Tuukka Rask got “accidentally” punched in the side of the head. No big deal, except... well, no penalty called, Halak played the night prior, and Rask visited the dark room for concussion evaluation. Jack and Brick did belabor the point that it really looked like Columbus forward Emil Bemstrom extended his arm into Rask’s head with enough spatial awareness to know what he was making contact with... and that’s kind of hard to argue. Regardless, Jaroslav Halak came into the game on 20 hours’ rest, and also having likely cooled in the locker room and on the bench after warmups.
Jackets D Denis Savard scored a goal that didn’t count, because he pushed Jaroslav Halak into the net. The officials rightly waved it dead in the moment. Not long after, they’d score for real, as Alexander Wennberg put a puck on net that snuck through Halak’s pads as it looked like he stumbled backwards a little. 1-0, Blue Jackets.
After the goal, Columbus most certainly took the upper hand in physicality. The diminutive Nathan Gerbe sent Joakim Nordstrom flying on a clean open-ice check in front of the Columbus bench, and for several shifts in a row, the Jackets shut down the neutral zone and created problems at the blue line for Boston’s attempts at exiting the zone.
Charlie McAvoy took a holding penalty to close the first and open the second.
We got word at the start of the second that Rask would not return. Quoth the Sky:
IT'S— Stanley Cup of Chowder (@cupofchowdah) January 15, 2020
Boston paid a little more attention to Bemstrom, with a little muscle from the hands of Brandon Carlo, but no excessive aggression. Down a goal, it’s probably a better idea to hit heavy and goad the Jackets into taking a penalty instead... so, no instigators to hand out here.
After McAvoy’s penalty ended in the first minute of the frame, the rest of the first half of the second frame looked more or less idle. Carlo’s aforementioned physicality, and a few solid shifts from the line of Danton Heinen, Charlie Coyle, and Brett Ritchie (with visible emphasis on Heinen’s performance) started to tilt things back in Boston’s favor. Vladislav Gavrikov took a holding penalty right around the midpoint of the period and Boston received a power play. At a TV timeout, Nordstrom tangled with Bemstrom and Pierre-Luc DuBois horse-collared Nordstrom, though this saw both Nordstrom and DuBois in the box for an unsportsmanlike to JoNo (only two minutes) and a roughing to DuBois.
Lost in the “excitement” of the donnybrook that ne’er was, was Boston effectively getting outclassed at the possession game yet again. Their scoring chances were in the high slot, but not very effective and many were deflected wide or an easy save for the burgeoning Columbus goalie. Danton Heinen blew the Jackets - and the rest of his own team - out of the water in terms of on-ice CF%, having great impact on scoring chances through the middle frame especially. (No, no goals or assists. It’s still an indicator of a strong/smart player.)
Another scoreless frame, with the Bruins chasing hard and nothing to show for it.
Boston earned another fruitless power play, and Brad Marchand took his own penalty that bled the period to 13 minutes remaining and gave the Blue Jackets a bit of padding, as Kevin Stenlund (who?!) slapped home a power play goal from inside the circle to Halak’s left.
Boston faded for the middle portion of the period. They were just too content with trading zone entries, not a recipe for a comeback. On more than one occasion the second forward on the forecheck (backcheck, more literally) looked like they were covering a pass up-ice, only to see the pass connect in spite of their coverage. Again, not a great setup for turnover generation.
Riley Nash scored the third for Columbus and that effectively iced the game.
You have to just hope that the League will re-examine that early miss from officiating. It’s hard to justify any player getting a fist to the head. Like high-sticking, whether it’s intended or inadvertent, that’s contact to the head, nevermind how goalies squat or however you might want to justify this incident. You also have to hope that Rask was held out as a precautionary measure after passing concussion protocol, but we probably will never know.
Also, props to Halak for coming in and playing relatively well on zero days’ rest. Sure, he’d like to have that first goal back, but the next two were pretty good shots.
That’s all the notes for tonight. Though it seemed like Boston had found their way out of the paper bag, they are now back to haplessly thrashing through games. Something has got to change. Where would you pin this? Forward groupings? Defensive play? Goaltending? Coaching? Hard to say.