Fast forward 1 year, and LaCosta cashes his 1st NHL shutout against the Avalanche, completing a season sweep of an opponent that has historically bedeviled the franchise. The 8th shutout this year, all of the coming from players that were in the AHL when the year began. Wow!
In many respects, this was the type of game Jackets fans have come to expect this year, and in other ways not. As we have in many games, we dominated the first period, 16 shots to 4, had an overwhelming advantage in possession, but had nothing to show for it. Budaj made some nice saves, and other opportunities we just missed. As in some previous games, we went catatonic in the second period -- taking penalties, getting outhit, etc., and were outshot by almost as large a margin. Starting the 3rd, we again dominated, and once Murray scored, there was no turning back. This was different from past games. Tonight, we got them down and then stepped on their throat. The intensity went off the chart after the first goal, and we went for more -- and got them. That is learning how to win, and how to beat a team that they should. No backing off, no protecting the lead. We gave up a few rushes toward the end, but 1 post and a couple of nice saves preserved the shutout.
Here are the +/- for the night:
++LaCosta -- Labrador City is drinking heavily tonight! What an effort by this young man. Though not nearly of Mason's stature, his movements in goal are very similar, and his style of movement is closer to Mason than Leclaire. The team also responds well in front of him, which is huge. Where would the CBJ have been this year without the efforts of Mason and LaCosta?
++Defense --Not the stifling display we saw against San Jose (we were outshot 31-30), but somehow watching the game you never felt that imminent threat from the Avs. Sure, they rang one off the post after it didn't matter, and LaCosta made some great saves, but much of their effort was kept at the perimeter and we did a nice job of poke checking and clearing the slot.
++Special Teams -- Penalty kill was perfect, even after some ticky tack calls against us. No goals on the two PP attempts, but I sure like the look of it a lot better.
++Players -- Hejda, Commodore, Tyutin were just huge all night. Russell was a single handed puck moving machine, and Klesla showed some energy. Murray was strong, and got a crazy goal from no angle, after his one-handed spike was disallowed (properly) by the on ice officials and Toronto. Torres had his best game as a Jacket, and Modin and Chimera both worked hard. Voracek turned in what is becoming a normal strong effort. Williams continues to prove that Howson is a genius.
--Puck Handling -- When we get in trouble, it is because we get too fancy and/or careless with the puck. Our top line can crisply move the puck back and forth, but they did not click tonight, though they generated lots of chances. Turnovers in the neutral zone and near our own blue line robbed us of chances and gave the Avs the few chances they had.
--Fans -- 14+ K at the game on a beatiful night in Columbus was a weak showing, and the crowd was unduly quiet. Sure, it was a measured game, but we dominated the first and you would have thought that we were at a chess match. Guess the blood alcohol took awhile to reach therapeutic levels, as enthusiasm returned in the 3rd.
A necessary win that we did not let get away, and one that moves us up the line. We need to keep the pedal to the metal as we go up against the Wings and Carolina, but watching that confidence and effort, you have to have a good feeling about this club. Go Jackets!!