As head coach Brad Larsen noted in the postgame press conference, it’s been a hard camp for the Columbus Blue Jackets and they didn’t quite have their legs under them tonight. As someone who was in the stands tonight, all I can say is BOY HOWDY. Feels good to get a win, but the Jackets had more stars playing and should have been able to win by more. They should have managed more than 20 shots on goal, and allowed fewer than 58 shots attempts against.
Let’s take a look at who stood out...in a good or bad way
Mathieu Olivier/Sean Kuraly/Carson Meyer
The most used line at 5v5 was...the fourth line? What? They weren’t the worst line by possession (45.00 CF%), to be fair, it’s an odd choice. I suppose it’s more defensible when it’s preseason and you’re trying to get a longer look at bubble players.
First the good news: Meyer got his second goal of the preseason, and it was a beauty. Last year the Jackets didn’t create enough offense from behind the net, but I’d like to see more passes like the one Kuraly made (not so much the changeup pace, but the location).
Carson Meyer ties the game 1-1 off an whiffed pass by Kuraly! pic.twitter.com/E3kc5e0iie— CBJ Center (@CBJcenter) October 2, 2022
Now the bad: Olivier is someone who both Larsen and Jarmo Kekalainen spoke highly about at the start of campus. Because of that, I felt like he had an inside track to making the roster. But I have to say, he did anything but impress me tonight. He took two penalties while creating little offensively. He doesn’t shoot or skate well. He tried to start a fight with Dmitry Orlov, but Orlov didn’t bite and Olivier served his two minutes alone. If you’re here to be a goon and start fights, at least make sure your opponent gets penalized too, so the penalties off-set. Don’t just put your team down a man. That kills momentum rather than giving the team a boost. Give me more guys like Meyer or Justin Danforth, who have a high motor and possess more offensive creativity.
Kirill Marchenko/Jack Roslovic/Trey Fix-Wolansky
This was the least used line, and also one of the worst by possession (two shot attempts for and seven against in 3:18). They were on ice for the goal against, after a delayed penalty. The Capitals were able to possess the puck in the offensive zone for over a minute.
Protas on the follow up! pic.twitter.com/y3ptLNBTCl— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 1, 2022
I don’t think it changes anything for these players: TFW is still Cleveland-bound and Marchenko still looks NHL ready. I would like to have seen more from Roslovic, however. If you want him to be a top six center this season, he should be able to feast on competition like this, and elevate his linemates. If he’s just a passenger for better wings that’s disappointing.
Gus Nyquist/Justin Danforth/Patrik Laine
Nyquist left the game midway through the second period and did not return. No word at the time of this writing as to any injury; let’s hope it’s nothing serious. Lines got shuffled a bit after this, and neither Laine nor Johnson did as well without Nyquist.
Laine had just two shots on goal and four shot attempts in 16:43. He was invisible much of the time, and had shifts where he looked a bit lost on the ice.
Laine/Kent Johnson/Emil Bemstrom
Case in point, this line that played in the back half of the game had just one shot attempt for and allowed four in 4:45 of ice time.
I’m still very much a KJ stan, but one thing that stood out to me tonight is that he sometimes tries to do too much. He plays defense with his stick, when I’d rather see him use his body. He dangles the puck on offense, but gets it stripped because it’s out in the open. I think he should try to make the simple plays first, then bust out the theatrics only when necessary.
Here’s the good stuff. In 4:25 this line had four shots on goal and allowed two. Chinakhov scored the winning goal in the third period and it was a beauty:
YEGOR BOMBS ALL AROUND pic.twitter.com/IfrwQElXzn— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) October 2, 2022
That’s his third goal of the preseason. In addition to the numbers, he just looks good. He seems bigger than he was last season, and he’s engaged on both ends of the ice. I thought he was likely on the wrong side of the bubble at the start of camp, but he’s making it very hard to send him down to Cleveland.
Should we read anything into the deployment in this game? Vladislav Gavrikov played 22:12 and Adam Boqvist played 21:07. We know both are at least on the second pair this season. But Nick Blankenburg led them both with 22:31. Has he played his way into the top six? He had a quiet game stat-wise (only defenseman without a block, and just one hit) but seems comfortable out there.
Jake Bean had another quiet game. David Jiricek looks big in person but he’s a work in progress. I don’t know that he gains anything from going back to the Czech league, so let him adjust to the North American game in Cleveland.
For the first time this preseason, the Columbus goalie played the entire game. Elvis was sharp and he had to be, saving 34 of 35 shots faced. He was especially important in the back half of the third period, when it was All-Caps as they tried to tie the game.
James Taylor is going to Carolina in his mind, and the Jackets are going to Carolina in reality, for a 7:00 p.m. game on Monday night. With the regular season opener happening there a week-and-a-half later, I expect a light lineup to make the trip, with a big roster cutdown happening after in advance of Cleveland Monsters camp beginning on Wednesday.