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Game #3 Preview/Gamethread: Blue Jackets look for first win against the Blues in second half of back-to-back

Jackets will have to play spoiler on opening night in St. Louis

NHL: OCT 06 Blues at Blue Jackets Photo by Graham Stokes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Saturday October 15, 2022 - 8:00 EDT
Enterprise Center, St. Louis, Missouri
TV: Bally Sports Ohio; Radio: 97.1 FM
Opponent’s Blog: St. Louis Game Time

Columbus Blue Jackets

vs

St. Louis Blues

Welp. The league did no favors for the Columbus Blue Jackets when drafting the opening week of the schedule, slotting them to play against arguably two of the top teams in the league. The Jackets have also done themselves no favors in both of those games, losing them by a combined score of 9-3.

It doesn’t get any easier tonight when the Blue Jackets head to St. Louis, who has somehow yet to play a game this year, for their home opener. As if they didn’t have enough going against them, they will be playing their third game in four nights, with an 0-3 start looming over their heads.

Godspeed boys.

Player to Watch

Elvis Merzlikins

After an illness has kept him out of the first two games, the Jackets’ #1 goaltender is set to make his season debut in net. While it is clearly an upgrade in net, the defense will need to step it up and help stop the bleeding in order for there to be much of a difference. I’m glad to have Elvis back in the net and hope it will give the boys some extra confidence to play their game and pull out a win.

Jackets Notes

The defense has been bad. There is no way around it. It may be alarmist and a bit premature to say the season will be over quickly if it doesn’t change fast, but it certainly has that feel.

Jarmo Kekalainen had set out to address the historically bad defense over the summer. After allowing 297 goals in 2021-22, his only move was to sign Erik Gudbranson, who has arguably made the defense worse. We all know the Jackets lacked toughness on the back end and that needed to be addressed. I am aware it has only been two games, but so far he has neither helped the defense keep the puck out of the net or added the necessary toughness. In the clip below, you will see Gudbranson fail to defend the mini 2-on-1, and then completely neglect to come to the aid of his goalie, whom he allowed to get absolutely blasted by Cal Foote.

Again, the sample size is small, but this is not what I’d call bolstering the defense. An xGA/60 of almost 6 is as ugly as the graphic depicts. I didn’t have high hopes at the time of the signing, but I am willing to give him a little bit more time to acclimate to his new team and system. But as Uncle Jesse would say, “Haaaaave Mercy!”

The Other Bench

St. Louis is the last team in the league to have not played a game yet this year. That ends tonight when the Jackets come to town. The Blues have their sights set very high this year and consider themselves a real contender — with good reason. They have a very strong mix of size, skill, experience, upcoming stars to go along with a strong leadership group. They will undoubtedly be very energized and ready to play tonight and start their journey towards another Stanley Cup run.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets

Johnny Gaudreau Boone Jenner Justin Danforth
Yegor Chinakhkov Jack Roslovic Jake Voracek
Gus Nyquist Cole Sillinger Kent Johnson
Eric Robinson Sean Kuraly Mathieu Olivier
Zach Werenski Adam Boqvist
Vladislav Gavrikov Andrew Peeke
Jake Bean Erik Gudbranson
Elvis Merzlikins
Daniil Tarasov

St. Louis Blues

Brandon Saad Ryan O'Reilly Jordan Kyrou
Pavel Buchnevich Robert Thomas Vladimir Tarasenko
Jake Neighbours Brayden Schenn Ivan Barbashev
Josh Leivo/Alexei Toropchenko Noel Acciari Nathan Walker
Nick Leddy Colton Parayko
Torey Krug Justin Faulk
Niko Mikkola Robert Bortuzzo
Jordan Binnington
Thomas Greiss

Let’s go Jackets!