Recaps: A not nice day for Columbus hockey
One expected, and one that hurts
It was Game #69 for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and they were on the road against the fifth best team in the league. It went about as you’d expect, with them losing 7-2 to the Vegas Golden Knights. I don’t want to write about every Vegas goal (Jack Eichel had a hat trick and Phil Kessel was a power play beast, nuff said) and you don’t want to read it, so it’s just cover some assorted thoughts from the afternoon:
Head coach Brad Larsen has taken a leave of absence following a death in the family. Some things matter more than hockey, so it’s good for him to be with his loved ones in this difficult time. Our thoughts are with the Larsen family.
Laine at center???
Acting head coach Pascal Vincent shocked the world in his pre-game presser with the revelation that Patrik Laine would center the top line, between Johnny Gaudreau and Kirill Marchenko. This is, on its face, and incredibly stupid decision. For one, Laine has never been a center. Two, Boone Jenner has been just fine as the top line center. Third, none of the other available centers were out with injury, or had been conspicuously struggling. Fourth, Kent Johnson was drafted to be a center, and yet was kept at wing. What are we doing here?
That being said...it actually worked?
Laine led the team in 5v5 shot attempt percentage, with 21 on-ice shot attempts for, and just 10 against. His line with Gaudreau and Marchenko had a CF% of 65.22 and scored a goal. Then late in the third period Liam Foudy took Gaudreau’s place and that line was 71.43% and also scored a goal.
The “all centers” line of Johnson, Jenner, and Jack Roslovic was bad. Their CF% was 28.57, by far the worst on the team.
While winning helps the tank, we do still want to see the younger players get better. Kirill Marchenko scored in the first minute of the second period to tie the game at 1. That’s his second goal in three games, and his 18th on the season. That passes Rick Nash for second in franchise history among rookies.
Kirill Marchenko ties it up for the @BlueJacketsNHL!#CBJ pic.twitter.com/iXbUO3hK5i— Bally Sports Columbus (@BallySportsCBUS) March 19, 2023
In garbage time, Liam Foudy scored for his fifth of the season. Of course that’s also his fifth of his career (in the regular season), all since February 18. I’m happy he’s growing in confidence, though this Jarmo Kekalainen quote from an interview with Mark Scheig published today is really stupid:
Then all of a sudden he gets one and I believe he has four in the last 11. That’s a pretty good pace. If you can be at a 30-goal pace for an entire season, that would be the Foudy we would be extremely excited about.”
Come on, Jarmo. Don’t insult our intelligence. “Goal scoring” is not going to be a consistent part of Foudy’s game, ever. Best case is he becomes a bigger Matt Calvert — and that’s a very good outcome!
Liam Foudy puts the loose puck across the goal line to get one back for the Jackets late!#CBJ pic.twitter.com/x8tdEfVKES— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) March 19, 2023
This was actually a close game for 30 minutes, then Vegas really poured it on in the back half of the second period. First, Eichel and Pavel Dorofeyev scored two minutes apart to break the tie and make it 3-1, then Zach Whitecloud and Eichel scored within 33 seconds of each other five minutes later to blow the game wide open. That chased starter Daniil Tarasov. Michael Hutchinson came on, which marks the fourth time in his Blue Jackets tenure that he had to come on in relief. He’s only played in six games, and has only been here for a little over two weeks.
Ohio State falls short
It was poor timing that this game started at the same time as the NCAA women’s ice hockey championship game, featuring our Ohio State Buckeyes looking to defend their title against the Wisconsin Badgers, who had won the previous two (2021 and 2019). I had this game on another screen while watching the Jackets on TV, and this game was far more compelling.
Unfortunately another trophy was not in the cards, as the Badgers won 1-0. Goaltender Cami Kronish was the star of the game, with 31 saves. OSU was putting a ton of pressure on her in the first period, and she was a brick wall. Wisconsin gained momentum after a late goal and OSU was never able to control possession as consistently.
Still a great season for Coach Nadine Muzerall and her squad, including defender Sophie Jaques, who yesterday became just the second defender to win the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top player in NCAA women’s hockey.
In happier Ohio hockey news, the Cleveland Monsters beat the Belleville Senators 5-3, to keep themselves in the playoff race.
The Blue Jackets’ road trip comes to a conclusion on Tuesday in Washington, against a Capitals team that somehow isn’t completely out of the playoff race.