Three Things: Defense, Goaltending, And Youth Help Blue Jackets Advance

By Ed Francis on August 9, 2020 at 10:59 pm
Columbus Moves On To Round One
John E. Sokolowski-USA Today Sports

Admit it: You held your celebratory cheers in just a little bit longer this time, didn't you?

After a reminder Friday night that it's never over until it's over, the Columbus Blue Jackets took the weekend to shake-off their Game 4 hangover to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round. 

Here are the three things from Sunday night's conclusion of a highly entertaining series.

Stingy Defense, Stingier Goaltending

Joonas Korpisalo's first playoff series has been an interesting one. A shutout to start the series, pulled in the third game, benched in game four, and tonight, the icing on the cake rink: a second shutout in the deciding game. 

He made 33 saves, and got a little luck with two Toronto shots that hit iron and trickled harmlessly away. As he did in Game 1, Korpisalo made a fantastic glove save on Auston Matthews that was a confidence boost for Korpi and left Matthews frustrated. 

Any shutout goes beyond the goalie, though, and Sunday was no different. Active sticks, timely clears, and limiting quality shots were the theme of the night for the entire blueline. Seth Jones turned in a traditional Seth Jones performance, Vladislav Gavrikov and David Savard combined for a half dozen blocked shots, and Zach Werenski - who ended up with the game-winning goal - logged big minutes in a game that many questioned whether or not he'd even be available for. 

The backbone of this team is defense and goaltending, and it showed when it mattered most.

Youth Movement

Liam Foudy turned 20 years old earlier this year. Alexandre Texier won't turn 21 for another month. Pierre-Luc Dubois turned 22 just over a month ago, somehow.

Yet, without the strong performances by all three throughout this series, the Blue Jackets are likely out of the bubble and on their way back to Columbus.

  • Dubois has been a presence the entire series and tonight was no different. He was able to do what he excelled at the first four games; use his physical presence to frustrate the Maple Leafs. Look at him skate right through Alexander Kerfoot. 
  • Texier was on the ice more than any other forward in Game 5; over 21 minutes. That speaks volumes to the trust that John Tortorella has in him. And despite not picking up a point, he lived up to Tort's expectations with smart play after smart play, and on both ends of the ice. 
  • When Cam Atkinson left the bench for several minutes during the second period, it was Foudy - in just his 7th NHL game - on the top line with the aforementioned PLD and Tex. He had several chances throughout the night and, oh yeah, had this nifty move for his first career goal:

The future is bright, and the future may well be here. 

Can the Lightning Get Struck Twice?

For the second consecutive season, the Blue Jackets have a Round 1 date with the Tampa Bay Lightning. It's also the fourth consecutive postseason series against an Atlantic division team; a bit quirky for a team from the Metro. The series is set to start Tuesday afternoon, and a couple of key players for Tampa may not be ready to go. 

While the Lightning did not have a historically great season, as they did in the 2018-19 campaign, they're still a strong cup contender. They're also looking for blood after their sweep at the hands of Columbus last April. Can the Blue Jackets continue to play their hard-nosed style against another highly-skilled offensive team? We'll find out soon enough. 

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