with some help from Mike Green. Then all the roughing started, and there were hurt feelings, and at some point, someone thought it was a good idea to put Jimmy Howard on the bench. Eighteen seconds before it was all over, Cam Atkinson put the puck between the Red Wings’ empty pipes and the final buzzer sounded.
At this point in the season, the Red Wings cannot afford to get comfortable. As of this morning, they are sitting at an uneasy eighth position in the Eastern Conference. Every point counts. All it would take to push Detroit under the dotted line at playoff time is a surge by Philadelphia or Carolina and that spectacular playoff streak ends this season.
What happened to one of the league’s grittier member of the Original Six? TSN’s Dave Hodge cut straight to the heart of the matter when he gave the Red Wings a thumbs down in his Wednesday morning column.
“You don’t do what Detroit has done for the past 24 years without being a model of consistency, and discipline. Not all those Detroit teams played the same way, but, in large part, they always made the playoffs because they seldom beat themselves. They are doing too much of that under rookie coach Jeff Blashill.”
Every year, the NHL makes a promise to its fans that “History will be made.” The Red Wings still have a chance to make history this year by making their longest playoff streak ever even longer, and there’s no reason for anyone at the Joe to start reserving tee times in April just yet.
[Photo by Jay LaPrete/AP]