After trading most of their biggest UFAs at the trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to be playing out the string here as the playoffs slip further away. Tonight is the first of many games where the team will be seeking to evaluate talent on an individual basis, determine roles and roster spots for next season.
The lineup against the Dallas Stars was a reflection of that rotation and evaluation.
Rookie signing Josh Dunne made his Columbus debut. Elvis Merzlikins got the start in net.
Here’s what happened.
Josh Dunne got the start in his debut. Good for the kid.
The first period started fairly slowly - after three minutes of game time, the teams had combined for just one shot on net. The teams traded possession and rushes, but the second shot on net - total in the game, both by the Stars - came with 13:30 remaining in the period. The Blue Jackets, however, struck first. After a turnover in the neural zone, Michael Del Zotto let a puck go that Jack Roslovic tipped past Jake Oettinger for the opening goal on their first shot of the game.
Columbus goal (1-0): Roslovic from Del Zotto and Grigorenko, 7:16
The Jackets earned the game’s first power play as Miro Heiskanen was boxed for holding, but the visitors were unable to capitalize. 10 shots total on net through 15 minutes of this one - not much to report. The Stars hit the crossbar on a deflected shot with four minutes remaining in the third period, but there was no damage done on the scoreboard. Merzlikins was fooled, but a goaltender’s best friend is his iron.
With just over three minutes to go in the period, Andrew Peeke was boxed for hooking, sending the Jackets to the kill for the first time. The Jackets managed to kill the penalty - Esa Lindell had the lone dangerous chance for Dallas, but Elvis got just enough. After 20 minutes, Columbus led 1-0. Shots favored the Jackets 7-5. With seconds to go, Oliver Bjorkstrand caught a pick flipped up under his visor and hit him right in the face. Hope he’s okay.
Bjorkstrand missed the start of the second period after taking a clearing attempt to the face in the dying seconds of the first period.
The second period started out much as the first did - lots of changes of possession, but few shots on net - Dallas had the only two through the first four minutes. Bjorkstrand returned to the bench, missing just five minutes, albeit with some fancy new stitches. Josh Dunne made a nice defensive play in front of Elvis to clear the net, stick taps to the rook. Dallas, on the other hand, had the first five shots on net of the second period.
With 10:31 remaining, the Jackets earned their first shot of the period. Eric Robinson threw a pass to Alexandre Texier, who shoveled it at Oettinger but was denied at the near post. Low event hockey continued through the middle portion of the second, though the Jackets hoist 10 shots on goal with 6:30 remaining in the period.
With 3:18 remaining, Dallas kept the puck in on a line change and Denis Gurianov found himself wide open on a back door pass, and tapped it past Elvis.
Dallas goal (1-1): Gurianov from Dickinson and Hanley, 16:42
After a turnover, Dallas quickly turned this game around and took the lead. Dallas hustle negated an icing, and Miro Heiskanen cut to the front of the net and buried his shot to take the lead 1:19 after the first goal.
Dallas goal (2-1): Heiskanen from Oleksiak and Dickinson, 18:01
Dallas, at this point, was outshooting Columbus 20-10. Columbus had three shots in the second period.
Awful period. Outshot 18-3 in the period, outscored 2-1.
Patrik Laine opened the period on a line with Josh Dunne and Stefan Matteau which ... is a choice.
With 11:44 remaining, Dallas threw another nail in the coffin. Denis Gurianov scored a third goal after an icing. A puck fired from a sharp angle hit Del Zotto on the shins and beat Merzlikins.
Dallas goal (3-1): Gurianov from Lindell and Klingberg, 8:16
With 4:52 to go, Roope Hintz (a game time decision) made Columbus pay. He drew two defenders and Joe Pevelski was left alone on the back post, burying it past Merzlikins.
Dallas goal (4-1): Pavelski from Hintz and Robertson, 15:08
Dallas saw the rest of the third period out. Columbus never seriously threatened, as the line blender churned and players looked lost on the ice. Mercifully, games are only sixty minutes, so this one ended. Columbus averaged fewer than one shot every three minutes on the ice.
Columbus Blue Jackets 1 Dallas Stars 4
Stick taps to the Josh Dunne and the Jackets for getting his family to the game for his debut. Awesome for the rookie.
Stick taps to Scott Harrington on 200th career NHL game.
Jack Roslovic has exceeded all my expectations this season. I hoped he wasn’t just an acquisition because he’s a local product, and he’s proven to be arguably the best center on the roster right now. No complaints. Hopefully he can stick around for awhile - he’s a nice middle six center who can put up points for an offense sorely lacking. He’s been the brightest spot in an often painful season.
Mercifully, there isn’t much of this season remaining. There’s no excuse for playing Laine with players who do not have a shot to be his center next season. There’s no purpose in playing Scott Harrington over Michael Lehtonen, who might get re-signed. Kevin Stenlund sitting while Matteau, Dalpe, and Sherwood play does this organization no long term benefits. Blending the lines to play Laine with not-top-six-players is utterly useless.
The countdown to a top five draft pick is on. Detroit is only one point back of Columbus.
The Blue Jackets end their two game set with the Stars on Saturday night. Faceoff is set for 8:00 EST.