To borrow a phrase from singer/songwriter and record producer Gwen Renée Stefani: This s—t is bananas.
The Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night, 2-0, giving goaltender Elvis Merzlikins his eighth straight win and fifth shutout in eight games. That feat hasn’t been accomplished by a rookie since Boston’s Frank Brimsek in 1938. Zach Werenski scored his 17th goal this season in the win as well. That’s never been done by a Blue Jacket defenseman, and there are still 27 games to go. The Blue Jackets outshot Detroit 44-16, the largest shot differential with a win in franchise history.
Honestly, that’s where this recap could stop and you’d be fine. Well, Boone Jenner scored an empty netter and the CBJ killed two penalties. There you go. Not much else happened, really. Elvis stopped everything he saw, which isn’t unusual, and the Blue Jackets were respectful enough to score what they needed and call it a night. It’s not something we’re unfamiliar with. We see it almost every night, it’s just getting to be absolutely positively ridiculous that this is what we see almost every night.
Look, at this point at this season, it’s obvious Columbus is pretty good and Detroit is a dog turd you don’t notice until you’ve already ground it into the carpet. Columbus was supposed to win this game, and they did. Detroit played the night before, Jimmy Howard hasn’t won since before Halloween, and they even lost a defenseman to injury in the first. The result shouldn’t be surprising, but it is.
Jimmy Howard did make a season-high 42 saves, to his credit. Sonny Milano, Nick Foligno and Gustav Nyquist each picked up an assist. Foligno finished with nine shots and Cam Atkinson finished with eight.
Colorado comes to town Saturday night. Buckle up.
Oh, one more time: 44-16.
The CBJ largely smothered the Red Wings in the first, though they didn’t score any goals of their own and didn’t play all that great. A particularly juicy 2-on-1 from Pierre-Luc Dubois and Oliver Bjorkstrand resulted in a whiff, yet they still pulled it off with Detroit having too many men on the ice for a penalty.
Columbus generated some solid looks and spent more than half the power play in the Red Wings’ end. Atkinson and Seth Jones had time to set up, but no goals to show for it. They don’t always go in.
Robby Fabbri came inches away from scoring for the visitors and altering the course of the whole night. His shot rang off the post following an impressive zone entry, dipping through the CBJ defense with a little more than five minutes left in the frame. Unfortunately for Fabbri, he would take a Jones wrister to the twigs and berries later in the period and head off (he would return in the second).
The period ended with the Blue Jackets squarely ahead in shots, 10-5. Half of those came from Atkinson.
Columbus kept up its offensive pressure to start the second and was eventually rewarded on the man advantage...sort of.
Gustav Nyquist drew an Andres Athanasiou slashing call 94 seconds into the period. While Columbus didn’t score—and Elvis Merzlikins was forced to make a dazzling 2-on-1 save while shorthanded—Detroit committed another penalty late in the power play. The CBJ held possession, looking for a chance but staying cool, exiting the zone and allowing both teams a line change (!) while the official kept his hand up for the delayed penalty.
After what felt like years on the 6-on-5—though it was actually 1:35—the CBJ broke through. Nick Foligno danced through the middle of the zone and shoveled a pass to Zach Werenski, who made no mistake from in close to score his 17th of the season.
1-0 Blue Jackets, Werenski (17) from Foligno (17) and Milano (12) at 4:57.
Cannot express how much fun it was to watch the Blue Jackets keep that puck and eventually score. Power moves. I also cannot express how much fun it is to watch Elvis play hockey. He had his stick knocked away after making a save, and, after barking at the official, he theatrically snatched it out of the air when Werenski handed it back to him. Elvis rules.
While Fabbri came back in the second, defenseman Madison Bowey did not return. Detroit played with five defensemen for the final 40 minutes.
Another CBJ power play—their third at this point—went by the wayside midway through the frame.
The rest of the period passed without incident, and Columbus headed to the dressing room with a 31-9 shot advantage. Incredible.
Seth Jones went off for slashing at 5:55 to give the Red Wings their first power play of the night. The penalty kill, with the help of Riley Nash, killed the penalty without any problems or shots to speak of. They even tested Jimmy Howard a bit.
Dubois went off for hooking at 12:39 to hand Detroit another opportunity. But you know how it went at this point. One shot for the visitors. Zach Werenski picked off an easy pass behind the net and whipped it out of the zone like he was offended they’d even try it.
Elvis added to his highlight reel with four minutes to go. Detroit pulled Howard at the two-minute mark and Jenner converted 25 seconds later on the empty cage. Game.