Last night, the Columbus Blue Jackets took to the ice to face off against the Edmonton Oilers. In doing so, the team welcomed Cam Atkinson back to the fold following his healthy scratch on Saturday night against the Arizona Coyotes. Cam, who spent his time off talking to Martin St. Louis and “taking full responsibility” for his play. How would he respond?
Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers have been a colossal disappointment to open the season, bringing up the rear in the Pacific Division. Edmonton has floundered despite an heroic effort from Connor McDavid, who has led his team in goals (11), assists (24), and points (35). Joy Shelley mentioned Connor McDavid as “the face of the NHL” and that might be true if the NHL had any idea how to market anyone except Sidney Crosby and the Chicago Blackhawks.
With the return of Cam Atkinson, Sonny Milano was sent down to Cleveland. Sergei Bobrovsky got the start in net. How did the Jackets respond?
Cam Atkinson got the start in his return to the ice. The first couple shifts opened with play along the boards mostly. Edmonton generated the first two shots on goal, but neither were dangerous for Sergei Bobrovsky. A strong shift from the Brandon Dubinsky line led to Cam Atkinson seeing his shot saved Laurent Brossoit. Brossoit also made a strong save on an effort from Pierre-Luc Dubois. A David Savard turnover in the defensive zone led to a cross goalmouth pass gifted Zack Kassian a wide open net, and he wasted no time firing it home.
Edmonton goal: Kassian from Letestu and Slepyshev, 5:55
Edmonton, outside of the one strong shift from the Dubinsky line, very clearly had the better run of play early in the game. Columbus was struggling to possess the puck and clear the zone. Of note, Josh Anderson was spending time skating with Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg for some reason. Cam Atkinson managed to find himself on a breakaway, but he was denied. Shortly after, Josh was reunited with his typical linemates, which is good. Torts shouldn’t break up that line unless someone is hurt.
The Torts Line Blender went to work, however, trying to find some way to pressure the Oilers and maintain possession. Tyler Motte was moved to the Dubinsky line while Atkinson was moved to the Sedlak line. The Oilers speed was wreaking havoc on the Columbus game. The first line had an excellent shift, generating several chances and extended possession, the type of shift needed to flip momentum in this one. Oliver Bjorkstrand followed that shift by hitting the post.
The period ended with little fanfare. Despite a strong push in the final five minutes of the period, the teams were tied in shots at 8, but Edmonton led 1-0 on the scoreboard.
Cam Atkinson and Matt Calvert moved to the line centered by Brandon Dubinsky to open the period, while Boone Jenner and Tyler Motte went back to Lukas Sedlak’s line. After some end to end action, Darnell Nurse was able to get a shot through to Bob from the point that was stopped. End to end action was the theme of the first few minutes. Seth Jones continued his stellar defensive play on the night, noteworthy because he had been everywhere on the ice in the first period. At 4:54, David Savard went to the box for hooking, his second mistake of the night. After 90 seconds of stellar penalty killing, the Jackets struggled to clear the puck and a scramble left Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all alone on the right side, and he buried it.
Edmonton goal: Nugent-Hopkins from Cammaleri and Benning, 6:27
After a feed from Josh Anderson, a Werenski one timer flew just agonizingly wide of the net. Columbus made a strong push at the halfway mark of the period, but could not find the back of the net. With 6:48 to go, Sergei Bobrovsky made a huge diving save that bounced off of Wennberg’s hand and was able to keep it from bouncing off of the net.
With 6:33 to go, Boone Jenner took an offensive zone penalty for tripping. McDavid stole the puck from Jenner, and Jenner tripped McDavid trying to steal it back. Right off the faceoff, however, Matt Calvert took the puck and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tripped Calvert, nullifying the power play. At four on four, Panarin had a nice chance after walking around Kris Russell denied. Once the teams returned to full strength, an Edmonton rush with speed saw McDavid split the entire first line and dish the puck to Benning, who beat Bob five hole. Bob was very angry at himself over allowing that.
Edmonton goal: Benning from McDavid and Brossoit, 16:41
At this point, shots were 22-13. For those who do not want to do math, Edmonton outshot Columbus 14-5 in the second, which tells you all you need to know about the second period. Columbus just had no answers for the Edmonton speed whatsoever. At 18:29, Scott Harrington went to the box for tripping. McDavid had a shot hit the post early. On an ensuing rush as the Jackets pushed forward, McDavid was able to find Milan Lucic, who buried it for a 4-0 lead.
