The Columbus Blue Jackets are coming off one of their finer performances of the season Friday night. They held the Calgary Flames to a single goal, which marked the third time 26 games the Blue Jackets held an opponent to one goal.
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Joonas Korpisalo started the game and stopped all 12 shots he faced in the first. Unfortunately for him, he departed the game due to a lower-body injury. Elvis Merzlikins came in and stopped 19/20 shots he faced while earning the win. Only Michael Stone’s late goal got by him.
This game was a good step for the Blue Jackets in terms of progress with structure and defense. Several players stood out in a good way which helped limit the Flames’ top players.
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Today as we open the notebook, captain Boone Jenner stopped by to discuss their recent progress and more. Then we talk about the Kings and the challenge of trying to overcome the 1-3-1.
Jenner Sees Progress
Patrik Laine opened the scoring early. Eric Robinson added a goal in the second. From there, the Blue Jackets locked things down. Given how other performances this season have gone, this is a good sign.
Jenner says the team went back to what works for them.
“I think we got back to what makes us successful as a team. (It) is small things,” Jenner said. “We’re moving our legs coming up in fives, coming back in five. So we’re just playing to our strengths more and using our speed. That’s more the style that we need to play consistently.”
With so many newer players coming in and out of the lineup, one of the big questions was how quickly could they adjust to the way the Blue Jackets want to play. Jenner has been pleased with the progress there but knows they can be a lot better.
“We know we can be a lot better. I think it starts with our focus, our compete and our energy. The structure and everything else falls into place from that. We feel like our structure has come a long way. But it doesn’t mean anything when that focus, the compete and the discipline is not good.”
Jenner & Johnny Show
A lot has changed in the lineup given the injuries and other moving parts. But one thing that has been consistent. Jenner and Johnny Gaudreau are playing well together.
For now, Laine has moved to the second line to play with Jack Roslovic and Yegor Chinakhov. This has allowed the Blue Jackets to have some balance in the lines, with threats to score on each line.
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Jenner and Gaudreau have now had time to play together and get used to each other. Both players say that has been important to their success.
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“We’ve been playing together for a bit now,” Jenner said of Gaudreau. “I think just the more you play with someone, the more you get to know their tendencies. You can read off each other better too. We’re consistently trying to keep that going and find more areas where we can improve. He’s a great player to play with and obviously makes a lot happen out there. I just try to play my game and get open.”
“He’s been great for us. That’s why he is our leader,” Gaudreau said of Jenner. “He came up with some big-time goals for us. When things aren’t going the way we want, he’s right there to pick our team up.”
Jenner and Gaudreau hope to keep things going Sunday night against the Kings. The Kings are fresh off a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. The Blue Jackets have made it a talking point to try to overcome the Kings’ 1-3-1 structure.
Overcoming the 1-3-1
The Blue Jackets are familiar with the 1-3-1 as the Washington Capitals play this style. The Kings use this style to clog the middle of the ice and to force errors allowing pucks to be turned back to them. Both Jenner and coach Brad Larsen know overcoming this will be a key.
“Well, we haven’t seen it lately,” Larsen said of the 1-3-1. “Washington plays the same thing, very passive one though. You gotta be real sharp there. They sag their (defense.) They’re almost sitting in front of the goalie. They use it like a penalty kill. They go 1-3 across the blue line and then they sag that guy. They try to get you to dump it to the goalie. They use that idea to get first touch and get going. We’ve already talked about it and will try to break that.”
“It’s a system that locks up the neutral zone pretty good,” Jenner said of the 1-3-1. “You have to use your speed. If you can quick up and not let them get into it, it works to your advantage. Otherwise, they’re trying to be really stiff there. So it’s just getting it behind them and trying to get that speed coming at them.”
- The Blue Jackets are not making any lineup changes except Merzlikins will start in net. Jet Greaves will serve as the backup with Korpisalo on injured reserve for 1-2 weeks.
- The Kings are expected to start Jonathan Quick Sunday night. Pheonix Copley earned the win Saturday in Montreal.
- The Blue Jackets are 6-6-2 in their last 14 games overall entering Sunday night’s game. They will fly to Florida after Sunday’s game is completed.
- The Blue Jackets have goals from 21 different players this season. Only Detroit with 22 has more.
- Johnny Gaudreau has 10-21-31 in 28 career games against the Kings.
- Adam Boqvist skated on the main ice Sunday as he continues to recover from a broken foot. His original timeline was six weeks. Should he suffer no setbacks, we could see him in a game soon.
- The Blue Jackets are playing their 19th home game (18 in Columbus, 1 in Finland) of the season Sunday night. That’s almost half their home schedule. They’ve only played eight road games. Here’s Jenner on if the home games have helped getting into a routine. “Yeah, big time. It’s good to get the home games in. You want to take care of business there.”
- Can being on the road be a good thing for the Blue Jackets with so many road games to come? Jenner: “For sure. You can have more dinners, more time together on the planes traveling, hanging out at the hotel and stuff like that. We’ll take advantage of it for sure.” Asked if Euchre or something similar will be played. “Oh yeah. Lots of cards. Lots of cards.”