The Columbus Blue Jackets were forced to endure a three day break after Saturday’s total meltdown to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Jackets returned to the ice last night against the Edmonton Oilers looking to right the ship and get back to their winning ways. The point streak was broken and fans have spent the last three days stewing as a result of how Saturday’s game ended.
Some fans were frustrated with Brad Larsen and the terrible power play, which John Tortorella addressed to the media:
So, you're not thrilled with "Brad Larsen's" power play?— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) October 28, 2019
John Tortorella has some thoughts about that, including: "It's bullshit, absolute bullshit," and "It pisses me off."#CBJ
(full quote) -> pic.twitter.com/ldQSKB7ywj
Meanwhile, Tortorella also addressed Korpisalo’s outburst:
Also, for those who weren't thrilled with Joonas Korpisalo's fits of rage vs #Flyers ... John Tortorella said it has already been addressed.— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) October 28, 2019
"Can't happen ... can't happen again. Won't happen again."#CBJ
Full quote -> pic.twitter.com/bY7nIvyn9t
After the game, the team announced that Ryan Murray would be out 3-4 weeks with a broken hand. The team also announced that Alexandre Texier would miss 2-4 weeks with a lower body injury. The team replaced Murray with Markus Nutivaara and Jakob Lilja respectively.
Coaches also tweaked the power play lineup:
New #CBJ PP groups:— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) October 29, 2019
Atkinson - Bemstrom - Wennberg
Milano - Nyquist - Bjorkstrand
With Joonas Korpisalo getting his 10th start in 12 games to open the season, the Jackets were looking to get back on track and try to get two points from the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers entered the game first in the Pacific Division but 1-3-1 in their last five games while scoring just 1.4 goals per game. The team does still have Connor McDavid, however, who had 5-12-17 in eight career games against the Blue Jackets entering last night.
Could the Jackets find a way to get a win? Here’s what happened.
The Oilers won the opening draw but the Jackets were the first team to establish zone pressure. Zach Werenski had the first shot attempt, but his look from the point went high and wide of Oilers goalie Mike Smith. The Oilers hit the post twice in the first two minutes but were unable to find the back of the net as the Boone Jenner line spent their opening shift hemmed into their own zone. Jujhar Khaira had the best chance, beating Korpisalo blocker side, but was unable to capitalize.
At 3:12, Edmonton drew the first penalty as Oliver Bjorkstrand was held by Riley Sheahan. The Oilers, second in the NHL with a 31% power play, were held to just one shot and no goals on the power play. Josh Anderson in particular put in an exceptionally strong shift while down a man, using size and speed to kill time. After a turnover with 13:33 remaining, Khaira walked through the defense and ripped a wrist shot on Korpisalo but the goaltender was able to recover his rebound and cover as the game went to the first TV timeout of the period.
After blocking a shot, Pierre-Luc Dubois went to the box for tripping at 7:28. Cam Atkinson took the puck as he came off the bench and saw his shorthanded attempt turned aside with 11:30 remaining in the period. On a rush up the ice sprung by goaltender Mike Smith, Leon Draisaitl found James Neal who was unmarked behind the defense and beat Korpisalo for his eighth power play of the season.
Edmonton goal (0-1): Neal from Draisaitl and McDavid, 9:11
On the Oilers goal, you can see the two #CBJ defensemen get crossed up on the change by the bench, helping lead to Neal being open alone in front. pic.twitter.com/MrS4biNKnr— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) October 31, 2019
It appeared that the pass from Mike Smith caught the Jackets in the middle of a change. Seth Jones, skating off, tried to get back and in doing so made Zach Werenski pause for fear of a too many men penalty. As a result, Neal got free and found the back of the net.
Through the first ten minutes of the game, the Jackets managed one shot on goal. It was not exactly the start the team was looking for, though a strong shift from the fourth line forced Mike Smith to cover the puck to relieve the pressure with 9:00 remaining.
After some end to end action falling the second TV timeout, the Jackets appeared to find their footing but were unable to truly test Mike Smith. With 5:10 remaining, Sonny Milano dished the puck across the front of the net but Mike Smith was equal to the task. With 5:01 remaining, Sonny Milano took the Jackets’ third penalty of the first period as he went to the box for interference for knocking the stick out of Matt Benning’s hands.
Korpisalo made a big stop while on the kill to keep the deficit at one. As a result, the Jackets were able to kill their second of three penalties. Unfortunately, there was a rebound right as the penalty ended and it bounced to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who found Leon Draisaitl and was able to bury it into a gaping net.
