YOUR Columbus Blue Jackets opened the 2021 preseason with an emphatic 3-0 shutout victory over the host Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a Pens roster short on their top talent, while the Jackets played many of their most promising young players.
The Jackets were outshot 12-3 in the first period, in large part due to taking three penalties. This didn’t stop them from taking a lead into the first intermission, thanks to yet another wicked shot from rookie Yegor Chinakhov.
I don’t know how he does it, but I want to see a lot more of it.
The Jackets extended their lead early in the third period with a goal from the newly acquired Adam Boqvist. Props to Alexandre Texier for the perfect pass to set up this shot.
Emil Bemstrom iced the game with an empty net goal:
Let’s start at the end there with Bemstrom. He looked a lot stronger now than he did last season. He could absorb a hit without losing possession of the puck. It was imperative for him to work on this in the offseason. This increases his chances of making the team, and being able to thrive on any line.
Texier as well had a good game, though it’s noteworthy that he played wing while Justin Danforth centered him and Bemstrom. Texier also looked stronger, and he picked up where he left off last season with some stellar penalty kill shifts.
An unexpected star of the PK? The forward pair of Gregory Hofmann and Cole Sillinger. They got sticks on pucks in their own zone and got the puck up ice. They also thrived at 5v5 with Chinakhov.
The more I see of Sillinger the more I fall in love with this player. He’s big and strong. He has high end puck skills. He shows a lot of hockey sense. He’s impactful on both ends of the ice, and with or without the puck. I don’t think he’ll be going back to Medicine Hat of the WHL, and at this rate he might not go to Cleveland, either.
Another rookie that stood out was Stanislav Svozil. I expected that he would just get a game or two in preseason before joining the Regina Pats of the WHL for the regular season. Instead, he looked very comfortable playing with professionals. Mikko Lehtonen did not play in the final two periods, so Svozil got to play 18:56, and got time with several different partners.
Finally, a shutout is a shutout so let’s tip our caps to J-F Berube and Jet Greaves. Berube had the harder job, making 12 saves in the first period. Greaves had to stop just eight shots against, though some of those were difficult saves.
Overall, this is a Blue Jackets team that looked very familiar — in a good way. They locked down on defense and while they allowed a volume of shot attempts, they didn’t give up much quality. They were relentless on the forecheck and backcheck and used this to create chances the other way. Unlike some recent Jackets teams, however, they made sure that the shots they did take were close to the goal, and they battled for rebounds and deflections.
The second of three straight games happens on Tuesday night in Nationwide Arena against the Buffalo Sabres. With over 60 players in camp it’s possible it’s an entirely fresh roster, though I’m interested in which players end up playing twice this week. I expect players on the bubble (including guys like Sillinger and Bemstrom) will get lots of chances to make their case on the ice.