John Tortorella often calls the NHL a "find a way" league.
Something tells us tonight's game isn't *exactly* what he had in mind.
The Blue Jackets hung in there on Thursday against Carolina before Nick Foligno's late game-winning goal, but they were nowhere near the level of the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night. Does this seem odd if you're just tuning in and seeing the final score? Yeah, it's weird for us, too.
But in the course of an 82-game season, you'll have games like this. And the Blue Jackets were on the right side of it this time around. Here are tonight's three things.
Putting On a Show
Elvis Merzlikins had 35 saves through 37 minutes of action. Come on, now.
He finished the night with 41 saves and earned his third shutout in four games, which is as ridiculous to read as it is to say out loud as it is to see in-person. The dude is on another level, a level that we haven't seen around these parts perhaps....ever. He's 8-2-0 in 10 starts since Joonas Korpisalo was injured with three shutouts and a galaxy-brain .955 save%.
This tweet pretty much sums it up.
Elvis Merzlikins in his last 4 games:— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 19, 2020
Stopped 134 of 136 shots faced
Stopped 31 of 32 high danger chances faced
Expected goals against were 11.4, actually gave up just 2 (via NST)
I cant stress this last point enough.. his name is Elvis Merzlikins
Kinda Sorta Ugly
The good news is that the Blue Jackets won the game, and they did so handily. The bad news is the road to get there wasn't a freshly-paved highway. But if we're to believe Tortorella (and other coaches in the NHL) who preach process over result, he will take a mixed bag out of this game. The result was there, but there's a lot within the process to be worked on – and this is two straight games where the Blue Jackets have been caved in at 5-on-5 and had to have their goaltender bail them out.
Merzlikins said that he was running low on energy in the second period, and without his effort, the Blue Jackets might've been playing a different game in the third. The Devils did everything they could and generated both volume *and* quality, yet Merzlikins shut it all down.
Welcome Back, Cam
One of the most encouraging signs of the last two games is Cam Atkinson seeing the puck go in the net. In his two games back from an ankle injury, Atkinson has three goals and was sniffing around a hat trick tonight.
This two-goal effort was his second multi-goal game of the season and the 31st of his NHL career. He won't say it, but a small part of Tortorella had to be mildly concerned about players coming back from injury and integrating into this lineup – even an established star like Atkinson – but he's given them a boost since returning.