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Scott Harrington leads Blue Jackets to defeat

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Who didn’t see this coming?

NHL: DEC 03 Coyotes at Blue Jackets Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You know how you see an accident about to happen and you’re powerless to stop it and seems like it unfolds in slow motion in front of your eyes? That’s basically what tonight’s game was once we knew what the lineup would be.

Joonas Korpisalo back in net. Ok, fine. He’s the #1 starter. He made some huge saves in the third period to keep it a one goal game.

Eric Robinson returns to the lineup. Also good! He’s had a great season and should not have been scratched in the first place.

Emil Bemstrom is scratched for the first time this season. Wait, whaaaaaaaaat? He had seven points in November! Though, to be fair, only one in the last six games.

Scott Harrington enters the lineup following the injury to Zach Werenski. When two of your top four defensemen are out with injury (Werenski and Markus Nutivaara), you are forced to turn to your #8 defenseman. I get it. But...the Blue Jackets had called up rookie Andrew Peeke yesterday. He could have played. Would he have been overwhelmed in his NHL debut? Maybe. But while we don’t know how he’ll play, we do have a pretty good idea how Scott Harrington will play.

To whit: This is the Scott Harrington who had a 46.3 CF% as a Blue Jacket entering tonight. His 5v5 GF% in seven games this season: 16.67. That’s, uh, that’s not good. After tonight that dropped to 12.50%.

Oh yeah, I haven’t told you the outcome. The Columbus Blue Jackets lost 4-2 to the Arizona Coyotes. After that lead-in, you’re not surprised, are you? The worst part is that Harrington was on ice for the first three Arizona goals (the fourth goal was an empty-netter in the final minute). Let’s take a look:

Harrington’s partner, Vladislav Gavrikov, took a penalty late in the first period. I don’t understand why Harrington gets penalty kill minutes, though this goal wasn’t really his fault. We see the PK formation break down a bit, with everyone too attracted to following the puck. Both Riley Nash and Harrington pinch on the puck-carrier, Phil Kessel, as he drives to the corner. That’s more Nash’s fault for leaving the passing lane open to Christian Dvorak in the left circle. Then Nick Foligno comes across to challenge him, but not in time to stop his cross-ice pass to Clayton Keller. (Side note: how many times do we see power plays succeed due to such a pass across the “royal road” between the circles? And why do the Jackets never make those kinds of passes?). Now, at least this time the back post wasn’t completely abandoned. David Savard was in position to block it, but as he crouched and turned, the shot glanced off his left armpit then sailed over Korpisalo’s shoulder.

Harrington started this play by making a long outlet pass to Eric Robinson. Robinson got his pocket picked at the Arizona blue line by Carl Soderberg. Credit where it’s due: that’s a great play on his part. He carried the puck into the Columbus zone, where Harrington was in position but was not engaging yet. Lawson Crouse became the lead forward who drew Harrington’s attention closer to the net, though Harrington was unable to stop him. Soderberg instead passed laterally to his right to a streaking Christian Fischer. Fischer’s shot went above Korpi and inside the crossbar. Crouse tipped in the rebound but Fischer’s shot had gone in the goal. Gavrikov was slight out of position as well. It seems that he cheated to the right a bit (to cover for Harrington, perhaps).

What the hell is Harrington doing on this play? He follows the puck all the way to the top of the offensive zone. This leaves Sonny Milano as one of the blue bodies in front of the net. He’s unable to bully Crouse out of the way, so a long distance Soderberg bomb finds its way through traffic and off of Crouse for the game winning goal.

Harrington finished the night with the lowest 5v5 CF% on the team, 37.50% (9 shot attempts for, 15 against). Only he and Gavrikov were under 50% among the Jackets. They received the lowest 5v5 ice time of the defenders, at 13:55 each.

Ok, there are some positives

Early in the second period, Gus Nyquist was on the receiving end of a high stick, which drew a four minute double minor. The new look first unit featured Jenner, Dubois, Nyquist, BJORKSTRAND, and Jones. Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg were conspicuously absent from the power play, and Torts admitted as much after the game. That first unit got some looks, but no goal.

The second unit was a departure from the usual alignment, featuring two defensemen rather than just one. Both Ryan Murray and Dean Kukan were on the ice with Josh Anderson, Sonny Milano, and Nick Foligno. Murray was at the point while Kukan was on the right side.

Milano made an excellent cross-ice pass (oh hey, there’s that sort of pass I had been looking for) to Kukan, who skated into the right circle and fired away to tie the game. This was officially Kukan’s first NHL goal, though he did score in the playoffs last spring vs. Boston.

Kukan got the unenviable task of replacing Werenski on the top pairing, but he rose to the occassion. He was on his game on both ends of the ice. He had the second most ice time on the team (behind Jones) and second highest CF% (behind Murray).

Cam Atkinson has been a whipping boy on this site of late, and rightfully so. His goal drought continued tonight but it was not for lack of effort. He was second on the team with five shots on goal and had a 62.50 CF% (15 for, 9 against) in 16:04 of ice time. The highlight of his night was the work done by him and Nick Foligno to set up this Alexandre Texier goal:

Sexi Texi had not recorded a point since his goal against Detroit six games previously. He looked comfortable playing center, and that goal relieved a weight off his shoulders, and a monkey off his back:

Final Thoughts

Overall, it was an evenly battled game, with an expected score of 2.36-2.53 in favor of the Coyotes. Neither team allowed much room to work. There were some good chances (including a point blank Savard shot on a delayed penalty which went off the post) but just six high danger shot attempts out of sixty total. The Jackets’ offense can take shots, but they either miss the net (11 misses tonight) or fire it right at the goalie’s pads or off a defender (14 blocked shots).

With the offense needing every edge it can get, Emil Bemstrom should return to the lineup promptly. I would scratch Riley Nash again, since he only played 9:27 and had a 50% CF%. Give Andrew Peeke his NHL and return Scott Harrington to the press box. We cannot afford to have liabilities on defense with Artemi Panarin returning to the building on Thursday.