The Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 on Saturday afternoon at Nationwide Arena. Well, sort of. If Thursday’s defeat was more like Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh, then today was Columbus vs. Wilkes-Barre. Still, it was good to finally see many of the CBJ regulars in action. Here’s a look at the lines that played, and what it tells us about how the opening night roster is shaping up:
Alexandre Texier - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
In the first preseason appearance for the top line, rookie Texier gets the first opportunity to replace Artemi Panarin. First, the bad: this line was not as dymanic as you would expect a top line to be against the competition they faced. Even Dubois and Atkinson, who have played together for the last 1.5 seasons, had some timing issues. There was a shorthanded breakaway in the third period that should have been a goal, but each pass was off just a little.
The good news for Texier is that he LOOKS like an NHL player now. He seems bigger than he did last year, and stronger. I don’t know if he deserves to be on the top line yet, but he certainly should be on the NHL roster.
All three of these players were on the top power play unit. The last two power plays were lackluster, but the first delivered the first Columbus goal of the game. Most projections expected Atkinson to return to the left circle, where he was prolific in 2016-17. Instead, he remained on the right side like he has since Panarin joined the PP. Texier took the left circle. With PLD in the middle, the Frenchman and French-Canadian set up an all-alone Atkinson for a wide open shot:
Someone might want to keep an eye on him. pic.twitter.com/qqlu8bvN4h— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) September 21, 2019
Nick Foligno - Boone Jenner - Josh Anderson
The Grit Line returned, and I’m happy to see it. This line picked up where they left off, bringing energy on every shift. Even Foligno - the favorite whipping boy of the comments of late, for some reason - played pretty well. This line gives an example of how the Jackets should play this season: keep it simple, go north-south, forecheck aggressively, and attack the net.
They got the game-clinching goal, an empty netter in the third.
Eric Robinson - Justin Scott - Kole Sherwood
This line is going to wreck some fools in Cleveland. They definitely stood out as having a great game. They showed a lot of the same habits as the Grit Line: forechecking, attacking the net, etc.
They were rewarded with this beaut of a goal in the third period to break the tie:
"Pucks on net" - Eric Robinson postgame probably. pic.twitter.com/W1ZtyJ9r2v— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) September 21, 2019
No such thing as a bad shot.
All were confirmed after the game to be going to Cleveland:
These players were released from their PTOs with the Blue Jackets BUT currently hold AHL only contracts with the Monsters— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) September 21, 2019
Anton Karlsson#CBJ #CLEMonsters
Trey Fix-Wolansky - Kevin Stenlund - Nathan Gerbe
This line did not stand out. They were on ice for the one goal against, though it wasn’t their fault. The lack of size on the wings was not ideal (together they are still less than 11’ tall).
Ryan Murray - Andrew Peeke
Markus Nutivaara - David Savard
Scott Harrington - Gabriel Carlsson
It may be too early to read too much into the defensive pairings, but I’m going to do that anyway. Will Nuti and Savard stay together like they did after Murray’s injury last winter? In that case, will Murray play on the top line with Jones, or on the third pair with someone like Kukan or Gavrikov?
Harrington wasn’t terrible today, but I admit that I cringed at the thought of Harrington and Carlsson facing the Penguins together. I saw that in the 2017 playoffs and never wanted to see it again.
For the first two periods, Korpi was not challenged very much. What shots he faced were not high danger shots. Even the goal was a long distance, seeing-eye slap shot. With all of the traffic Korpi never saw it.
In the third period, the Penguins turned on the pressure and Korpi rose to the occassion. He stood on his head to make some saves. The most important part of his game is that he appears to have improved his rebound control. If he didn’t hold on to the puck, it was deflected to some place where a Jacket would get to it first to clear it. That limited the number of second chance shots the Pens had. That was a hole in Korpi’s game previously, so if he’s fixed it that bodes well for his upcoming season.