The Blue Jackets and Bruins faced off in what could be considered a dress rehearsal for next week’s season opener in Boston, and it quickly became clear the front office was using this game as a final look at some of the organization’s young talent before making some of their final roster cuts.
Despite an overall ‘faster’ tone for the Blue Jackets, the most common adjective seen on twitter to describe the home team was ‘sloppy’, with Boone Jenner taking the first penalty of the game just thirty seconds into regulation, setting a tone that would see both teams combine for almost 22 minutes of special teams play. The Bruins, by contrast, came in hard, and took advantage of that early power play, scoring just after the penalty had expired, then worked to deny Columbus good looks on Anton Khudobin for the rest of the frame.
Sam Gagner continued to impress with Brandon Saad and Nick Foligno, setting up the sniper with good passes and then helping Foligno create traffic around the net, but Columbus couldn’t find a crack in Khudobin’s form through 30 minutes of play, when he gave up his net in a scheduled goalie change to Malcom Subban, and the Bruins would add to their lead early in the third on a bang-bang play that saw Jake DeBrusk drawing the defenders to the right wing before cutting across and sending a pass to Seth Griffin for a snap shot to beat Bobrovsky stick side.
The breakthrough finally came with Gagner drawing a penalty on Rob O’Gara. Coming out of their own zone after Sergei Bobrovsky popped the puck up to Seth Jones, the young D-man sent Brandon Saad up the ice, bursting through the Boston PK and firing a hard shot from the top of the left circle that put the Jackets on the board.
Columbus turned up the heat after their goal, trying to extend the game into OT, but Subban was up to the challenge, turning away 16 of the 17 shots he faced, while Bob ended the night with 20 saves on 22 attempts.
The larger picture, however, was the news that came out both during and after the game.
First, Aaron Portzline broke the news that Joonas Korpisalo would start the season on IR after suffering a groin injury in the preseason game against Nashville on Tuesday night. A rough break for the Finnish prospect, who had been pushing both Curtis McElhinney and Anton Forsberg for the backup job.
After the game, the team made an announcement that Sonny Milano, Markus Hannikainen, and Anton Forsberg had all been assigned to Cleveland. Milano’s demotion is a bit disappointing given the team’s clear need for more offense, but at least gives him the chance to play top line minutes in the AHL, and hopefully to prepare so that he can make the most when he’s eventually called back up to the big club.
Forsberg’s assignment is a similar situation - though many feel that Curtis McElhinney isn’t the best option at backup compared to the team’s younger prospect goalies, Korpisalo’s injury guarantees Forsberg starting minutes in Cleveland, allowing him to show that he can handle the workload. Once Korpisalo is healthy, the team will face some interesting decisions.
Hannikainen came into camp with promise, but couldn’t find a way to push past Markus Nutivaara or Scott Harrington, who continue to jockey for the 7th D position. He’ll have opportunities to log heavy minutes for the Monsters if he does not request to be returned to Europe - that could be a situation to keep an eye on.
The post game cuts leave the Jackets with 25 players on the active roster, meaning two more cuts are likely to come after the final preseason game in Pittsburgh. With Oliver Bjorkstrand and Josh Anderson appearing to have cemented spots on the roster, that means Pierre-Luc Dubois and Lukas Sedlak remain as the most likely cuts up front, unless the team decides to give Dubois a few games before returning him to Cape Breton, and the question of how many defensemen the team will carry. If the club wants to avoid exposing Nutivaara or Harrington to waivers, we could see them rotating in and out of the press box to start the season, unless Jarmo has other tricks up his sleeve.
As the preseason draws to a close, we have more of an idea what this team will look like. Now we’ll get to see what they can really do.