By Rick Gethin
Kevin Schroeder, aka “Dancing Kevin”, made an appearance in Nationwide Arena and did his thing in front of 16,408 fans. With “Melt The Avs” in sharpie marker emblazoned on his front and “Chicken Foote” on his back, he danced like a fan possessed. And the crowd loved him for it. For what it’s worth, the Columbus Blue Jackets are now 30-2-1 (all-time) when Mr. Schroeder shows up and dances.
This night marked the return of Peter “Foppa” Forsberg to an NHL rink for the first time since the 2007-2008 season. The Swedish media contingent numbered seven reporters in attendance to record his comeback. He started the game and it looked like he hadn’t been away that long, at all. His passing of the puck was deft and sublime at times, and it appeared that his teammates weren’t anticipating them. Colorado head coach Joe Sacco said of Forsberg, “Actually, he played better than I expected him to. He was arguably our best player tonight.”
From the drop of the first puck, it was evident that the referees were swallowing their whistles. They let the players play, and at times, it got a bit rough. There were six major penalties handed out for fighting, with Columbus’ Jared Boll garnering two of them himself.
The Avs Philippe Dupuis scored off a bad RJ Umberger turnover and had a breakaway down the ice, roofing it past netminder Mathieu Garon at 15:54 of the 1st period. And that was the extent of the scoring for Colorado, who have now lost 6 games in a row.
“In the 2nd and 3rd period,” said Mathieu Garon, “I think we had control of the game. They (Colorado) had shots, but we had guys there to clear the rebounds and they played really well in front of me. As the game went on, I felt a lot better. The points are huge. They’re behind us (in the standings) and we want to keep them there.”
Columbus’ Rick Nash opened the scoring for the Boys in Union Blue at 7:19 of the 2nd. Jake Voracek, showing more and more puck-handling skill with each game, had a nice toe-drag before passing cross-ice to Nash, who buried the puck past the Avs Peter Budaj. The toe-drag from Voracek made Budaj commit to the left side, and he couldn’t recover quick enough to stop Nash.
Less than 7 minutes later, center Derick Brassard showed the patience of a veteran player by waiting with the puck and drawing Budaj down low, before firing the puck past him. This was Brassard’s 14th goal of the season, setting a career high for the young center. He’s 5-8-13 in the last 12 games. Columbus was up 2-1 at the end of the 2nd. From here on out, it was all Union Blue dictating the play.
A scary moment in the 3rd, with Forsberg being pushed into Derek Dorsett from behind. Dorse went upside-down before hitting the back of his helmeted head on the ice. He was helped down the hallway to the dressing room, not to return. “He did a 360 and landed on the back of his head,” said head coach Scott Arniel. “We’ll evaluate him tomorrow to see if it’s a concussion or not. He wasn’t (knocked) out, but he landed right on the top of his head. It’s a scary situation.”
The 3rd period was all Blue Jackets, as they denied the Avs any sustained time in their zone and kept their foot on the gas. The insurance goal was added with just 3.8 seconds remaining in the game, as Derek MacKenzie added an empty-net goal. Dmac’s goal was his 3rd goal of the season and is 1-3-4 in the past 8 games. The final score was Columbus 3-1 over Colorado. More importantly, they picked up two valuable points in the ever so tight Western Conference. They now sit just 5 points behind the 8th and final playoff position and only 7 points back from 4th in the Conference.
To put this into perspective, two years ago when Columbus made its’ only playoff appearance, through 55 games they had 59 points. This season through 55 games they have 59 points, but are arguably playing a much more consistent style of hockey. The playoff hopes are still alive. They still believe. You have to ask yourself… do you?