The two best goalies in the NHL faced off in Nationwide Arena tonight, and this was right in the league of Palmer vs. Nicklaus and Borg vs. McEnroe. For every stop Thomas made, Mason did one better. Two + periods of standoff until one tiny little crack in the upper far corner of the Boston net cradled a shot from the resurgent Raffi Torres, for the only time Thomas was beaten all night. Add Nash’s gritty empty netter at the end, and you have Mason with 35 saves, Thomas with 32, and the Jackets on the positive side of a 2 -0 blanking of the best team in hockey.
The shutout was Mason’s 9th of the season, tying the CBJ team record, set last year by Leclaire. He leads the NHL, and also did nothing to harm his standing in Save Percentage and GAA.
This was not just a goaltending effort, however. Picking up on the momentum created in Detroit, the Jackets played a full 60 minutes of Hitch-Hockey, and were rewarded richly for their efforts. Here are the +/- for tonight:
++Discipline — The game reminded me of the Edmonton game on the last road trip, with each team feeling each other out for the first period, goalies dominating play, and Raffi Torres coming to the rescue! It took awhile for the Jackets to solve the neutral zone picket line that Boston threw at us, but eventually they used their tenacious defense, good puck support and speed to get the puck deep and create opportunities.
++Details — 42 to 29 in the faceoff circle, 7 takeaways to 1, surrendered only 3 power plays. We were right in the hits battle, 25 to 27. We seemed a bit reticent to hit in the first period, but more than made up for it later. That type of attention to detail gives you wins down the stretch, and in the playoffs.
++ Special Teams — More of that attention to detail here. PK was perfect and created some real scoring chances for us. 1 for 3 on the power play, and it looked solid most of the time.
++ Defense — Absolutely blistering. As has become the Jackets’ credo, they take the best team in the league and shut them down. We drove them to the perimeters, supported the puck, identified holes quickly and plugged them. Supported by Mason, they played almost flawless Hitch hockey. Great puck control and avoidance of turnovers!
++Vermette — This was one fantastic acquisition by Howson. Vermette was everywhere — making great passes, earning another assist, winning key faceoffs, and showing some physical play as well. Once he gets a little more time with his line mates, this guy will be unstoppable.
Too many players to name here — suffice it to say that the whole team played a complete 60 minute game.
Here are some stats for you: CBJ vs. the Eastern Conference this year — 11-3-1. Mason vs. Eastern Conference this year: 10-1, with a total of 10 goals allowed in 11 games — 0.900 GAA!
Additional good news–Edmonton, Minnesota, Phoenix, Nashville all lost in overtime, and Dallas is trailing by 3 in regulation. So we stand to pick up at least 1 point against all of our competition, and inched within 2 points of 5th place!