The Columbus Blue Jackets went into a hostile T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with high hopes and left with a 3-0 win and two more points in the standings.
They also left with confidence, as the team saw rare goals from Emil Bemstrom (his fourth goal of the year) and Alexander Wennberg (his third goal of the year).
For Wennberg, it was his first goal in 35 games, and it came off a sweet passing play from Zach Werenski, Nathan Gerbe, and finally fellow-Swede Kevin Stenlund. Stenlund's beautiful area saucer pass allowed Wennberg the time to walk in and fire before he even had a second thought:
It was far from the only major contribution in the 3-0 win from a Swede. Coming into the season, there was serious hype around Bemstrom's one-timer. GM Jarmo Kekalainen endorsed it publicly and mentioned him as a wrinkle that would help the power play move past the loss of Artemi Panarin.
While we haven't seen him bomb away with much frequency yet this year, this shot was certainly a welcome sight. Of his four goals, three have come on the power play. If the Blue Jackets can get him going, he'll be a real threat:
Stenlund, who had an assist on each of the two goals, has been a pleasant surprise. He's a 6'4 right-handed center with an effective shot and a dependable two-way game. He had 1-2-3 on the four-game road trip, with his lone goal being the eventual game-winner. With 3-2-5 in 14 games, the Blue Jackets may opt to keep him around even if/when the roster is fully healthy. With a shot like this, it's easy to understand why:
Gus Nyquist has proven to be a very valuable player for the Blue Jackets, as his 10-21-31 has him second on the team in points behind Pierre-Luc Dubois (15-19-34). Nyquist has been as advertised, and perhaps even a bit more, and has shown poise and skill that the club desperately needed. His 1-2-3 in four games on the road trip went a long way in helping secure wins in Los Angeles and Anaheim. Playing alongside Nick Foligno has presented a bit of a challenge, as the captain has really struggled to score this year. Perhaps playing Nyquist with a fellow Swede with an acumen for goal-scoring (Stenlund? Bemstrom?) would further help his game.
Jakob Lilja hasn't been flashy but has been a reliable contributor in the bottom-six for the Blue Jackets. He's played in nearly half of their games this year (21), and has chipped in sparingly with 1-2-3. While he will likely be on the outside looking in when the roster returns to full health, Lilja has proven to be competent. Playing alongside Riley Nash and Eric Robinson, the line led all Blue Jackets trios in puck possession.
Gabriel Carlsson, still only 23-years old, has averaged nearly 11 minutes TOI in his six games with the Blue Jackets this year. He hasn't added much offense but is a reliable enough option. His place on the organizational depth chart is almost certainly going to leave him in Cleveland, but with prior and/or current injuries to Ryan Murray, Markus Nutivaara, Zach Werenski, and Andrew Peeke, he's proven to be a valuable asset, though he didn't play at all on their recent road trip.
The Blue Jackets will have difficult roster decisions to make when the team eventually returns to health, specifically surrounding several of these players. The addition of these Swedes will further complicate matters, as the organization has proven to have more depth than expected, putting John Tortorella and company in an enviable spot.