Less than two weeks ago at Nationwide Arena, the Carolina Hurricanes scored seven straight goals to erase a 4-0 Columbus Blue Jackets lead. After losing three of the next four games after that, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Jackets were unlikely to get a win tonight in Raleigh.
Dear reader, I am both delighted and still a bit baffled that you would be wrong. Against all odds, the Blue Jackets showed up on both ends of the ice and for all 60 minutes, to deliver a definitive 6-0 win.
The Jackets were dealt mixed news before the game, as “best forward on the team” Alexandre Texier returned from the COVID list, but Jake Voracek was added to the list after a positive test. This meant that Emil Bemstrom got to remain in the lineup, and he made the most of it.
The real deal Emil pic.twitter.com/LjICRpuUkn— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) January 14, 2022
The Jackets had a 1-0 lead after the first period, but unlike the New Year’s game, this wasn’t a fluke. They had 19 shots on goal, which was the most they’ve had in the first period all season. They led the expected goals 2.49-0.68, so if anything it could have been a bigger lead. The boys were buzzing.
A net-front scuffle to end the first period resulted in a 4v4 to start the second. Carolina looked to be getting some momentum back, but rookie Yegor Chinakhov padded the lead with this breakaway. Props to countryman Vladislav Gavrikov for the primary assist.
NHL Video Highlight - Yegor Chinakhov scores against the Carolina Hurricanes to make it 2-0. pic.twitter.com/h9IqrxHOEJ— Blue Jackets Game Bot (@CBJGameBot) January 14, 2022
It was a 2-0 lead through two periods, and while the Jackets still were controlling possession and chances, there was always the worry there would be another third period collapse.
That’s...uh...that’s not what happened.
Four and a half minutes in, Boone Jenner stole the puck in the neutral zone, then made a pass across the royal road to Patrik Laine. Laine had no shot attempts (not just shots on goal, not even a blocked or missed shot) in the first two periods. That line was the only Columbus line getting dominated. None of that mattered as Laine released his lethal one-timer. This was a rocket.
More of this, please, Patty.
You know how the Jackets have had a knack for giving up goals in quick succession? They flipped that script. Just 37 seconds later, the Russian rookie delivered the second Yegor Bomb of the night:
Not to be topped, fellow rookie Cole Sillinger got a breakaway goal of his own:
GIVE IT UP FOR THE YOUTHS pic.twitter.com/JJMmq4bZjV— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) January 14, 2022
Poor Jack Lafontaine. A week ago he was at the University of Minnesota, then opted to leave to sign a pro contract due to Carolina’s sudden lack of goalie depth. He dressed as backup tonight and had to go in cold after Fredrik Andersen got pulled after the fourth goal. Then the Sillinger shot was the first he faced.
What I love to see is goals from the players who are known for their shot: Bemstrom, Chinakhov, Laine. Shooters can be streaky, too, so let’s hope this gets them all started.
At this point the game was out of hand, but it was a matter of whether or not Elvis Merzlikins could preserve the shutout. Carolina had a power play, and it was killed off. Tony DeAngelo was tripped, but it went uncalled (the refs swallowed their whistles for most of the night) and he got booted for complaining to the refs.
Back at even strength, Jack Roslovic added a breakaway goal of his own.
Roslovic has been struggling of late, but his line tonight with Texier and Bemstrom was outstanding. They contributed the first and last goals, and in between had a xGF% of 56.59.
Defense and goaltending
I led with the goals, but the star of the show was Elvis Merzlikins. He made many highlight worthy saves like this:
He earned his second shutout of the season and the ninth of his career.
As great as he was, credit to the Jackets skaters for helping him out. It’s not like Elvis was under siege all night. When he did give up rebounds, chances are a white jersey was nearby to get his stick on it and get the puck forward and out of the zone. The second chance opportunities just weren’t there for the Canes.
Carolina did get more of a push in the final ten minutes, but not enough to get back in the game. It wasn’t just the defensemen, but the forwards as well were where they needed to be. Positioning was better, and the sticks were kept active to interrupt passes and shots.
All Star news
Before the game, the league announced the All Star rosters. Zach Werenski is the Columbus representative for the Metropolitan Division. Voracek is on the last man ballot to make the last spot on the Metro roster. You can vote up to 10 times per day at this link. The game is next month in Las Vegas.
The Jackets now face another stiff test as they travel to South Florida to play the Panthers on Saturday at 6 p.m.