The start of the season wouldn’t be a normal season without an uphill battle for the Union Blue. Starting off on the road, they begin with the short end of the stick to the hosting Nashville Predators, by the final score of 3-1.
Columbus is improving off of last season with starting first on the scoresheet, with alternate captain Boone Jenner lighting the lamp with the first goal for the team this season. The goal was unassisted, making him and Jonas Korpisalo the most important names on the stats for now.
Nashville was kept off the scoreboard until midway through the second period, with new acquisition Luke Kunin evening the game. Erik Haula added himself to sheet with the lonesome assist on the snipe.
Filip Forsberg earned the game winning goal bragging rights for this game early into the third period. Brad Richardson made his first point in Nashville the only assist on this goal.
In the dying minutes of the premiere, Calle Jarnkrok added the icing on the cake with his club’s first empty net goal of the year. Rocco Grimaldi and defending Norris Trophy winning Roman Josi added the helpers to Jarnkrok’s empty netter.
Jusse Saros was extremely impressive for Nashville, stopping 29 of 30 shots for a 0.967 save percentages.
Ryan Johansen was my player to watch for Nashville being the team’s number one center, as well as reflecting back on the trade with Jones, and for the first time since the trade and in the realignment, dealing with the former Blue Jacket fourth overall pick. Joey had 2 shots on net and hits with 1 blocked shot. He also won 36.8% of face offs playing 16:53 of ice time.
Seth Jones was my player to watch for the same reasons as Johansen, but for Nashville to reflect as well on what they lost in a minute eating Ironman defenseman in their former fourth overall selection in 2013. And eating minutes he did, playing in 25:33 in time on ice, registering 3 shots on net; a hit and a takeaway; and 2 blocked shots.
The Afro-mentioned Korpi played unstoppable until the end of the game, leaking the 2 goals in on 34 shots faced, having a 0.941 save percentage.
CBJ Three Stars of the Game
1. Boone Jenner — Goal (1) 2 hits 69.8% FO
2. Jonas Korpisalo — 94.1% SV
3. Seth Jones — 3 shots, 2 blk shots, 1 hit
NHL Three Stars of the Game
1. Filip Forsberg— GWG (1)
2. Luke Kunin — Goal (1)
3. Jusse Saros — W, 96.7 SV%
Taxi Squad and Thoughts
Let’s start with the all important taxi squad and what it is for everyone. Due to the global pandemic involving the coronavirus, the National Hockey League implemented a taxi squad roster, where teams are allowed to carry extra players to participate with the big club. With the taxi squad, the players on it are being paid their minor league salaries on the NHL roster to participate in NHL activities, including practice and travel (optional). All taxi squads must include a goalie, if a third is not on the main roster. Each roster must include minimum 4 players and maximum 6 players. To go with the first two games, the current active roster for Columbus includes:
1. RD Andrew Peeke
2. LW Nathan Gerbe
3. RD Adam Clendenning
4. LW Stefan Matteau
5. C Ryan MacInnis
6. G Matiss Kivlenieks
The Blue Jackets have the perfect mix for their roster, which has the depth defensemen competing for the final pairing, plus veteran forwards to help the youth in the main roster, and their third string goalie.
Speaking of experience, veteran defenseman Michael Del Zotto signed a one year, two-way contract worth $750,000 on the main roster. MDZ was the former 20th overall pick of the New York Rangers in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Del Zotto won the Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019. He was coached by Torts first few years in the Big Apple, and also had stops in Nashville, Philadelphia, Vancouver, and Anaheim. “We’ve always been in touch. I have respect for him because of his character.” Torts explained in regards to his admiration for bottom pairing defenseman. “We keep in touch with the same trainer, now in wheelchair. Went through hard times”. Torts admired his character and the player he has become since their time part. “He was young and had a lot to learn.” And that success came to the Canadian defenseman, including the ultimate prize.
Pierre- Luc Dubois
“He told the players. And never gave a reason why” according to Head Coach Tortorella. The Dubois dirty laundry is out there for the entire league to bare witness too. Reports as of January 15 say that 20 teams have reached out to Columbus about the services of Dubois, including Calgary; Buffalo; Boston; New Jersey; New York Rangers; Winnipeg; Anaheim; LA; Edmonton; Calgary; Florida; and Montreal.
Dubois is the third overall pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, only behind superstar Auston Matthew’s and Finnish sniper Patrick Laine. Dubois just completed his entry level contract, and signed a two year $10M dollar contract. PLD was the highest draft selection from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles since goalie Marc-André Fleury in 2003.
Speculation is that the French center man wants a bigger stage after the success against the Toronto Maple Leafs from the 2020 NHL Playoff Bubble. Others say the pressure of the coaching from Torts and the tough contract talks with Kekalainen have frustrated Dubois, when he says he does better when the coaches push him to be the better player on the ice.
Kek is playing hard ball for his services, with asking prices being reported including both Montreal young studs in Suzuki and Kotkniemi and Rangers wingers Lafereniere and Kakko. Other speculated packages have involved Laine from Winnipeg, Barzal from the Islanders, and Barkov from Florida. These packages are outrageous for the surprise of the draft. Dubois has developed and evolved into a number one center, and there’s no reason to give him up for cheap, and let the start prove his worth.
Montreal has also counter-offered with Suzuki and Mete, and Columbus views that as not enough. Additionally, Dubois’ father is an assistant coach with the Manitoba Moose, the affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets.
Thoughts on Dubois, comment!!
Game 2 v Nashville —> Revenge on the Mind
Columbus does part two of their duel with the Nashville Predators tonight at 8pm on Fox Sports Ohio and Fox Sports Tennessee. After having an impressive goalie performance in night one, it’s time to put the puck behind the goalie and in the net. Columbus has the weapons to score, with Torts viewing the recently extended Oliver Bjorkstrand as their “top forward”. “He’s become a man.” Tortorella said on this past week’s CBJ in 30.
The time to know your first rival foe is now. And struggling will lead this team to a short 56 game season that’ll feel longer than 56. This team has the experience and grit to get through games, but keep their opponents close to contention, but hit harder by the end of the day.
Scratched: Tinordi, Sibsa
Injured: Granlund (COVID-19 protocol)
Taxi Squad: Smith, Tolvanen, Ingram, Oliver
Columbus Blue Jackets
Scratched: Stenlund, Harrington, Carlsson
Injured: Dubinsky (wrist), Nyqvist (shoulder), Koivu (COVID-19 protocol)
Taxi Squad: Gerbe, Matteau, Peeke, MacInnis, Clendenning, Kivlenieks
Players to Watch
Columbus — Dubois