With Two Shifts Saturday Night, Matt Duchene Showed How Important He Can Be for the Blue Jackets Down the Stretch

By Jason Priestas on March 19, 2019 at 8:35 am
Matt Duchene can be great for Columbus.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

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Blue Jackets fans can probably count on one hand the number of players they've seen throughout the years who can hold possession of the puck in the offensive zone, waiting for something to open up.

It's why the city fell so hard for Artemi Panarin. With dazzling stick work, and a penchant for finding open teammates, last year Panarin became just the second Blue Jacket ever to finish a season with better than a point per game average. His franchise record 82 points in 81 games is just off the 79 points in 78 games Rick Nash recorded in 2008-09.

Rick Nash. Artemi Panarin. That's about it for this franchise.

Until the Blue Jackets scooped up Ottawa's Matt Duchene three days before the trade deadline.

Duchene, who brought with him 57 points in 50 games as a Senator this season, is that kind of guy, too. A guy who can hold the puck long enough and make crisp passes to teammates that lead to scoring chances.

It took Duchene a few games to mesh with new teammates in Columbus. As John Tortorella tried to find the best spot for Duchene, he was shuffled between the top two lines, with various wings on either side and he scored just three points in his first eight games as a Blue Jacket.

Now settled in as the center of the team's No. 2 line, with fellow deadline pickup Ryan Dzingel on his left and Josh Anderson on the right, he – and his line – are starting to hit a groove. Duchene has three points over his last five. The line he pivots, the “DAD Line,” has 13 points over that five-game stretch.

In Boston Saturday, he may have played his best game as a Blue Jacket, scoring the goal that tied the game, securing a crucial point for the Jackets and damn near scoring the winner in overtime.

Two shifts on a Saturday night highlight what Matt Duchene brings to this team.

With the Blue Jackets down 0-1 in the first period, Duchene played a Markus Nutivaara pass off the side boards, pulled the puck in on his backhand, and dipped his shoulder to beat the Bruins' John Moore.

Skating in through the right circle, Duchene went backhand for a split-second to sell the pass to Ryan Dzingel crashing the slot, before beating Jaroslav Halak top shelf.

It was an incredible individual effort and the reason the Blue Jackets took one point out of Boston.

His overtime shift may have been even better. With 2:26 remaining, Duchene lost a draw in Boston's end, but hounded Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy into a botched exit. Then, he hounded McAvoy and center Sean Kuraly into the boards, where, miraculously, he emerged from the one-on-two battle with the puck.

As he skated across the crease, looking for an opening past Halak, McAvoy was able to get back and block the shot before ultimately tripping Duchene – and getting away with it – in the corner.

This close.

All due to hustle, an active defensive stick, and the ability to hold onto the puck to create scoring chances.

The Blue Jackets have a bonafide second line, and a large part of it is the game-breaking abilities of Matt Duchene.

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