Edmonton goal (0-2): Draisaitl from Nugent-Hopkins and Chiasson, 17:02
Just as the PK is about to expire, Nugent-Hopkins with the royal road pass to Draisaitl and it’s 2-0 Edmonton #CBJ pic.twitter.com/vHQKxeMjEw— Alison (@AlisonL) October 31, 2019
The first period ended with Edmonton continuing to dominate the puck and offensive zone time. Edmonton led two goals to none after the first period. Shots favored Edmonton 9-5, shot attempts favorited Edmonton 23-12.
2-0 Edmonton after 1. #CBJ could hold at even strength, but three power plays for the Oilers created a lot of opportunity.— Alison (@AlisonL) October 31, 2019
here’s the shot map for even strength compared to the shot map for all situations. pic.twitter.com/wIkwkKH2X8
The Oilers also hit three posts in the first period.
After an abysmal first period, the Jackets took the ice looking to get back into the game and find a way to get pucks on net - the team did not record a shot on goal in the final 5:12 of the first period.
Edmonton opened the period with Zack Kassian ripping a shot unmarked from the blue line, but he missed the net. After Alexander Wennberg won a faceoff in the offensive zone, David Savard forced a Mike Smith glove save and hold with just 47 seconds gone in the period.
On a rush up the ice, Jujhar Khaira broke the puck out of the defensive zone and started a rush up the ice and found Nugent-Hopkins. The puck snuck through Joonas Korpisalo and found its way into the back of the net. Despite contact, Korpisalo never had a chance and the Jackets did not challenge the play. Goal stood.
Edmonton goal (0-3): Khaira from Nugent-Hopkins and Gagner, 1:20
The Jackets, following the third goal allowed on 11 shots, were able to sustain offensive zone possession but were unable to find a way to force Smith to make a save on a high danger chance. Smith was able to glove an Atkinson shot that he saw the whole way.
Leon Draisaitl made it 4-0. On a rush, Zack Kassian feathered a pass beyond Vladislav Gavrikov and beat Korpisalo. That’d do it for his night.
Edmonton goal (0-4): Draisaitl from Kassian, 4:56
Immediately after the goal, the team pulled Korpisalo who had allowed 4 goals on 12 shots. Elvis Merzlikins made his Nationwide Arena debut. Nugent-Hopkins took a penalty in the offensive zone and, after an Oiler stick broke, Zach Werenski was able to beat Mike Smith to make it a three goal game on the power play.
Columbus goal (1-4): Werenski from Atkinson, 6:55
Well well well, if it isn't a power play goal from #CBJ Zach Werenski: pic.twitter.com/1VktEcQSz4— The Cannon (@cbjcannon) October 31, 2019
Hey, a power play goal. With the goal, Werenski tied Rostislav Klesla for most goals by a defenseman in franchise history at 41.
#CBJ were in a 1-for-26 tailspin on the power play before Werenski’s goal.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) October 31, 2019
Also, per #CBJ PR, Werenski’s goal is the 41st of his young career, already tying him with Rostislav Klesla for the franchise mark by defensemen.
That Werenski goal also broke an 8-0 run by CBJ opponents dating to the 2:15 mark of the third period against Philadelphia.
PLD nearly found a second goal for Columbus in the period but was denied by Mike Smith with 10:33 remaining. Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson had a two on two rush broken up or Anderson was all alone with a shot at Smith.
The teams seemed contend to play in the neutral zone and trade possession if not chances until the 6:11 remaining mark of the period. At that point, the Oilers forced a strong pad save and cover from Merzlikins and a scrum broke out behind him as Gavrikov defended the goaltender.
With 4:08 remaining, the Jackets drew a penalty as Zack Kassian went to the box for holding the stick against Gustav Nyquist. Just 13 seconds into the power play, the Oilers took a high sticking penalty and gave the Jackets 1:47 of a two man advantage. Despite several chances the Oilers killed all of the shorthanded time and kept the deficit at three. Zack Kassian nearly had a shorthanded breakaway as he stepped out of the box but Merzlikins was equal to the chance
With 20.1 seconds to go in the period, the Jackets took a too many men on the ice penalty to give the Oilers their fourth power play off the night. Sonny Milano served the penalty.
After 40 minutes, the Oilers led 4-1. Elvis made seven saves on seven shots in relief of Korpisalo.
End of the second. 4-1 Oilers.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) October 31, 2019
Shots on goal: 19-17 Edmonton
Shot attempts: 45-32 Edmonton#CBJ
The third period started with the Jackets on the kill for 1:40 and frustrations running high among frustrated fans following bad defensive plays and a poor effort with the two man advantage.
