This season, The Hockey Writers will have a recurring “Three Takeaways” feature after every Columbus Blue Jackets matchup, meant to serve as post-game quick hits.
1) A Different Role for Nick Foligno
At the start of the season, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said he would move Nick Foligno off the wing and into the center position so 19-year-old rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois could open the season on the left side.
So far, it has proven to be a smart move to open the NHL regular season.
The repositioning has allowed youngsters Oliver Bjorkstrand and Sonny Milano to flourish, reigniting the chemistry those two developed when they played together for the Blue Jackets’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters. Foligno has also been key in the face-off circle, winning a combined 79 percent of his draws on the dot (19-of-24).
Foligno is no stranger to the center spot. He was drafted into the NHL as a center, and had to make the switch to left wing to crack the Ottawa Senators’ roster in his rookie season. Tortorella gave a significant amount of credit to Foligno after the Blue Jackets’ 5-0 win against the Islanders Friday night for owning the responsibility that comes with moving to the middle.
Foligno’s shift to center also prevents a 19-year-old Dubois from being thrown into the gauntlet of responsibility that comes with being a top-six NHL center, as many projected he would be on the initial roster. But, it still allows Dubois to make significant contributions in a key role and grow into his potential without the added pressure of quarterbacking offensive play. That was on display last night as he scored his first NHL goal in a commanding 5-0 win against the New York Islanders.
Dubois is just as comfortable in either position, but starting on the wing should (and is already looking like it is starting to) pay off as he overcomes the learning curve jumping from junior hockey to the big leagues.
2) Joonas Korpisalo’s First Game
Since goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky started Friday night’s game against the Islanders, Blue Jackets back-up Joonas Korpisalo received the call to start against the Blackhawks. It was a nerve-wracking 60 minutes for the goaltender, who found himself out of position and receiving little help in the game’s early going. The Jackets found themselves down by two goals early on and never recovered, and a few of the later Blackhawks tallies were ones Korpisalo would likely want back. When the Blackhawks score in bunches, they take over the momentum, and that is what happened to the Blue Jackets Saturday.
After the game, Korpisalo was visibly displeased with his performance.
“I was just okay, but five goals are five goals,” Korpisalo said on the Fox Sports Ohio post-game broadcast. “The puck was buzzing too much and I need to be better.”
The good news for the Blue Jackets is that Korpisalo’s first game is finally out of the way, and the loss came against a formidable opponent in a tough building on the road – and one who put a 10-spot up against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. A loss is a loss, but this game showed that there are other areas that need to be cleaned up that are a higher priority than the backup goaltender, particularly when the Jackets are playing the second game of a back-to-back series. Tortorella admitted that himself after the game, too.
3) Ready for Josh Anderson
The Blackhawks brought the physicality on Saturday, which seemed to throw several Blue Jackets off their game. Both teams combined for 59 hits with the advantage going to the home team. It was an aspect that ended up getting into the Blue Jackets’ heads down the stretch as the game became further out of their reach.
A remedy to that situation? Bringing back Josh Anderson, who had a solid game for the Cleveland Monsters on Saturday. Because his contract negotiations dragged on to the last minutes of training camp, the Blue Jackets brass sent him to Cleveland on a conditioning stint.
Looks like that trip is over for Anderson and he will be back with the Blue Jackets to prepare for the upcoming game against Metropolitan Division opponent Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. Whether or not he draws in for that game remains to be seen, but either way, he is headed back to Columbus.
Josh Anderson said that he will have his fitness testing tomorrow morning. #CBJ
— Mark Scheig (@markscheig) October 8, 2017
With Anderson’s return, a roster move is not necessary. It will be interesting to see who he is paired up with when he finally cracks the line-up, though he found brief chemistry when he played alongside Brandon Dubinsky.
Regardless, fans and teammates alike are excited and ready to have Anderson back on NHL ice, contributing in all facets of the game.