The Columbus Blue Jackets played well, as a whole, on Tuesday night in their loss to the New York Rangers. The Jackets skated well, took the game to the Rangers, and were stoned by a goaltender on top of his game. There were some errors to fix - too many penalties, some sloppy passing - but, on the whole, it was an improvement and a step in the right direction for a team looking to regain its mojo.
The Columbus Blue Jackets return to the ice tonight, welcoming the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first meeting between the two teams this season. The Maple Leafs boast two of the favorite for Rookie of the Year in Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. The two rookies have turned around the fortunes of the Leafs, last season’s worst team, and currently have the Leafs sitting in a playoff spot.
The Jackets, meanwhile, continue their homestand tonight. After losing Scott Hartnell to an injury early in the first period on Monday night, the team recalled Oliver Bjorkstrand on an emergency basis. Bjorkstrand has been working with Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Saad, a line that features a host of speed and scoring ability, so that’s where he will slot in if Scott Hartnell cannot go tonight. The Maple Leafs boast a potent offense, so scoring goals tonight will be at a premium for the Blue Jackets.
These teams are fairly even on paper but what sticks out to me is the Blue Jackets’ power play in utter free fall. Bobby Mac touched on it in yesterday's 30 in 30 as well - he noted that teams are preventing the first unit from entering the zone cleanly, and as a result, they panic. Perhaps that’s why it seems like, of late, the second unit has been the more successful of the two - they have the type of players (Scott Hartnell when he’s healthy, and Brandon Saad), who can dig the puck out after a chip-in. Maybe it’s time for a shakeup in the lines.
The Jackets played well on Monday, though they did not get the result they were looking for. The Leafs enter on a skid, and the Jackets need to get back on track. Tonight presents an excellent opportunity to do just that.
Columbus Blue Jackets
|Brandon Saad||Alexander Wennberg||Oliver Bjorkstrand|
|Boone Jenner||Brandon Dubinsky||Cam Atkinson|
|Josh Anderson||William Karlsson||Nick Foligno|
|Matt Calvert||Lukas Sedlak||Sam Gagner|
|Zach Werenski||Seth Jones|
|Jack Johnson||David Savard|
|Ryan Murray||Markus Nutivaara|
Toronto Maple Leafs
|Leo Komarov||Nazem Kadri
|James van Riemsdyk||Tyler Bozak||Mitch Marner|
|Zach Hyman||Auston Matthews||Connor Brown|
|Matt Martin||Ben Smith||Josh Leivo|
|Morgan Rielly||Nikita Zaitsev|
|Jake Gardiner||Connor Carrick|
|Matt Hunwick||Roman Polak|