It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.
The Columbus Blue Jackets were supposed to be bad. The reigning President’s Trophy winners, the Colorado Avalanche, were once again supposed to be one of the best teams in the league. Even after a 4-4-1 start and a 5-4 overtime loss to Columbus on Wednesday, the Avs should have been expected to win on Saturday in the rematch in Columbus. Starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper returned in net. Key forwards Mikko Rantenen and Andre Burakovsky returned from injury. The Blue Jackets would be without the resurgent Patrik Laine. In his place was a patchwork first line consisting of two rookies (Cole Sillinger and Yegor Chinakhov) and one veteran (Jakub Voracek).
The first period was controlled by Colorado early, as expected. The Blue Jackets managed to strike first, however, thanks to a beautiful assist by Voracek. Gabriel Carlsson was ignored by the defense and was able to score from the back side of the play. Chinakhov earned his first NHL point with the secondary assist on this play.
what a WICKED wrister pic.twitter.com/2tr1Suh1Sz— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) November 6, 2021
The lead was short-lived, as Colorado tied it up less than five minutes later. Once again the Blue Jackets took too many penalties, and while the penalty kill was really good tonight, Colorado got its first goal just seconds after a penalty ended.
The second period began with a much better effort from the Jackets. There were long stretches of 5v5 play with no whistles and back-and-forth scoring chances, and it flippin’ owned. Both teams were playing great hockey and Kuemper and Elvis Merzlikins were standing tall in their respective nets.
At the midpoint of the period, however, Colorado took the lead on a questionable play. The puck was chipped into the Jackets’ zone and Merzlikins mistakenly believed that it was icing. The play was clearly waved off, however, and therefore Elvis let a live puck go past the goal, where Jake Bean retrieved it and was mobbed by Avs players. He coughed up the puck and Burakovsky got his second goal of the night. Even the Colorado broadcast was taken by surprise by the goal!
After this, I felt like it wouldn’t be our night. We’re losing to a better team. That’s fine. Right?
Just as they came back from a two goal deficit on Wednesday in Denver, the Blue Jackets came out POSSESSED in the third period.
Of all people to get the tying goal, it was (checks notes) Alexandre Texier? That can’t be right.
Well I’ll be damned.
But wait, there’s more! The new first line was buzzing all night, led by Voracek. With just over a minute left in regulation, it appeared that Yegor Chinakhov had scored his first NHL goal.
Sillinger ended up getting credit because he tipped it in, but either way it gave the Jackets a late lead.
Would they blow it like they did in Denver? Not so fast, my friend. The quiet assassin that is Oliver BJORKSTRAND got an empty netter to ice the game.
The Big Question
Y’all...are the Jackets good? I think they might be kinda good? They’re 7-3-0 and are in a three way tie for third place in the Metro. Their points percentage is tied for eighth in the league.
What you can say with certainty about this team is that they don’t quit. They battle and they find ways to get goals. They’re able to hang with good teams. The young kids are stepping up; the leading forwards in 5v5 ice time were Chinakhov and Sillinger. Can you imagine that under any previous Jackets coach? It’s not just Larsen pressing the right buttons, however; those players earned those minutes with their play.
One last thing
It feels like so long ago but it was really just over a calendar year ago that Ryan Murray was traded away. This was his first game back in Nationwide, and he received a well-deserved tribute:
Welcome back to Columbus, Ryan Murray!! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/2ZgSBa86MB— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) November 6, 2021
The homestand continues on Friday night as the Jackets host the Washington Capitals. I’m intrigued to see what the team can do when they combine the confidence of a three game win streak with a week of practice to prepare for two big divisional matchups.