The Columbus Blue Jackets have officially climbed out of the NHL basement and passed the title of “cellar dweller” to the New York Islanders with a 5-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night. The goals came quick and often as the Blue Jackets jumped out to a four-goal lead before the Sabres were able to put a puck past Curtis Sanford. By that time, it was too late. But just in case the Sabres had their hopes set on a memorable comeback, Rick Nash scored his second goal of the game near the end of the 2nd period to put the final nail in the coffin.
The win is just the latest positive result in an impressive run as the Blue Jackets look to turn around their season. They’ve earned at least a point in six of their last seven games, including points in points in each of their last five. Their 4-1-2 record over the last seven games is impressive on its own, but even more impressive when put in its proper context after Columbus’ historically bad start.
How bad was the Blue Jackets start? It took them until their ninth game to get their first win of the season. They could only manage two pathetic victories in their first 15 games. Not only were they losing, they were losing the vast majority of their games in regulation. The 2-12-1 record was not the kind of start the Blue Jackets’ ownership had in mind when they signed James Wisniewski to a $33 million contract and acquired Jeff Carter (who is starting an 11-year, $58 million contract this season).
The Blue Jackets play over the last two weeks? This is more like what they expected. With six wins and 15 points, the Blue Jackets are only a point away from Anaheim in hopes of climbing out of last place in the Western Conference.
Columbus now sits at 6-13-3 through the first quarter of the season. The record still looks bad, but it’s not nearly as bad as it did two weeks ago. Up next, the Blue Jackets will get to face off against another hot Western Conference team: the St. Louis Blues. Curiously, the Blues exploded on their current streak when they hired Ken Hitchcock away from the Blue Jackets—a man who was heavily rumored to be in line to take over for Scott Arniel behind the Blue Jackets’ bench.
Much has been made of Hitchcock’s ability to turn around the Blues—but his departure may have helped Columbus get back to business as well. After losing their first game after St. Louis’ announcement, Columbus went on their current 4-1-2 streak.
Now if they can only continue this pace for the rest of the season, they may be able to get themselves back into the playoff hunt by the all-star break.
Pavel Datsyuk will not play for Russia on Saturday night against Canada in their World Cup semifinal game.
Datsyuk has been bothered by a lower body injury that also kept him out of their first round game against Finland. He had been a game-time decision leading up to the game, but did not take the ice for pre-game warmups.
It’s a big loss for Russia because Datsyuk is still their top-line center and had been skating on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Vladimir Tarasenko before the injury. He recorded two assists in his two games for Russia.
If Russia does not beat Canada on Saturday we could have very likely seen the last of Datsyuk on a North American hockey rink. Datsyuk decided to leave the NHL to return to Russia after spending 14 years with the Detroit Red Wings during a career that saw him win two Stanley Cups and score 314 goals. He was one of the best two-way players in the NHL during his career and one of the best ever
The winner of Saturday’s game will play the winner of Sunday’s Sweden-Team Europe semifinal in a best of three championship series.
Ekblad back on the ice for Panthers after World Cup injury
The Florida Panthers had a bit of a scare during the 2016 World Cup when defenseman Aaron Ekblad, while playing for Team North America, was injured in a first-round game against Finland that kept him out for the remainder of the tournament.
On Saturday, Ekblad was back on the ice for the Panthers doing some individual workouts following the injury.
“Ekblad is going to be fine,” Panthers coach Gerard Galant said, via Alain Poupart of NHL.com. “You see him out there skating already. I think it was a little scary, but he feels real good. He’s going to skate and see how he feels, but everything looks good.”
It was initially reported that Ekblad had a concussion, but it was later reported to be a neck injury.
The Panthers haven’t been overly concerned with the injury over the past week.
Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, has quickly become one of the franchise building blocks for a Panthers team that is on the rise in the Eastern Conference.
Still only 20 years old, he is already a top-pairing defenseman in the league and has scored 27 goals in his career, a number that is pretty much unheard of for a defenseman that young.
After winning the Atlantic Division in 2015-16 and having a busy offseason that saw them add Keith Yandle and Jason Demers to their defense, the Panthers look like they could be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season and Ekblad is going to be a major part of that.
Ilya Bryzgalov’s Canada – Russia take is the best take
Unfortunately for the Bruins they will have to wait a few months before he gets an opportunity to make an impact.
The team announced on Saturday that Vatrano is going to require surgery to repair torn ligaments in his foot and is expected to miss at least three months.
General manager Don Sweeney said that Vatrano was injured in his training in preparation for the team’s training camp.
Vatrano appeared in 39 games for the Bruins in 2015-16 season and scored eight goals, including a hat trick in an early season win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent the rest of his season playing for Providence of the American Hockey League where he scored a league leading 36 goals in only 36 games. Just for some perspective on that goal total, only one other player in the league scored 30 goals for the entire season, and that was Chris Bourque who scored 30 in 72 games.