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Blue Jackets close out 2022 with a comfortable win

That was unexpected!

NHL: DEC 31 Blackhawks at Blue Jackets Photo by Graham Stokes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What better way to atone for the sins and excesses of 2022 than watching the two worst teams in the NHL face off in an afternoon game?

The one lineup change for the Columbus Blue Jackets was scratching Andrew Peeke in place of Gavin Bayreuther. I get why the coaches would want to get Bayreuther reps, but why should it come at Peeke’s expense? He has had a rough season but I think he’s been better lately, especially with Adam Boqvist.

This game marked the return of Seth Jones to Columbus, as COVID prevented him from playing here last season. It was also the return of Max Domi, and he got a colder reception from the crowd:

I’m not one of those “never boo” guys, but I think both of these guys deserved a cheer. Both were hard workers and consummate professionals here. The Domi trade didn’t work out, and I know there were those recent comments about his family not wanting to visit Columbus (which were taken out of context), but...come on. We’ve earned a reputation as a notoriously thin-skinned fanbase. Let’s get over it.

First Period

I was worried this game was going to be a slog like Thursday, and it started with both teams looking like they were struggling to wake up.

It picked up in the back half, and the Chicago Blackhawks opened the scoring after a brutal turnover by Mathieu Olivier.

We’ve been bad at zone entries but this is particularly egregious. Who are you passing to here? Where is the awareness of where the opponents are? I’d like to see better positioning by Boqvist to defend the shot, but he was a bit hung out to dry.

Fortunately the Blue Jackets responded late in the period on the power play. It started with a Jack Roslovic faceoff win, then a beautiful pass by Johnny Gaudreau that crossed the royal road, followed by a snipe from Emil Bemstrom. Gaudreau also noticed that Jason Dickinson had lost his stick, so Bemstrom was going to have an open shot.

The Gaudreau/Johnson/Marchenko line led in both CF% and in ice time. Progress!

Second Period

The second period could have been disastrous at the start — as it usually is this season — with Tim Berni taking a period in the first minute, followed by Vladislav Gavrikov taking one right after the first penalty was killed.

Fortunately the Jackets got their second special teams goal of the night thanks to a well-executed rush by Roslovic and Gus Nyquist:

If you were thinking “we haven’t had a lead for awhile, have we?” Well...

The ice was tilted heavily in Columbus’s favor this period, and after a kill where they held Chicago to zero shots on goal, red-hot rookie Kirill Marchenko ended the period with a goal to extend the lead:

At 5v5, the Jackets had a 58.06 CF% in the first period, and it jumped to 84%. That’s 21 shot attempts for, and just four allowed. Through 40 minutes, every Jackets forward line was at least doubling up their Blackhawks opponents in 5v5 shot attempts.

Third Period

Kind of a sleepy period. The Jackets got chances, but at times it felt like they were playing keep-away. Chicago seemed to give up a bit.

Olivier went to the box with just ove two minutes left, for cross-checking. An unnecessary penalty, and one which allowed the Blackhawks to pull the goalie and play 6-on-4. They finally got some good looks but could not score.

Nyquist, who loves empty net goals, got the insurance goal and it also counted as his second shorthanded goal of the game.

Final Thoughts

That power play goal was the kind of play I wanted from Emil Bemstrom from the moment he was drafted. It’s how he scored in European or international play, but not in the NHL. Turns out letting him play with top players helps!

Five goals in 12 games for Marchenko. Not bad! No assists, though. Time to bench him for being greedy, right Brad?

A quieter game but another strong effort from Joonas Korpisalo. He had to work on the late penalty kill but stood tall.

Honestly, there’s not much to criticize here even if I wanted to. Berni/Gudbranson were the best defensive pair by the possession numbers, and even Bayreuther had a good game despite the rust.

The Gaudreau/Johnson/Marcheko line is a heck of a lot of fun. Please keep this group together for a bit.

Thanks to everyone for reading The Cannon and participating in the comments in 2022. Let’s hope for more exciting things to come in Jacketsland in 2023!

Up Next

Ohio State football takes on the Georgia Bulldogs in the Peach Bowl tonight. Go Bucks! Whether you’re watching the game or not, have a safe and fun New Year’s Eve.

The Blue Jackets are back in action on Tuesday night in Ottawa.