Seconds into the period Connor McDavid saw two chances right in front of net but was unable to direct anything on net in front of Merzlikins. The Jackets were able to kill the man advantage and this time did not allow a goal immediately afterward. The Jackets began to exert more offensive zone pressure but failed to find any high danger chances to truly test Mike Smith.
On the bright side, Elvis looked solid in relief. He made a nice save on Patrick Russell on the goalmouth nearly halfway through the period.
Here's the nice stop by Elvis Merzlikins on Patrick Russell #CBJ pic.twitter.com/6DZtPqsQLf— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) October 31, 2019
With 10:38 remaining, Sonny Milano saw a shot saved by Mike Smith high over the net and his rebound chance was covered by Smith. Milano did have an open Josh Anderson on his wing and never looked at him.
The teams continued to trade end to end chances through the middle part of the period but neither team seriously tested the other. Both seemed content to see this game out with no injuries. Markus Nutivaara was able to stand up McDavid on a one on one chance as the game went to the second TV timeout of the third period with just over seven minutes to play.
With 5:15 to go, Nick Foligno jumped on the ice and played the puck and earned the Jackets a second too many men on the ice penalty on the night, again served by Sonny Milano. Edmonton, 1-4 on the night with six shots, were unable to score as they notched just one shot on goal.
The game ended long after most of the fans had filed out of the arena. Poor effort at home as the Jackets lost their second in a row.
Edmonton Oilers 4 Columbus Blue Jackets 1
The Jackets scored their second power play goal in their last 27 attempts in the second period. Hooray! It’s like seeing a unicorn at this point. Naturally, the Jackets managed to utterly waste 1:47 of 5 on 3 time and fail to even get set up for the first 30 seconds as Leon Draisaitl managed to deflect several passes aimed at setting up plays.
I'm no coach, but to me, biggest issue on the #CBJ power play is not enough crisp lateral movement to get the goalie moving side-to-side. Whether that's coaching, players, confidence, a big combo of all of it, I dunno. But that's my take. That is all.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) October 31, 2019
Svoboda ain’t wrong, folks.
Zach Werenski has 1-2-3 in his last four games. Good for the young blue liner.
Elvis Merzlikins stopped all 19 shots he saw after getting put into the game when Korpisalo got pulled. Nice debut in relief in Nationwide Arena for the young netminder. Here’s hoping the team and fans see more of him going forward.
Merzlikins has a 1.89 goals against average and .942 save pct. (49-of-52) in his past two outings. #CBJ— CBJ Public Relations (@BlueJacketsPR) October 31, 2019
Maybe play him more often? Just a thought.
Two too many men penalties on the night. Mental mistakes from players (Nick Foligno) who should know better. That doesn’t include a botched change from Seth Jones who was slow getting to the bench that allowed James Neal to score the first goal after Mike Smith’s great play. So, so many mental mistakes for the team. They might have the youngest roster, but veterans making mistakes is something the team cannot afford.
Torts: “I thought we’d play better, we didn’t.” That’s not good enough. The players and coaches were not ready to go at the start of the game and the team totally struggled to start. The coaching staff claimed they would be accountable, and Torts explicitly said to hold him accountable. Well, here we are: Torts, the team sucked to open the game against an opponent that had lost 4 of 5 coming in. Where was your team to open the game?
Torts on the 5 on 3: “We just didn’t score.” No further comment.
To wrap things up: the Jackets just were not good enough from the jump. The team seemed flat footed, took too many penalties early in the first period, spotted a dangerous team an early lead, and generally looked timid. The team’s defensive play was awful, the mental mistakes were apparent from the jump, and the goaltending was exceptionally subpar. Once Merzlikins came in (down 0-4) the team seemed to settle in but by then it was too little too late - the team never showed any dangerous chance of coming back. To get into the game, the team would have needed to do something on the 5 on 3. Instead, the team reverted to its static and slow passing ways, never making Mike Smith move laterally to generate a dangerous scoring chance.
The Jackets are not awful, but they are certainly far from consistent and have serious questions they need to answer - from the coaching staff on down. There has been a lot of talk about taking advantage of opportunities and accountability since training camp started and thus far no one, from the coaching staff on down to the player, is doing much of either.
It’s time to right the ship. Who is going to step up and take charge of this situation before it heads further south? The team cannot afford for things to spiral out of control.
The Jackets will take on the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues on Friday night in St. Louis. Faceoff is set for 8:00 EST.
Stay tuned to The Cannon for continued coverage.