On a night that showed every intention of previewing a possible playoff match-up, the Columbus Blue Jackets ruled the roost, shutting out the Calgary Flames 5-0 and bringing their point total to 85 in the process.
You just knew in your hearts that this would be a physical affair, and these two teams didn’t disappoint. In the 2nd period alone, there were 108 penalty minutes assessed. Even Jacket Jake Voracek got in on the action, getting a 10 minute misconduct. The Flames really started to get frustrated after Columbus killed off a 5 on 3 to drain the life out of a Calgary team that was shutout a mere 24 hours earlier by the Penguins.
The Blue Jackets power play, anemic of late, showed some welcome signs of life with Jason Williams netting two goals. He saw time on the top unit of the power play and it payed off in spades. Jason Williams on the added responsibility: “I’m having more fun. I was given a little more responsibility here and for me, when I can get into the game as much as possible, I want to be one of those go-to guys; I want the responsibility. I want to be out there when it’s time to score a goal or to defend a goal. When you have that responsibility, you take it upon yourself to do something about it and make sure you either get a goal or prevent a goal from going in.”
Manny Malhotra (10), RJ Umberger (25) and Raffi Torres (11) also scored to give the Blue Jackets a dominating win. Rick Nash had 4 assists to bring his point total to a career high 71 with eight games left in the regular season. It should also be noted that Columbus is undefeated when Raffi Torres scores a goal this season. Everyone contributed to this win, especially Michael Peca. Even though he didn’t show up on the score sheet, he had another outstanding game, leading by example.
Rookie goalie Steve Mason (it’s getting difficult to think of him as a rookie anymore) recorded his league leading and new franchise record 10th shutout of the season. The rookie shutout record is held by Hall of Fame goalie Tony Esposito with 15. The Blue Jackets didn’t need Mason to help keep them in the game, yet he made some outstanding saves to further his quest for the Calder Trophy. From the point or from point-blank, he stopped everything the Flames threw at him. He is the reason Columbus is able to fight for their first playoff appearance.
After the game, when Rick Nash was asked if he knew that he had set a new career record (points) he replied “It’s always fun to hit career highs, but more importantly, the team is doing well and we’re having a great season”.
The physical games will only ramp up as they draw closer to the end of regular season play. Ken Hitchcock knows this. “We’re not anywhere yet; all we are is in the hunt. Until the end of the regular season, we’re going to have to answer the bell every game. We’re going to have to do uncharacteristic stuff for us to win. Tonight, we raised our competitive level and got rewarded for it.” he said. He’s doing what good coaches do; savor the win for about an hour. Then it’s time to start preparing for the next game. With eight games remaining, the Blue Jackets are positioning themselves very well for their first post-season trip to the playoffs.