Welcome back to Columbus Blue Jackets Blasts. The second half of the season is in full swing with games coming fast and furious as we sprint towards the trade deadline and then the playoffs.
On this week’s Blasts, we caught up with forward Sean Kuraly to talk about why their penalty kill has been so good of late. We then checked in with Oliver Bjorkstrand fresh off his home country’s first ever win at the Olympics in hockey. Then we’ll finish with some thoughts on the Montreal Canadiens including one thing they must do now that they’ve fired their head coach.
Kuraly Talks Penalty Kill
One of the biggest strengths in recent games for the Blue Jackets has been their penalty killing. On the surface, you wouldn’t expect that to be a strength given some of their recent results. This includes losing 9-2, 6-0 and 8-4.
But the reality is that the Blue Jackets since their 9-2 loss to the Florida Panthers have killed 25 of 29 penalties, a success rate of 86.2%. Watching them on tape, they’re fast and aggressive. They also love to move the puck up the ice looking for a scoring chance. But they’re also doing a good job of protecting in front of their net.
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We caught up with Kuraly after Wednesday’s practice in Buffalo and talked about their recent success on the penalty kill. For him, it comes down to a couple of things no matter who’s out there killing penalties.
“First off, we’re missing two really good penalty killers in Tex (Alex Texier) and Robby (Eric Robinson.) So to be holding water while they’re gone, two guys we really miss, has been awesome,” Kuraly said.
“I think you’ve got a group that is taking a lot of pride in the penalty kill realizing that it can be the difference in the game. (Steve McCarthy) gives us the autonomy to make it our own in some aspects. We think we get the right information in what we need to look out for on other teams. We’re starting to believe in what we’re doing. It’s still new for everyone, this style of PK. No one here has done it. There’s aspects we have (had before) but we are learning and getting on the same page.”
Thanks to the slew of recent injuries, some unexpected players have stepped in and helped contribute on the penalty kill. Most notably from the Washington game, Jack Roslovic got a chance to play on the kill. He admitted Wednesday he enjoyed the opportunity to play in a different role.
But no matter who’s out there, the Blue Jackets are confident that they can get the job done. That starts with a good plan. That includes getting the right information about an opponent’s tendencies. But most importantly, it comes down to executing the plan. They’ve done that and have really grown in this aspect of the game in recent weeks.
Bjorkstrand Hopeful For Big Things in Denmark
Denmark’s 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in Beijing was a historic one for the Danes. It marked their first ever victory in hockey in Olympic competition.
Bjorkstrand watched the game and felt a huge sense of excitement and pride for his home country. He spoke to us after Wednesday’s practice. He wore a big smile the whole time in talking about this. But he also hopes that this is the start of bigger and better things for hockey back home.
“It’s super exciting to see them win,” Bjorkstrand said. “It’s a good start. We’re always the underdogs in this tournament and we’re going to be the underdogs again. It’s a huge thing that we beat the Czechs. Watching the game and seeing how hard the guys battled, they really didn’t give them much in the way of chances. It was super fun to watch. I’m excited for the guys. It’s a huge day.”
“To get something going, you have to win. There’s going to be some news and headlines as a result (of this win.) First of all, making the Olympics is a huge step and creates headlines. Now getting the first win is a big step too. If you’re a hockey person in Denmark, it’s a huge step. And hopefully that brings more guys into the hockey world.”
The emergence in recent years of other countries has been great to see. Germany comes to mind. Now seeing Denmark enjoy some success. It’s good for the sport to see other non-traditional countries rise up. Although the NHL’ers are not in Beijing, there are plenty of good stories to follow. Seeing Denmark’s first ever win in the Olympics is an example of that. Hopefully more stories like this come to pass.
Canadiens Shouldn’t Rush Carey Price Back
Talk about a complete reversal of fortunes in Montreal. They went from the Stanley Cup Final to dead last in the standings in the blink of an eye. This has led to the firing of coach Dominique Ducharme.
This is just the first step of many changes that are expected to happen with the Canadiens. They’re squarely in the conversation for the number-one pick with a little lottery luck. For now, they are scheduled to host the 2022 NHL Draft. But until then, they will have many important decisions to make.
One of them involves their star-goaltender Carey Price. He has been attempting to work his way back from a knee injury and recently admitted to having setbacks along the way.
The choice is simple in my mind. Don’t rush Price back now. Give him all the time he needs to rehab and determine if he is able to come back the way he wants. With just 37 games left in their season and five points clear of 31st place, there is no need to rush him back. Make sure he is ready to go on opening night of the 2022-23 season.
The rest of this season will be extremely painful to watch. But with a hopefully healthy Price, a potential top-3 pick in the upcoming draft and some key pieces already on the team, they can get back to where they want to go in short order.
The Canadiens must allow Price the extra time to ensure he’s fully ready. There’s no need to play him the rest of this season.