Last we saw the Columbus Blue Jackets, they lost a weird game with an ugly score, 7-2 to Washington. Tonight they responded with a 5-4 win that left St. Louis fans singing...erm...some kind of sad music. Funeral dirge? Yeah, that sounds right.
The really impressive thing is the scoring came from all parts of the lineup. It wasn't just guys like Patrik Laine, though of course he had another goal and also an assist.
The game started with a goal from the checking line, with Emil Bemstrom tapping in a perfect feed from Eric Robinson. That's Bemmer's third of the year, and nice to see him rewarded after struggling to stay in the lineup.
Midway through the period, with the Jackets dominating possession, Jake Bean took a penalty. The PK got an immediate scoring chance, but the Blues responded on the rush the other way.
Later in the period, Ryan O'Reilly went to the box. He's such a great defensive forward that it's good to have him out of the game. The Jackets' power play was moving the puck really well all night, and in this case it led to a Gus Nyquist goal. That's 15 for him. We didn't appreciate how much we missed him last season.
Early in the second period, Nyquist returned the favor to Laine, for his 25th goal of the season.
Is this good? This seems good.
#CBJ Patrik Laine now up to 19-12-31 over his last (not quite) 22 games.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) March 19, 2022
Today’s game (1-1-2) is his 12th multi-point game in that stretch.
Despite the Jackets controlling things early in the game, by this point the Blues flipped the script and were getting more offensive zone time. The Jackets were struggling to clear the puck from their own zone. I noticed one time where Yegor Chinakhov made a nice, accurate pass to Max Domi, who was in the neutral zone. Domi wasn’t ready for it, however, and the Blues quickly re-entered. Stuff like that is frustrating to watch.
Alexei Toropchenko cut the lead in half with a goal on the doorstep. Elvis Merzlikins was knocked over in the crease, so I thought perhaps it would be reviewed for goaltender interference. Apparently it was too close for Brad Larsen to risk it.
Just six minutes into the third period, Elvis left with an injury. He left during a normal break in the action, so in the arena I didn’t even catch that a switch had happened.
The Jackets got some quick insurance with another goal from the checking line. This time Robinson fed Sean Kuraly.
After scoring, he came directly over to my section, 107, and waved his arms to pump up the crowd. I felt like he was acknowledging me, personally, and I appreciated it. That’s 11 goals for Kuraly, which expands on his career best. That also sets his career high in points, 24, with the previous high of 23 coming in 69 games in 2019-20. What a tremendous off-season pickup he was.
Not long after, Vladislav Gavrikov took a penalty (again with this guy!) and the Blues power play struck again. This was the first time I noticed that Korpi was in net, because it was a shot that Elvis probably would have stopped. It was from distance, he had a clear look at it, but it went off his right shoulder.
That seemed to wake the Jackets up a bit, and they started to push back to help out Korpi. Jake Voracek — not known for shooting — got the insurance goal. That’s his fourth of the season.
With the goalie pulled and an extra skater on the ice, the Blues got a goal back, with Perron completing his hat trick. Don’t cry for me, Argentina! Some Blues fans in attendance threw their hats on the ice. That seems a bit of a waste when you’re in a road arena, don’t you think?
Credit where it’s due to the Jackets’ defense, however, as they did well to limit chances with the goalie pulled, and BJORKSTRAND almost got an empty netter as the final horn sounded.
Is this the best offense we’ve seen in Columbus? I think you can make a case. They’re averaging 3.27 goals per game. Second place is 2018-19 with 3.12. Ten skaters have double digit goals already, and three have passed 20. I love watching the way they move the puck, and the skill of shooters like Laine, BJORKSTRAND, and Chinakhov. The defense and goaltending still needs to improve, but the last couple of months have shown this team can win with offense.
Let’s hope for the best with Elvis’s injury. First, you never want to see someone get hurt. Second, he had been playing better lately and you wanted to see him finish the season strong to show he has that capability. Finally, if he is going to miss time then it makes a Korpi trade impossible. It was already unlikely given his poor performance. He made some decent saves down the stretch tonight, but the two he allowed were the kind of soft goals he’s been notorious for this season.
I don’t like to pick on the bottom of the lineup players, since they’re not supposed to be difference makers, and their impact is limited in sheltered minutes. Still, I have to say that Gabriel Carlsson stood out to me in a bad way tonight. Whilst his teammates were passing the puck with skill, he was struggling to handle it. The Jackets have speedy skaters, but Carlsson looked like he was skating through mud. Everyone else on the ice was an NHLer and he looked like he was a level below. He’s too old to be a prospect anymore. Werenski and Gavrikov were part of the same draft class, and Peeke, Bean, and Boqvist came after. Time to move on.
In Carlsson’s defense, he and partner Dean Kukan were on ice for two goals for and none against. Maybe that convinces a team to acquire Kukan for depth? Eliotte Friedman on the 32 Thoughts podcast said Edmonton could be interested.
Max Domi is another trade target and he was a bit invisible tonight. He played just 10:33 and was the only Jacket not on the ice for a goal for OR against. Was he being held back to protect him from injury? If so, why dress him at all?
First, we have to spend the next two days sweating out the trade deadline. For the first time in what seems like awhile, we don’t have to play the night of the deadline, which is nice. The next time we the Jackets will be on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. How different might the lineup be?