The Columbus Blue Jackets came away from their two-game set with Chicago with three points out of a possible four, a far cry from a disappointment.
All in all, the games were something of a mixed bag. There was plenty of good (hello, offense!), and plenty of bad (more uncharacteristic defensive miscues). These three plays accentuate the weekend's split with the Blackhawks.
PLAY #1: STENLUND GWG
After Mikko Koivu announced his retirement, we thought that someone like Kevin Stenlund may be the biggest beneficiary. He did not waste his opportunity, scoring the game-winning goal in his first game as the club's 2C. Through five games this season, Stenlund is a point-a-game player with 2-3-5.
His game-winner is everything that the Blue Jackets preach: going north with the puck by utilizing quick passing plays by spending as little time in the defensive zone as both an offensive and defensive tactic.
The play starts innocently enough with the Blackhawks flipping the puck into the neutral zone. Andrew Peeke settles the puck with his glove and then switches spots with Michael Del Zotto. This quick bump back into the defensive signaled to the Blackhawks forwards (CHI88 and CHI24) that now is a safe time to change. They were wrong.
Del Zotto finds Bjorkstrand at the center ice wall, an easy outlet. Bjorkstrand makes the play happen by sending a pass - immediately - through the seam between CHI12 and CHI2. Stenlund provides a great route, presenting a target that Bjorkstrand can easily find. With a half step on the Blackhawks defense, he buries the game-winning goal through the fivehole.
PLAY #2: LAINE LASER
As I wrote in my deep dive focusing on Patrik Laine's shot, "while he isn't a prolific skater or transporter of the puck, he's effective at finishing plays on the rush". These words rang true on Saturday night, as the Finn showcased his ridiculous shot with a textbook pull-and-drag move that beat Kevin Lankinen clean.
Like Stenlund's goal, this play starts with a quick exit from their defensive zone. Seth Jones rims the puck, a low percentage play that gets the job done but rarely leads to offense. But this was different, as Blackhawks' defenseman Nikita Zadorov pinched on Cam Atkinson, who was able to finagle the puck into space to Laine, who was coming through the middle of the ice with speed. This created a 2-on-1 with backpressure, and by the time Laine crossed the blue line, it was effectively a 2-on-2, or as he liked to think of it on this play, a 1-on-1.
Laine pulled the puck around the outstretched stick of Nicolas Beaudin, a rookie defenseman, before slinging the puck 'top cheese'.
PLAY #3: FOLIGNO MISHAPS
It was an overtime to forget for Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno. He lost the opening faceoff. After knocking Patrick Kane off the puck (that part was good!), he missed Laine on an easy pass that would have sprung the Blue Jackets best player in transition. When the pass missed, the Blackhawks countered on a 2-on-2, and Foligno completed his whoopsie hat trick by bungling his defensive coverage, allowing a pass from Kane to Alex DeBrincat for the OT goal.
When playing defense on a 2-on-2, communication is paramount. At 0:10, you can see Seth Jones pointing his stick at Foligno, as if to say, "take THAT guy", but Foligno was overzealous and tried to force Kane into a 1-on-2 (bad idea). In re-watching the video, DeBrincat is visibly excited when he sees Foligno inching towards Kane, as though he knew it was game over at that point.
The most frustrating part of the play was the low level of difficulty on this coverage. DeBrincat and Kane switched at the blue line, giving Foligno more than ample time to sort through the coverage.
“Nick needed to have better coverage there,” John Tortorella said. “He should have just let Jonesy take ’em. It’s just a two-on-two. It’s an easy play."
With the OT loss, the Blue Jackets fell to 0-3 in the extra session this season.