Even on paper, this was not an even matchup. The Blues were playing their final preseason game, and in front of a decent-sized home crowd. This was a dress rehearsal for their regular season lineup. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, had called up a number of players from Cleveland Monsters camp. This often looked like an AHL team vs. an NHL team.
#CBJ tonight in St. Louis— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) October 8, 2021
Even though we may have expected a loss, the way in which they lost is disappointing. There were players dressing for Columbus with NHL experience, and who are battling for the final spots on the 23 man roster. They were largely invisible tonight, or they were noticeable in bad ways.
The most impressive forward lines were the bottom two. They were aggressive on both ends of the ice. They didn’t get many quality scoring chances but they at least possessed the puck and gave St. Louis fits. St. Louis native Josh Dunne in particular was a standout.
On defense, the only pair with a positive +/- for the night was Mikko Lehtonen and Gavin Bayreuther. Gabriel Carlsson was -2, his partner Andrew Peeke was -3 as was Scott Harrington, and Dean Kukan was a woeful -4. One night can’t decide a player’s fate but given his age, experience, and upside, Lehtonen may have secured a spot as at least the 7th defenseman in Columbus to start the season. Kukan’s contract may save him but Harrington and Carlsson have done little this preseason to suggest they’re NHLers.
The one bright spot
The only forward on the bubble who stood out in a positive way was Emil Bemstrom. Even in the first two periods he was noticeable on the forecheck and backcheck. In the third period, he got the Jackets on the board with two goals. The first was all Bemstrom on a breakaway, with some nifty stick work.
The second was generated by a lovely pass from Kevin Stenlund. Brendan Gaunce made the score a little more respectable in the final minute with a gritty goal.
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I watched this whole game, so now it’s time for you to suffer, too. If you don’t want to be sad, then skip to the end of the article. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The Blue Jackets controlled the first half of the first period, then this dumb goal flipped the momentum against them permanently. Weird bounce off of Tarasenko, which makes Kukan look much worse than he probably deserves. Maybe next time don’t send the clearing pass that close to the goal?
Korpi was vulnerable all night on the lower block side.
It’s hard to tell from this angle, but I think this goal bounced off of Carlsson? Tough break.
What exactly are the defenders doing here? Carlsson is way up in the slot, and Peeke gets caught in the middle, too, leaving James Neal open for the rebound on the backside. (Sidenote: Neal could be great pickup for the Blues. He’s on a PTO after getting bought out by Edmonton. His last contract was awful but on a cheap deal he still has value)
Good passing by St. Louis here, but the Jackets bit way too hard defending the right side of the ice, leaving so much room for Bortuzzo to operate on the left side.
The Blue Jackets had to kill off consecutive penalties, and even managed a 2-on-1 (Peeke and Foudy) on the 5v3 portion, but then shortly after it went back to 5v4, the PK was all out of sorts and gave up a goal.
The final Blues goal featured Peeke whiffing helplessly at Tyler “Horseman” Bozak.
The preseason comes to a close on Saturday night in Nationwide Arena against the dreaded tuxedo pigeons. Expect to see a much better lineup from Columbus as they conduct their own dress rehearsal ahead of roster cuts on Monday and the season opener on Thursday.