Lots to cover, so let’s get right to it:
The week that was
We had braced ourselves for a long season, as a necessary consequence of a rebuilding (or “resetting”) year. Instead? Your Columbus Blue Jackets got off to a 2-0-0 start in the opening weekend of the season.
A fascinating development is how different each game was. The first one saw an explosion of offense, with the Jackets scoring eight goals. The second game was the opposite, with the Jackets and Kraken fighting a low-scoring battle. The Jackets erased a 1-0 deficit in the third period and prevailed in overtime. The lucky bounces from Game 1 weren’t there, but the play in the defensive zone was much improved.
Most importantly, many players who needed to have a good start got one. Patrik Laine needs to prove that he can regain his scoring touch. He answered the bell with the overtime winner on Saturday. Max Domi is looking to bounce back from both a disappointing season AND an offseason shoulder surgery, while also trying to impress before hitting free agency next summer. He had two goals and in assist in the opener, and was a spark of energy in every shift.
Alexandre Texier failed to score a goal last season after the month of January. He was placed at center on the top line despite not clearing earning it in camp. He responded with a goal in the opening minute of the season. Cole Sillinger got to take the opening faceoff as an 18 year old making his professional debut. He has looked comfortable so far, and earned an assist in that first game.
Finally, Elvis Merzlikins has so far lived up to his new contract extension. Through two starts he has a 1.47 GAA and has saved 94.8% of shots faced.
Laine stands out
As I said, Laine made his mark on the ice:
(I love how the crowd rises in unison, and how it syncs up with his arms raising.)
He also gained notice off the ice for his sartorial choices. On Thursday, he looked like some futuristic art thief:
Should I update my profile pic to this? pic.twitter.com/lG0I89gOYY— Pale Dragon (@PaleDragonCbus) October 14, 2021
On Saturday, his hat and glasses matched his yellow sports car:
Can you tell my son was thrilled to meet a @BlueJacketsNHL player for the first time ever? And better yet, the one that scored the game winning goal?— Jaimee W - 8️⃣0️⃣❤️ (@CBJaimee) October 17, 2021
Thank you @PatrikLaine29 for once again taking time for your fans. You made Reagan's night!!! (Hayley's too! ) #CBJ #5thLaine pic.twitter.com/8buJoJzElK
I’m glad that he seems to be more relaxed this season, and is having fun with it. Last year was no fun at all for him. I always appreciate when a player makes times for the fans like that. I also love that he’s getting to experience the full fan experience inside Nationwide. He got a big cheer during the introductions on Thursday, and got to feel the full euphoria of the postgame celebration after his game-winner on Saturday. Hopefully this has restored his confidence and helps him carry this momentum forward through the season.
The family of Matiss Kivlenieks returned to Ohio from Latvia to participate in pregame ceremonies in both Columbus and Cleveland, as both teams paid tribute to the late goaltender:
ESPN’s Emily Kaplan wrote a very touching article about the friendship of Merzlikins and Kivlenieks, and how the former is coping in the months since his “little brother’s” passing. There was also a video segment as part of The Point on Friday afternoon. That segment was followed by discussion, including this reaction from former head coach John Tortorella:
Former Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella was emotional after reflecting on the life of Matiss Kivlenieks. pic.twitter.com/rPQDZCksGh— ESPN (@espn) October 16, 2021
But wait, there’s more
Here at The Cannon, we bid farewell to writers TheDominator16 and William Chase, and we welcome BurkusCircus52, who debuted with a piece arguing that it was a mistake to rush Sillinger to the NHL.
The Cannon staff made our annual preseason predictions.
Rachel was on hand for both opening weekend games, and shared her favorite pictures of Columbus fans and players.
Boone Jenner was named captain, with Zach Werenski, Oliver BJORKSTRAND, and Gus Nyquist as the alternates. All four players scored a goal in the first game.
Torts was famous for his love of animals, but apparently Brad Larsen is also a dog guy. LOOK AT THIS GOOD GIRL
Dogs making appearances during media availability should be a more common thing. This is Lady, Brad Larsen’s dog. pic.twitter.com/O6wtNVpuuJ— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) October 16, 2021
Russian rookie Yegor Chinakhov was a healthy scratch for the opener, then was sent down to the Cleveland Monsters to make his North American pro debut on Saturday. He responded with what we already recognize as a trademark Chinakhov goal:
TNT’s first NHL broadcast included an intermission segment where NBA and broadcast legend Charles Barkley attempted to stop shots from Wayne Gretzky. He was, uh, unsuccessful (credited with one save on five shots, but that one may have deflected in)
That Wayne Gretzky guy may just have some potential. pic.twitter.com/KULg1eFivs— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) October 14, 2021
I loved seeing how good Gretzky’s hands still are.
Any thoughts on ESPN and TNT as the new broadcast partners for the league? I thought they were a breath of fresh air after the stagnant NBC broadcasts. Not everything they’re trying works, but I appreciate the experimentation. Just having ESPN promote the game across all their platforms is huge for growing the league’s popularity.
Tuesday: at Detroit
Thursday: vs. NY Islanders
Saturday: vs. Carolina
Golden opportunity to get a third straight win on Tuesday, but then things get a lot tougher. The Islanders and Hurricanes may be the two best teams in the divisions. It helps to face them at home. Split those games, or get four points for the week, and I’ll be happy.
Play me out
Last week I was frequently revisiting the album Afterglow by Mike Mattison, which was released last year but I didn’t discover until earlier this year. I’ve long been a fan of Mattison due to his work with Tedeschi Trucks Band, Derek Trucks Band, and Scrapomatic. He’s got a great, soulful voice and his a gifted songwriter as well. His solo work has the same blues roots as his other projects, but adds a little more of a country/roots feel.