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Game #29 Recap: Youth carries Blue Jackets to victory

Dec 8, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Yegor Chinakhov (59) chips the puck past St. Louis Blues defenseman Nick Leddy (4) during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Not an ideal scenario for the Columbus Blue Jackets: coming off a three game losing streak, playing the fifth game in eight days, and arriving late from a game in New York last night, to face a rested St. Louis Blues team.

Nevertheless, a number of young stars stepped up to lead the home team to a much-needed 5-2 victory.

First Period

Death, taxes, and the Blue Jackets scoring first. On just the second shift of the game, the Troika struck first. All three Russians made a nice play: Yegor Chinakhov carried the puck down the ice with speed, and dangled through traffic. Dmitri Voronkov spun next to the crease and passed to Kirill Marchenko in the slot. Marchenko then hammered the puck past Joel Hofer.

That goal was the 30th of Marchenko’s young career, and he reached that mark faster than anyone in franchise history, accomplishing that feat 10 games faster than Rick Nash. Pretty good!

Later in the period, the Russians made themselves known physically, with Voronkov knocking Robert Thomas off his feet. Unfortunately Thomas was able to get back up, and found his way into the neutral zone undetected. Marchenko and Ivan Provorov were caught in a cycle and Thomas got behind them to receive a long pass, and he couldn’t get caught on his breakaway.

Who else could come to the rescue after that than Adam Fantilli. He recovered the puck in the defensive zone, and then his line put together a rush like the Russians did. Emil Bemstrom sprung Kent Johnson for the breakaway, and he managed to pass to Fantilli through traffic. Fantilli finished with a snipe. Even more impressive is that Fantilli was held up at the blue line, but had the strength to power through regardless.

The Jackets got the first power play opportunity late in the period. The Troika was kept together, with Provorov and Johnny Gaudreau. They cycled well and got some good looks on goal.

Second Period

For a similar approach, the Fantilli line was kept together for the other power play unit, with Zach Werenski and Boone Jenner. They also looked good, but couldn’t score.52/11/91/38/8 as the PP to start the second

It was a slower, more tentative period for both teams at 5v5. There were too many penalties, including four from the Jackets. This gets the team out of their even strength flow, and limits the chances for certain lines (like the kids).

During a 4v4, Jenner was hit in the head by a Provorov shot. He skated down the tunnel and didn’t return to the game.

Third Period

The Blues started the third period on the power play, which of course led every Columbus fan to fear that another third period collapse was imminent. Luckily, the Troika struck again for what would become the game-winner. It was another rush off a defensive zone takeaway, with perfect, fast, decisive passing from Voronkov to Marchenko to Chinakhkov.

It was finally time for another St. Louis penalty, as Nick Leddy got caught hooking Alexandre Texier (nice effort by Tex to keep his feet moving and draw the penalty). PP1 was the Troika plus Gaudreau and Z. There was too much passing around the outside for my tastes, but then Chinny got a one-timer shot from the point. 94.5 MPH. Holy moly.

Craig Berube pulled Hofer with over 5 minutes remaining. With Jenner unavailable, Pascal Vincent decided to ride the same two lines (Gaudreau/Danforth/Texier and the Troika) and two pairs (Werenski/Blankenburg and Provorov/Peeke) for the entire 5v6. It took 3 minutes but Robert Thomas scored again to cut the lead to 2. This was one rebound Greaves couldn’t corral, and Blanks couldn’t get it either.

Alexandre Texier made a nice play to battle for an empty net goal that expanded the lead to 3 again.

Final Thoughts

This was Jet Greaves’ second NHL game, and first win. It was well-earned. He saved 41 of 43 shots faced. He looked calm in the crease and was quick with his glove. I know it won’t be long before Elvis Merzlikins returns from his illness and Daniil Tarasov ends his rehab assignment, but I’d love to see more of Greaves at this level. It should be a battle between him and Tarasov for the backup spot behind Elvis. (Tarasov isn’t waivers exempt like Greaves, which gives him the inside edge for now)

Boone Jenner is productive and trusted on this team, but I hoped that in his absence, the remaining minutes could be more evenly distributed. Instead, despite another game dominating possession (62.50 CF%), the Fantilli line only saw 5 shifts in the third period. For the entire game, Fantilli only played 28 more seconds (3 shifts) than Jenner, despite Jenner leaving halfway through the second period. I feel like this is a refrain in every recap we’ve had lately, but…what are we doing here?

I get that the kids aren’t as trusted in PK or empty net situations, but with a 3 goal lead, what do you have to lose? That’s exactly the time to see what they’ve got.

Speaking of Fantilli, our condolences to him and his family for the passing of his grandmother last weekend. He admitted before the game that he’s been playing for her this week, and he has 5 points in the last 3 games.

At least the Troika got used a lot. They’re driving this team at the moment, and excel in all 3 zones.

Up Next

The Blue Jackets are back in action on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Nationwide, against the Florida Panthers.

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