No matter how you look at the 2020-21 season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, it has not been good by any standards. It’s been full of disappointing moments. Their best laid plans for a successful season went south in a hurry.
Whether it was trading your number one center after he basically quit on the team or having his replacement in Patrik Laine struggle as bad as he ever has in his young NHL career, the Blue Jackets have not had many shining moments to remember from this season. This season cannot end soon enough for them.
If anything, the Blue Jackets were looking for something, anything to lean on to help them get to the end of this miserable season. Even the smallest thing to smile about would make a huge difference. Being down 3-0 after two periods to the Nashville Predators this past Monday seemed to reinforce the notion of just end this thing already.
But then something good happened that nobody saw coming.
Emil Bemstrom’s Moment
It just felt like the Blue Jackets were in the midst of letting the clock run down so they can get out of Monday’s game. Then Emil Bemstrom scored his long-awaited first goal of the season. After a review, the goal stood and finally, the monkey came off of his back.
Bemstrom has had numerous chances to score only to find ways to miss. Couple that with the six weeks he missed due to a nagging lower-body injury that wasn’t healing and you had a player wondering if he’d ever score again.
That moment alone would have been something to smile about had the final score been 3-1. But then Bemstrom scored the next two goals to tie the game.
The reaction on the bench was a season’s worth of frustration let loose in celebration. The Blue Jackets finally had a moment where they could enjoy what was going on. For a small period of time, it was fun. Fun as been absent for a vast majority of this season.
The Predators did go on to win Monday night in overtime, but the Blue Jackets had something to hang their hat on. A natural hat trick in the third period of a game that in which the Predators had their playoff lives on the line brought an unexpected level of drama to the playoff race. Fans in Dallas were enjoying what transpired for a small period of time.
Elvis Merzlikins & Winning
The Blue Jackets were successfully able to build off of Monday’s OT loss by handing the Predators a 4-2 regulation loss on Wednesday. Oliver Bjorkstrand connected twice while Elvis Merzlikins held the fort to give his team a much-needed win.
Winning is always fun. But it’s what Merzlikins talked about after the game that showed there was still some fun to be had. All he could think about during the Predators’ timeout was scoring a goal. Seriously.
If you watch the replay, Merzlikins raced to the bench. He and coach John Tortorella had a conversation. He told Tortorella that he wanted to score a goal and that he was sorry if he messed it up. In classic Tortorella style, he had quite the quote back to Merzlikins.
“I don’t care what the eff you do, just don’t eff it up,” Tortorella told Merzlikins. He even enjoyed a smile while sharing this. To take it one step further, Tortorella then said “Did you see him race to me? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him skate that fast.”
Merzlikins is clearly showing his personality even when there isn’t much to celebrate. He once again did a ghost jump hug after the win Wednesday. It’s his tribute to traded-captain Nick Foligno.
Even in a lost season, the Blue Jackets have found some ways to have a little fun at the end. It’s important that they get these moments to remind themselves that hockey can be fun. They get two more chances to have a little fun Friday and Saturday before their season comes to a close.
What kind of antics are we in for? I guess we’ll have to watch to find out.
- Let’s talk Blue Jackets and the standings. With 46 points and two games left, they can max out at 50 points. Both Arizona and Chicago started Thursday at 50. Because of tiebreakers, the Blue Jackets would finish behind both the Coyotes and Blackhawks in the standings. That guarantees them a bottom-10 finish.
- These two games against the Red Wings will have significant meaning for draft positioning. If the Blue Jackets lose out, they can finish as low as 29th. If they win out they can finish as high as 22nd. The odds suggest it’s somewhere in the middle.
- Finishing 29th gives you the fourth best lottery odds because of the Seattle Kraken coming into the league getting the third best odds. With the fourth best odds, it’s 9.5% chance to win the top pick. With the 11th best odds, it’s just 3.0%. Both are long shots as it is, but it’s a significant drop in both chances and draft slots. This “race” will be interesting to watch.
- Expect goalie Matiss Kivlenieks to see at least one of these games against the Red Wings.
- Expect some changes on defense as well. Andrew Peeke will draw in and perhaps one other defensemen. As for keeping the defensive pairs consistent of late, Tortorella admitted wanting to ice the best lineup possible especially when an opponent has something on the line. They’ve played well of late and have deserved the chance to stay in. But with the Red Wings on tap, they can afford to loosen up.
- The Blue Jackets are expected to hold their end of season availabilities next Monday and Tuesday before a highly anticipated offseason begins.
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.