Columbus Blue Jackets A Long Way From Elite

Sergei Bobrovsky

Ed Szczepanski-USA Today Sports

The San Jose Sharks swarmed the Columbus Blue Jackets all night long, defeating Columbus 3-2. The game easily could have been a rout if it wasn’t for goaltender and last year’s Vezina Trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky, maintaining his focus while facing a whopping 47 SOG.

The ice was tilted in the Sharks’ favor from the first face-off. Columbus came in having played in an overtime loss against the Los Angeles Kings the night before. San Jose, however, had a day’s rest before the matchup. The Sharks brought speed and a high tempo right out the gate that the Blue Jackets and their tired legs couldn’t seem to match.

By the time Columbus’s legs finally got pumping, the Sharks were up 2-0 early in the first, courtesy of John McCarthy and Patrick Marleau. While the Blue Jackets tried mightily and the young guns capitalized on what little the Sharks gave them, they were outmatched by a now-healthy San Jose team with more talent and who clearly wanted the two points more.

The Blue Jacket went 1-1-1 on a West Coast swing that has historically been a maelstrom where Columbus’ points in the standings went to die. That moral victory doesn’t do much to ease the sting of now being on the outside looking in if the playoffs were to start the day, but the trip shows that the Jackets have come a long way from the dark days of the 2011-12 season.

However, the results of them playing against three legit Cup contenders shows that they have a ways to go until they can consider themselves elite.

Columbus is sending four players, all Russian, to the Winter Olympics in Sochi: Artem Anisimov, Fedor Tyutin, Nikita Nikiten and Sergei Bobrovsky. Luckily, none of them sustained any injuries that would stop them from being able to participate, like Marian Gaborik being out for Team Slovakia.

Winning a gold medal in the Olympics is viewed as more of an accomplishment in Russia than hoisting the Stanley Cup. The Jackets’ fab four are surely excited and honored to represent Team Russia on their home soil, but it comes with a lot of pressure — just ask 2010′s Team Canada.

Vladimir Putin himself made it no secret that he wants Russia to win the gold medal in the worst way. If he saw Bobrovsky’s .936 SV% performance tonight, Putin must be a bit more optimistic about his country’s prospects for hearing Russia’s national anthem blaring out of the arena’s loud speakers and being on the top podium when the men’s hockey medals are awarded in Sochi.

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