After walking away with a consolation point in their first three overtime appearances last season, the Columbus Blue Jackets either scored a game winning goal or forced a shootout in each appearance thereafter. During their 10-2-4 tear through the month of March, only one of their four overtime losses came during the overtime period. The other three losses were attributed to the shootout. One thing is clear when looking back on the Blue Jackets overtime victories: while every victory was a team effort, some players were able to step up and make a clutch play, often in the final minute of the game, to seal up a victory.
While Artem Anisimov was the Jackets main weapon in the shootout, he also answered the call during overtime against the Avalanche on March 3rd. The goal came with the Jackets on the power play at the 2:26 mark of overtime. With R.J. Umberger screening Semyon Varlamov, Anisimov found some room glove side. It was this victory that began the Blue Jackets march to near playoff contention.
Like Anisimov, Matt Calvert was also known for his shootout artistry, but his blue line busting overtime goal with under a minute to play against the Canucks on March 7th was the definition of taking the game into your own hands. Calvert crossed the blue line, danced around defenders and somehow managed to stay with the puck to beat Cory Schneider to end the game. Mark Letestu also scored with a little over a minute left against the Ducks on March 31st. His goal was more of a team effort, as Nikita Nikitin fed him the pass. Letestu was in the perfect position to snap the game winner past Jonas Hiller.
Nick Foligno stepped up in overtime for the Jackets twice in April. The first came with seconds left in the overtime period against Colorado on April 15th. Foligno broke away on a 2 on 1 and snapped a wrist shot past Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Two nights later against the Ducks he hit the breaks to go around Saku Koivu and then set up a quick pass around defenders to Fedor Tyutin, who snapped home the game winning goal.
Any list of clutch overtime players would not be complete without mentioning the Vezina winning play of Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky gave up the game winning goal in overtime just twice the entire season. The rest of the time he stood strong until one of the above mentioned players scored, or the game went to a shootout. Bobrovsky’s strong play contributed to the team breaking out and helped create scoring chances at the other end of the ice.
Next season the Metropolitan Division is going to be competitive and it is likely that several games will not be decided in regulation. Fortunately for the Jackets, every overtime hero from last season will return. In addition to the players mentioned above, there is always hope that other Jackets will step up when they are needed most. As we found last season, the difference between an overtime win and a shootout loss could determine whether the Blue Jackets are in or out of the playoffs. Who do you think will step up for the Blue Jackets in overtime next season? Drop a comment below, or tweet @unionandblue, and don’t forget about commenting on our Facebook Page!