The Columbus Blue Jackets entered last night riding high after a dominant 5-0 victory on opening night. But they entered the game facing a number of challenges:
- They were on the road.They were on the second leg of a back-to-back, while the Chicago Blackhawks last played on Thursday.
- Those same Blackhawks were a good team who themselves had dominated in their opener, defeating the defending Stanley Cup champions 10-1.
- Chicago was playing their primary goalie Corey Crawford while Columbus turned to backup Joonas Korpisalo.
- The Jackets’ lineup is the youngest in the league, while the Blackhawks feature a core that has won 3 Stanley Cups since 2010.
How would this young team respond to these challenges? Spoiler Alert: Not well.
As Columbus jumped to an early lead on Friday, so did Chicago with a goal at the 1:33 mark of the first period. Ryan Hartman entered the zone and passed across ice through Nick Schmaltz to Patrick Kane. While Schmaltz did not touch the puck, both David Savard and Jack Johnson converged on him, which left Kane wide open to score on Korpisalo. Johnson’s hit would remove Schmaltz from the game.
Four minutes later, Sonny Milano got beat and was called for hooking. On the power play, a Patrick Sharp shot from the point was saved, but Jonathan Toews got a stick on the rebound, just enough to redirect it to former Blue Jacket Brandon Saad. I have no beef with Saad, but it still hurts to see him score against us. That’s 4 goals on the season already for him, after scoring a hat trick vs. Pittsburgh.
After that, things settled down a little bit, but despite controlling possession the Blue Jackets struggled to get clean shots on net. When they did Corey Crawford was in position to save them.
Midway through the second, as Seth Jones collected the puck behind his net, Richard Panik delivered a MASSIVE hit, then Saad recovered the puck and passed to Toews at the point, who fired a shot that Korpi really should have saved.
As I feared the Blue Jackets were staring down a shutout, they finally responded. Just 30 seconds later, Gabriel Carlsson carried the puck into the zone and drop-passed it to Nick Foligno who charged towards the net. Foligno flung a backhand shot towards the crease and it slipped through Crawford’s legs. The puck likely would have crossed the line on its own, but Matt Calvert and Milano both dove towards the open net, with Milano’s stick sealing the deal. That’s a two game goal streak for the rookie, FYI.
Before the Jackets could gain any momentum, a couple minutes later Patrick Kane did his things and made an absurd pass across the ice through traffic to a wide open Jan Rutta. Korpi simply lost track of the puck in the commotion.
Late in the third, Panik capped the scoring by recovering a loose puck after an offensive zone faceoff. Again, one that Korpi needed to stop.
- Stars Matter. Toews. Kane. Saad. Each tallied a goal and an assist. Artemi Panarin, meanwhile, had just 1 shot on goal in 19 minutes of ice time. Seth Jones made a number of mistakes in one of the worst games he’s had in a long time. Any hockey team counts on their star to step up. Theirs did and ours did not.
- Korpi wasn’t great, but settle down about it. Yes, there were saves that Korpi should have made that he did not. But there were also goals that he had no chance to stop. The blue line as a whole played so poorly in front of him. I think that people have unfair expectations for Korpisalo. Of course there will be a drop off when Bob does not play; Bob is the best goalie in the league. Yet even the teams without Vezina winners see a drop off from their starter to their backup. It is rare for a team to have two goalies that play like an above average starter. Usually when that happens, one gets traded to be a starter somewhere else (most recently, see Pittsburgh with Murray/Fleury). On a night like tonight, Bob can sometimes bail the team out. Korpi requires the team to play well. If they do not, then it’s on them not Korpi.
- Learn from this. Torts said before the game that there were mistakes he saw in the tape from Friday that he pointed out to the team. I am sure that it was difficult for the players to absorb that while they were feeling so confident after the win. After a humbling loss, they should be more open to correction and teaching.
- #Analytics. Per the indispensable Corsica Hockey, Columbus had an even strength Corsi For % of 58.54. The expected goals favored Chicago 3.04 to 2.1. That shows that it was a closer game than the actual score indicates. Much like the playoff series vs. Pittsburgh, Columbus held their own but failed to get high quality chances, while the opponent had fewer chances but converted on them.
- Rookies. As I said, Milano has 2 goals in 2 games. Let’s hope he continues to play with confidence. BJORKSTRAND was more invisible tonight. Midway through, Torts swapped him with Calvert. I hope that is just temporary, as Calvert does not deserve a top 6 role. As for Pierre-Luc Dubois, there’s this:
Pierre-Luc Dubois after two games:— Jeremy Crowe (@307x) October 8, 2017
+17 5v5 Corsi (66.7%)
+10 5v5 medium-danger Corsi (77.8%)
+4 5v5 high-danger Corsi (80.0%)
As Larry David would say, that’s pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.
Up Next: Columbus gets two days off before traveling to Carolina on Tuesday. The Hurricanes had their debut tonight at home, where they defeated the Minnesota Wild 5-4 in a shootout. Let’s see how this young team responds to their first taste of adversity, in another road game against a good, rested home team. Hopefully the Jackets will be joined by Josh Anderson, who had a great game last night with the Cleveland Monsters.