Five Thoughts: Sergei Bobrovsky Keeps the Washington Capitals At Bay, Buys Columbus Blue Jackets Time To Win

By Kyle Morrison on April 16, 2018 at 12:41 am
Matt Calvert and Brandon Dubinsky celebrate the game-winning goal in Game 2 of the series between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Washington Capitals.

USA Today – Geoff Burke

5 Comments

The Washington Capitals blew a 3-1 lead.

Two Alex Ovechkin goals (and one from Jay Beagle) had the Columbus Blue Jackets in trouble early on – and the Caps kept pumping shots on net all night long, nearly doubling Columbus’ shot totals, but the Blue Jackets held tight until Matt Calvert sent the fans home (and probably in an Uber) – here are five key takeaways from tonight’s action.

Bob’s Best Yet

Put all of those “Sergei Bobrovsky can’t perform in the playoffs” hot takes to bed, folks, because the Blue Jackets’ goalie has shown his Vezina form over the last two games. Tonight was his finest playoff effort yet, with an astounding 54 saves on 58 shots, as he stoned a lethal Capitals attack and kept Columbus in it long enough to give them a chance to win.

Thanks to Matt Calvert’s heroics in overtime, they did just that, but more on that later. Back to Bob.

Again and again, the Russian netminder stood on his head when needed. He was damn near untouchable at even strength (39 saves on 40 shots – a .975 save percentage) and made 10 saves against the Capitals lethal power play – the second game in a row where he’s seen and saved double-digit shots while facing the man advantage.

If the team in front of him shows some improvement, the Blue Jackets might do some serious damage over the next couple of weeks.

Too Many Damn Penalties

Speaking of that much-needed improvement, the Blue Jackets were often hemmed into their own end due to avoidable penalties. Seven of them, in fact, after a game in which they took five penalties (one of which being a five-minute major). Strange for a team to take so many self-inflicted wounds when the one advantage for Washington that jumped out on paper pre-series is the power play matchup with an at-times abysmal Blue Jackets penalty kill unit.

The Capitals have scored seven times in this series. Five of those came on the man advantage. Columbus needs to play a cleaner game – especially with a potential matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins looming – and if they do, the Capitals might not scratch the win column in this series.

The Power Play Is… Good?

Here is Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, prior to the start of this series, on how the Blue Jackets season-long underperforming power play unit had the potential to shake up the series:

No. 1 wild card among Eastern Conference playoff teams? Probably Columbus’s power play, which ranked 25th. “I have no idea why it’s as bad as it is,” one scout said. “It has all the personnel and elements you need.”

“They could win the conference if it ever gets going,” said another.

Looks like they got it going.

Tonight’s 2-for-4 power play effort mirrored Game 1’s output, with Cam Atkinson and Zach Werenski scoring back-to-back power play goals to tie the game up in the second period. Having Artemi Panarin certainly helps, too – he has assisted on all four of those power play goals.

A Goalie Controversy

Phillip Grubauer played the first two frames of tonight’s game, but it was Braden Holtby who finished in net for the Capitals. Neither was spectacular for Washington – combining for an uninspired .833 save percentage over 30 shots tonight – and Washington coach Barry Trotz now has a decision on his hands.

Holtby hasn’t been himself this season, with a .907 save percentage in the regular season, the lowest mark of his career. Still, though, he may be the last card Trotz can play in this series. The Blue Jackets may have figured out Grubauer, who has been slow to get the glove up at times in this series, which has been exploited for some huge goals. Cam Atkinson’s second goal from tonight certainly looked a lot like Seth Jones’ goal from Game 1.

And, of course, Grubauer’s glove didn’t stop Artemi Panarin in close on Thursday, either.

Matty Clutch

For all of the Bobrovsky saves, the high-stress penalty kills and the Panarin puck magic, it all came down to one man, down on the Capitals’ doorstep with just one hand on his stick, and boy oh boy did Matt Calvert come through.

This overtime game-winner was eerily reminiscent of his first one, which earned the franchise its first ever playoff win. A Game 2 overtime winner against a Metropolitan foe to cap a comeback in a game where the Jackets fell down 3-1? Matt Calvert’s done that twice now.

Calvert is set to become a free agent after the season ends, and with a stable of younger, cheaper, more skilled forwards, the Jackets may let him walk. If this is Matty Hustle’s last hoorah, he’s certainly making it a good one, and etching his name into Blue Jackets franchise lore with another cold-blooded game-winner.

Follow 1st Ohio BatteryFacebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

5 Comments
View 5 Comments