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Opportunistic Isles shut out Blue Jackets

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No peace in the valley tonight

Columbus Blue Jackets v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Columbus Blue Jackets traveled to NYC to face the New York Islanders in a match that wasn’t exactly packed with thrills. If anything, it was full of chills – Zach Werenski was injured early in the game, the Isles were their usual physical and opportunistic selves, and the offense couldn’t get on the board.

Here are the details:

First Period:

Elvis Merzlikins was given the start after Joonas Korpisalo played the previous night against the Pens. In theory, it’s good to have the back up play against the relatively weaker offensive team in New York. In reality, the Islanders created a 3 on 2 transition play that turned into a tic-tac-toe passing clinic which allowed Anders Lee to snipe a pretty shot over Elvis’ shoulder and just under the crossbar. Cam Atkinson lost track of Lee on that play.

Shortly thereafter, Zach Werenski collided with Anders Lee in front of Elvis and immediately reacted in extreme pain. Werenski skated straight to the locker room and was declared out for the rest of the game during the intermission. Shoulders bear the brunt of most hits in the NHL and it seems like any hit, big or small, hard or glancing, could be the one to finally cause real harm. Hopefully, Werenski is back soon.

The Boone Jenner line, with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Gustav Nyquist, was the only line to get any kind of consistent pressure all game, but no pucks were getting behind Thomas Greiss.

Elvis made several solid saves including a beauty of a glove save after an Islander was able to get around and behind David Savard.

Late in the 1st period, Greiss took himself out of the game. Semyon Varlamov came in. There was no obvious collision or anything and the cameras later caught the NYI trainers checking Greiss’ pulse, but he stayed on the bench.

The period ended with little other action other than a prime Milano opportunity that beat Varlamov but not the iron.

Columbus 0-1

SOG: NYI – 13; CBJ – 12

Second Period:

The second period kicked off with Bjorkstrand creating a near breakaway chance right off the face off, but he couldn’t get a shot off.

And there really wasn’t a whole lot else going on for the first half of the second period.

Texier tries to feed Cam but #13 badly missed on the shot.

Just when I decided that the NYI are the only team in the NHL actually built to win games 1-0, an inopportune line change led to a Barzal breakaway. Elvis had zero chance. The NYI are built to win games 2-0.

It was a tough goal – the Islanders caught Columbus on long shifts several times tonight and they took advantage here. The Jackets actually had a long offensive possession working, but late in that shift Gustav Nyquist went for a change at the exact moment Seth Jones moved the puck forward. The puck was deflected towards the blue line at center. Bjorkstrand was, unknowingly, the only guy near the blue line. He hesitated for a half second when he realized that Sonny Milano had just jumped on the ice and there was no other help. A half-second is all Mathew Barzal needed.

Very late in the second, Seth Jones slid into the boards awkwardly and Rimer stated that he’s fine. I saw Seth Jones flexing his knee repeatedly, but he stayed in the game.

Columbus 0-2

SOG: NYI – 21; CBJ – 22

Third Period:

The third period started with a CBJ tic-tac-…dangit. The Pierre-Luc Dubois line, with Milano and Josh Anderson, almost had a beauty of a chance.

Alexandre Texier returned to the center spot with Nick Foligno and Atkinson.

Elvis continued making good, difficult saves including one against Jordan Eberle on the doorstep. I know what the stats say, but Elvis makes moves on the ice that simply make me think he has more to give than Korpi will in the long run.

The third period was a lot of Blue Jackets attempts but nothing really worth writing about. The Islanders always seemed to have one last guy or one last stick ready to thwart whatever opportunity Columbus had cooking.

With just under 4 minutes left in the game, the first penalty was called – Josh Bailey interfered with Jones. Torts pulled Elvis and the CBJ tried to get a goal with a 6 on 4 power play. They only got two shots on goal, though several other shots were blocked.

The power play ended. Shortly thereafter, the third period ended with the Islanders ahead 2-0, so they won 2-0.

SOG: NYI – 27; CBJ – 39

Random musings:

  • Elvis played well. Neither goal against was his fault, though the crossbar did save him once. But then, the crossbar saved Varlamov too. Merzlikins turned aside several high quality, high danger shots by the Islanders and didn’t look ruffled at any point. He finished with 25 saves and a .926%
  • The Jenner line was the only consistently threatening line all game. I know PLD has more points, but Bjorkstrand has been the most consistently dangerous forward this season, in my opinion
  • Cam Atkinson is invisible and doesn’t seem in synch with anyone he lines up with. Milano, Texier, Foligno, Ryan Murray… all tried to set him up with good passes, none were close to goals. He finished with 12:34 of ice time. This was buoyed by the late PP. Only Riley Nash had fewer minutes
  • After the 2nd period, Vladislav Gavrikov led the defensemen with TOI just over 18 minutes. Seth Jones ended the game with the highest TOI at 27 minutes. He played at least half of the third period. The other 4 healthy dmen ended up with 22-23 minutes of ice time
  • The New York Islanders are not a good team for a struggling offense to face. They don’t get penalized all that much this season and their defensive structure is built to stymie elite offenses. A middling offense has no chance