Blue Jackets waste a great Elvis start, lose in OT

Goon goals, next?

After completing an unlikely season sweep of the Edmonton Oilers yesterday, the Columbus Blue Jackets hit the road for another afternoon game, this time against the rested Minnesota Wild.

Adam Boqvist is day-to-day with a lower body injury suffered on Saturday, so Billy Sweezey got to make his NHL debut, at the age of 27. Very happy for him, as he has worked hard to get to this point and has made a big impact for the Cleveland Monsters over the last two seasons.

Two other milestones on the blue line, as Erik Gudbranson played in his 700th NHL game, and Gavin Bayreuther played in his 100th.

First Period

It was a very slow start to the game, and not until 6:12 in that the Jackets got their first shot on goal.

Late in the period, Mathieu Oliver opened scoring with a skilled goal. He mentioned in the intermission interview that he had been working on that, and I myself witnessed this first hand in Finland. When I saw the morning skate between games, Olivier was one of the few players taking the opportunity. He spent the time working with Jared Boll on offensive plays in front of the net, including the kind of chip shot goal he scored here. Love to see a guy get rewarded for putting the work in.

A couple of shoving matches broke out between Erik Gudbranson and Ryan Reaves. One in front of Elvis, the other at the end of the period after Tim Berni got knocked down as time expired. I guess that’s why he was signed, right? I felt like the Wild took lots of liberties on Thursday, but not tonight.

Second Period

Early in the third, the Jackets managed to stretch their lead. Erik Gudbranson made a good play to get the puck on the net, and Liam Foudy tipped it in. Foudy waited so long for his first NHL regular season goal, and now he has scored twice in his last five games.

The Jackets got a power play in the period, and despite some good looks from Laine, Marc-Andre Fleury made some good saves. Blankenburg ran point on the first PP unit in place of Boqvist, and that seemed like a good fit. Bayreuther was on the second unit and I have to ask...why? I know there aren’t many options, but that’s why I’d go with five forwards there. Put guys out there with skill, not just a defenseman because you think you have to have one.

Third Period

Minnesota got a long shift which included a missed open net, but they did finally score. Andrew Peeke and Gudbranson were out there together, which is a pairing that doesn’t work. Replay shows that the Hartman shot deflected off of Peeke’s stick, and then Kaprizov’s shoulder.

After Blankenburg went off for high-sticking, Foudy commited the same penalty on the kill, leading to 1:08 of 5v3. With less than 10 seconds left in the 5v3, Kaprizov got his second credited goal to tie it up, this one off of a faceoff play. The Wild still had a man advantage for a minute, but the Jackets were able to kill it off.

The Wild dominated the third with 32 shot attempts to just nine for the Jackets. Shots were 17-4 and expected goals were 1.91-0.18, so giving up two goals feels about right.

It was the second game in a row where the Jackets blew a multi-goal lead in a single period.


The opening unit included both Sean Kuraly and Eric Robinson. I get having Kuraly there for the faceoff, but Robinson? What?

After some back and forth, Blankenburg had a prime chance on a breakaway, but he was outnumbered and hauled down. He crashed into Fleury, who managed to keep the goal in place so play could continue. Blanks, to his credit, showed great hustle to get back and play defense. Unfortunately there was confusion as to who was guarding whom, and Kaprizov scored the game winner to complete his hat trick.

Final Thoughts

Elvis Merzlikins was incredible today, and single-handedly kept this team in the game. It’s unfair that he didn’t get the desired result. He earned 41 saves on 44 shots faced, and only one of the goals surrendered was at 5v5. That one was a deflection goal.

As much as we’ve ripped on the all season, it’s good to see Olivier and Gudbranson deliver both the toughness we expected, as well as producing offensively.

Ok, rant time: this was another pants-on-head stupid deployment game from Brad Larsen. Most played line at 5v5? The Kuraly line, who were out-attempted 8-22 in 12:55. Least played? The Sillinger line, which out-attempted 6-2 in 7:36. Both lines produced a goal.

Berni and Sweezey were benched for the final half of the third period. Guess which defenseman had the best 5v5 CF%? That’s right, Tim Berni! 17-13 in shot attempts in 16:25. Maybe a good guy to keep playing. Peeke and Gudbranson were relied on heavily, but each had a CF% under 40.

The Sillinger line also was benched down the stretch. What do you have to lose giving them a chance to create offense late in the game? Why wasn’t Bemstrom used in OT, with both his defensive ability and his shot?

I just don’t see why, on a back-to-back, you would shorten your bench. The Sillinger line played under 10 minutes yesterday as well. Berni played 13:07.

It kinda feels like Larsen wasn’t playing to win, but was playing not to lose. What does that matter at this point in the season? Try for wins. Try for goals. I think he wants the team to get better at defense, but the 40+ shots on goal surrendered in each game suggests that his current deployment isn’t working.

Up next

The road trip continues in Buffalo on Tuesday, for a 7:30 start on ESPN+ and Hulu.

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