The Columbus Blue Jackets opened their preseason with a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. The Blue Jackets overcame a sluggish start and played better as the game went on. Here are my three observations from the game.
Oops, Chinakhov Did It Again
The Yegor Chinakhov train just keeps chugging along. After a dominating performance in Traverse City, Chinakhov was in the lineup Monday hoping to continue his hot goal scoring tear. Before the first period was over, he did just that.
The Penguins left Chinakhov alone in the high slot. If we learned anything from Traverse City, we learned that leaving him alone anywhere is an unwise idea. Seconds later, Tristan Jarry found out firsthand how unwise an idea it really is. Chinakhov unleashed a rocket over Jarry to give the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead.
That’s now goals in four straight games to start Chinakhov’s North American career. He scored in all three games in Traverse City and now has one to open his preseason. While his shot gets all the attention, he demonstrated some playmaking in this game as well.
Chinakhov found his linemate Cole Sillinger with a nifty pass only to have it stopped. Teams are going to start paying much closer attention to Chinakhov especially on the power play. But he is not afraid to pass and is willing to pass if that’s the right play. His playmaking is not getting enough attention.
The question we need to consider is how close is Chinakhov to making this NHL roster? Considering his line with Sillinger and Gregory Hofmann was dangerous most of the night, there’s a real argument for Chinakhov to make this roster. The Blue Jackets need all the offense they can get. If he continues to make an impact during the rest of the preseason, I’m not sure how you leave him out.
The Adam Boqvist Effect
Adam Boqvist, one of the main players that came to Columbus in the Seth Jones’ deal, made his Blue Jackets’ debut on Monday and was a difference maker. And we’re not just talking about the 2-0 goal he scored on a well-timed pinch.
Did you see how the power play looked with Boqvist as the quarterback? Let’s call this the “Boqvist effect.”
Although the Blue Jackets didn’t score on the power play, their puck movement was very good. And that starts with Boqvist. His ability to move the puck and find the open guy gave his unit the chance to be dangerous. His offensive instincts are off the charts. It makes you wonder just how improved this power play can be.
Imagine some combination of Boqvist running the point along with Chinakhov, Patrik Laine and Jake Voracek on the same unit. It presents a much different challenge from the Blue Jackets than anytime in recent memory. You got shooters and playmakers who can make a difference.
It remains to be seen how Boqvist will do defensively. But at least for one night, we got a sneak preview of how impactful he will be on the offensive end and on the power play. This unit should be much improved from previous seasons.
An Underrated Goalie Battle?
We knew coming in that Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo would each battle for playing time while they remain teammates. But perhaps we overlooked a different goalie battle that we need to pay closer attention to.
Enter J-F Berube and Jet Greaves.
This duo combined for a shutout Monday. It was Berube who held the Blue Jackets in the game through a sluggish start until Chinakhov got them off and running with his rocket shot. Berube played 31:55 and finished with 20 saves. Greaves played the last 28:05 and finished with eight saves.
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Berube is at Blue Jackets’ camp on a PTO. Greaves was signed to an AHL-only deal. Daniil Tarasov is already slotted in as the number-one goalie in Cleveland. But who will back him up?
Berube comes in with plenty of pro experience playing last season at AHL Ontario while Greaves comes in after losing his OHL season. Perhaps there’s room for both should they each perform well enough. Plus if Tarasov has to go to Columbus for any reason, you want to have enough depth in Cleveland.
The Blue Jackets are clearly giving Greaves a look as he is set to play against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night along with Elvis Merzlikins. It won’t get the attention but don’t lose track of this goalie battle. An important position in the organization is at stake.
Up next, the Blue Jackets host the Sabres at 7 P.M. Tuesday and then they host the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night at 7 P.M.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.