Edmonton goal: Lucic from McDavid and Draisaitl, 19:09
With 9 seconds remaining, Jujhar Kaira went off for interference. With literally 0.3 seconds to go, Mark Letestu stole the puck and scored a shorthanded goal.
Edmonton goal: Letestu, unassisted, 19:59
After 40 minutes, Edmonton led 4-0. The Oilers led on the shot chart 26-15.
Joonas Korpisalo started the third period after Bobrovsky allowed 5 goals on 26 shots. The team had 1:51 of power play time and wasted it. Wennberg had several chances where he could have shot the puck (and had a lane to) and refused to. No one played him because he will not shoot it and teams do not respect his shot. After the power play, the Oilers had a two man breakaway but McDavid’s shot somehow went inches wide.
Nick Foligno went off at 3:40 for roughing Benning. A frustration penalty to be sure, but a terrible play from the captain who should know better when Edmonton has been bossing Columbus with the man advantage all night. The Jackets killed it, allowing three shots. Immediately after getting out of the box, Nick Foligno went looking for a fight and found one. He went to the box again at 5:56.
Of course, after the fight, Markus Nutivaara walked around a defender and fed Oliver Bjorkstrand who buried it.
Columbus goal: Bjorkstrand from Nutivaara and Harrington, 6:28.
After some end to end action. Oliver Bjorkstrand found Jack Johnson on the boards and threw a puck at the net that beat Brossoit at 8:59. Terrible goal allowed by Brossoit.
Columbus goal: Johnson from Bjorkstrand and Calvert, 8:59.
Columbus pressured hard after the two quick goals, leading to the question: where the hell was this effort for the first 45 minutes? Did they have to get absolutely embarrassed on home ice to even care about showing effort? It certainly appeared that way.
After some pressure from Columbus, Connor McDavid was able to take the puck up the ice, and Jesse Puljujarvi buried a rebound at 14:44. That goal falls on the defensemen (7-58 were on the ice) and their utter failure to clear the puck after two stellar saves from Korpisalo. That’s not on him.
Edmonton goal: Puljujarvi from McDavid and Nurse, 14:44
Both teams played some end to end hockey to end the game, looking to end the game without injury or incident. This, of course, did not stop the Oilers from scoring. After a turnover, Puljujarvi found McDavid who buried blocker side.
Edmonton goal: McDavid from Puljujarvi, 17:46
Brandon Dubinsky fought with 2 minutes to go and was injured and bloodied badly and hurt. This is why fighting is absolutely idiotic.
Edmonton Oilers 7 Columbus Blue Jackets 2
There are too many passengers on this team. You know their names, you know their games. At this point, it’s not coaching. It’s a lack of will, a lack of want to, a lack of heart, and it starts at the top. Every single player who has worn a letter this season is getting dragged along behind the sledge that the PBJ line and the first pairing is carrying. Tonight, the first line was shut down due to a concentrated effort from Edmonton. We saw the result.
I hope that fight was worth it for Nick Foligno because the captain has been terrible of late. Looking for a fight is idiotic, sitting in the box for seven minutes of the third when your team needs positives to build on going forward is worse. As the captain, you should know better than to head hunt and try to engage in a fight. Be a better leader or give up the C. Fighting is dumb and never leads to good outcomes. Ask Brandon Dubinsky.
The locker room needs shaken up. Too many players are failing to contribute. As noted on twitter:
Way too many passengers on this team. I keep hearing “just imagine if they start contributing,” and think “and imagine if the top line stops.” SMH— CapnCornelius (@CapnCornelius) December 13, 2017
If the top line falls off at all, or god forbid suffers an injury, the close standings in the Metropolitan Division can see the Jackets fall off, and fast. This team has to find a way to get out of their funk.
Alexander Wennberg was terrible, particularly on the power play. He had several shooting lanes on the power play and would not shoot, and was not respected by Edmonton. He has to change his game or his effectiveness will continue to falter. I currently do not see a point to his presence on either power play unit.
Torts presser-eight seconds. “I know you have a job to do but there’s no sense in me answering questions about tonight” #CBJ— Alison (@AlisonL) December 13, 2017
The team did not look interested for the first 45 minutes of this game. There was no urgency, no hustle, no willingness to battle. Edmonton literally skated rings around this team until they took their foot off the gas. That has to change. This team cannot come out unprepared like that. They did not look interested in supporting their goaltender and skating for three quarters of the game.
I will leave you with this note:
This team has to figure it out, fast. Clearly, only Z and Jones are trustworthy right now.