On Wednesday night, the Columbus Blue Jackets entered the game coming off a lackluster effort at home on Sunday in a loss to Ottawa, but would be getting defenseman Adam Boqvist back from the COVID list. They also had a home crowd hopped up on free Fun Dip. (To be honest I missed how the Fun Dip meme got started, but people seem to be enjoying it) They hosted the Calgary Flames, a surprisingly good team coming off of a rough stretch. Which team would get some good news?
Sadly, it wasn’t us.
The Flames struck first, on an unfortunately representative play by Patrik Laine. It started well enough, with Laine using his big body to make an open ice check in the neutral zone, after which he gained possession and entered the zone. Later in the cycle, he lost control of a pass near the blue line, and the Flames were off to the races.
The rest of the period featured a lot of back-and-forth hockey, with more of a push from Calgary at the end. They finished with a 16-9 edge in shots on goal.
The second period is where things started to go off the rails. Early in the period, Yegor Chinakhov was called for hooking, which was an understandable call but a fairly weak one. If you want to call the game tight, that’s fine, but Calgary was getting away with similar plays and not getting called.
Anyway, early in the power play, the puck got caught up in Boone Jenner’s sweater, and he trapped it against his body before knocking it to the ice. He started to go off on a breakaway, but was called for closing his hand around the puck. Another ticky-tack call, and suddenly the Jackets faced 1:16 of 5 on 3 hockey. Remarkably they survived it, and Elvis Merzlikins was stellar.
I hoped that a kill like that would spark something on the Jackets’ bench. Yet they still struggled to get anything set up in the offensive zone. They struggled to get very many shot attempts, let alone actual shots on goal. When Jacob Markstrom made a save, there usually wasn’t a second chance for the Jackets.
The Flames added a second goal on a controversial play. The refs had to huddle to determine if the call on ice should be a goal. They went with that, then reviewed to see if Andrew Mangiapane’s stick was above the crossbar when it deflected the puck. It looks to me like the blade is up by Zach Werenski’s shoulder, which would be well above the limit. Alas, it was far enough away from the goal that the video evidence was considered inconclusive. Just another example of a lot of borderline calls going the wrong way.
A high stick? Nah.— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 27, 2022
That's a perfect stick. pic.twitter.com/z8By03mWyM
In the waning seconds of the second period, I hoped that the Jackets could just hold on and get back to the locker room with a two goal deficit and regroup from there. Instead, a sloppy play from Werenski let the Flames get the dagger with just five seconds left. It’s a pass that looks great when two highly skilled players do it, but there just aren’t enough Jackets that are on Werenski’s skill level. I also think that’s way too reckless of a pass to make at that point in the period. Just hold on to the puck and cycle. Why risk a turnover at all?
Johnny Gaudreau breaks up the Columbus odd man rush, then makes a great pass to Matthew Tkachuk.— Ring of Fire CGY (@RingOfFireCGY) January 27, 2022
That was all Gaudreau. What a season he is having. pic.twitter.com/objBDgZyfA
The numbers through two periods were horrific. Calgary outshot Columbus 23-8 in the second period alone. Despite being down 3-0, Elvis had 36 saves. It’s the third time all season that a Columbus goalie had 30+ saves in the first two periods. It happened once to each of the Columbus goalies (Korpisalo at Detroit, Tarasov at Vancouver, and now Elvis).
In the first minute of the final frame, the Flames wasted no time making things much, much worse. Johnny Gaudreau skated through four blue jerseys with no resistance, and passed to Elias Lindholm for the goal.
JOHNNY GAUDREAU, WHAT DID YOU DO?! pic.twitter.com/jjsDsZshu9— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 27, 2022
After that, the Flames added two goals which each came off of a faceoff win in the offensive zone.
Guys, we're running out of ways to describe the insanity that is Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. pic.twitter.com/8QORFnK7Za— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 27, 2022
62 shots against is the most allowed by the Blue Jackets in a regular season game in franchise history. That’s really, really bad!
The previous high for saves in a regular season game for Elvis Merlikins was 41, two times. He had 49 saves in a playoff overtime game against Toronto. I guess it’s good for the goalie if he gives up six goals but still has a save percentage over .900? I don’t know, I’m grasping at straws here trying to find a silver lining. He was just ok, but no goalie deserves to be hung out to dry and under relentless assault all night like he was.
The lack of offense could be excused when the team was playing sound defense over the last week. If you’re not shooting the puck and you’re not prevent shots on goal, then what the hell are you doing? For stretches of the game, I didn’t feel like it was as lopsided as the numbers showed. The puck was bouncing around a lot and each team was struggling to control it. And yet, Calgary made the most of it when they had the puck in the offensive zone. They got shots off. The Jackets just didn’t shoot.
Shots on goal: 62-23
Shot attempts (all situations): 90-47
No time to lick your wounds, as the New York Rangers are in town for a game at Nationwide tomorrow night. They’re no easier of an opponent than Calgary, with an even better goalie than Markstrom in between the pipes. Good luck!