Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets were back in action, after a longer-than-scheduled holiday break. Their last action was Friday night in Chicago, and tonight they visited Long Island. Would their fresh legs make a difference, along with the return of Cole Sillinger and Emil Bemstrom to the lineup?
Not much happening here, as it felt like both teams played slowly. The Islanders had a heavy edge in shots when all was said and done, with momentum at 5v5 late in the period following a pair of power plays. Luckily for the Jackets, the penalty kill was great. They allowed just a single shot in each power play.
On the other side, the Blue Jackets got a power play and with the various injuries and illnesses we saw some new units:
Both units did a better job of keeping the puck in the zone, but still they struggle to get the puck into the high danger areas around the net.
Johnny Gaudreau is the best player on the team. I’m still very happy he signed here. But he had a bad game this year and contributed to both goals surrendered in this period.
First, just as the Jackets were gaining some momentum, Gaudreau left a drop pass for Adam Boqvist at the offensive blue line. The problem? Jean-Gabriel Pageau was right there to steal it. It was too careless of a play by Gaudreau in that area of the ice. Now, to his credit, both he and Boqvist got back quickly to cover the rush, but Pageau was positioned well to score a rebound goal.
Later in the period, with the Jackets on the power play, Gaudreau got into it with Anthony Beauvillier and earned two minor penalties to Beauvillier’s one. Once the Islanders got the man advantage, Mathew Barzal made it count:
Through 40 minutes, the Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger lines were the ones with a shot attempt percentage of 50 or better at 5v5. They were also the third and fourth used lines. I get that the top lines got the tougher matchups, but maybe play these lines some more?
Fortunately, Brad Larsen rolled four lines evenly in the third period. It didn’t make any difference. The possession battle didn’t change much, and they gave up even more high danger chances to New York, while failing to do much there themselves.
A silver lining came in the final minute, as the Jackets spoiled the shutout with an extra skater. Nice long range shot from Marcus Bjork with a net-front deflection from Bemstrom. See? Get the puck inside there and good things can happen.
Joonas Korpisalo is a dude. Second straight game with a .944 save percentage. He saved 17 of 18 faced in relief on Friday and 34 of 36 tonight. This could have been really ugly if not for him.
Big opportunity for Emil Bemstrom tonight getting to play on the top line, and he actually led all CBJ forwards in time on ice. He earned his call-up and now he deserves a longer look in a big role to see what he can do. What is there to lose?
Cole Sillinger had been playing better prior to his most recent concussion, and he looked good in his return tonight. It felt a bit like a demotion having to play between Liam Foudy and Carson Meyer, but that unit was the only one with a positive expected goal ratio.
The Jackets return home for a 1 p.m. game on New Year’s Eve against Chicago. Can they get revenge against the last place team and end 2022 on a high note?