Gregory Hofmann Elevated to Second Line; Rewards Larsen, Blue Jackets with 2-Point Night

By Will Chase on October 26, 2021 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets' Gregory Hofmann celebrates his second period against the Dallas Stars at Nationwide Arena Monday night.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes coaches make a bold decision that can either pan out and make one look like a genius. Or it can make one look foolish.

Credit to Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen for shaking up his Monday night lineup against the Dallas Stars and placing Gregory Hofmann on the second line, alongside Jack Roslovic and Oliver Bjorkstrand.

If Monday night was an audition, Hofmann passed with flying colors.

The 28-year-old had two points including his first career goal, and also drew a second-period penalty that provided the Jackets with one of their four power-play opportunities on the night. They didn't convert on either of the chances for the first time this season, but they had plenty of looks. Hofmann was +2 in 10:21 of ice time.

The scoring got started early by Oliver Bjorkstrand at 5:53 of the opening period and Hofmann cracked the scoresheet with his second assist:

But the fun was only getting started and Hofmann extended Columbus' lead to two goals at 10:39 of the second. Bjorkstrand earned his 100th career assist on Hofmann's first-career goal:

As you can see, the impact of the Blue Jackets, and especially that of Hofmann, was very evident against the Stars, coupled by their response after their loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.

Elvis Merzlikins was a star – the game's first star of the night – in Monday's win, stopping 31 of 32 shots en route to the 4-1 victory. But he made sure to shoutout his buddy, Hofmann:

"I was really waiting for his first NHL goal," Merzlikins said. "I know he's capable. I know that he belongs in this league. Obviously, he just needs a little time like I had like I needed in the start on my first year here. I was really happy.

"This morning I saw a line changing. I mean, I'm not blaming the line changing but I'm just saying that it's a different feeling for a player so this is huge for him. I hope now from this goal, he can fly. He can go. Because I know he can do that and he's capable to do that."

Hofmann was Monday's Second Star of the Game. He talked about his game and a feeling he had during the first period.

"It's funny because I was thinking after the first period, that I don't know, something is going to happen tonight and maybe I'm going to score that first one," Hofmann said. "I need to come on the second period and I was thinking in the first-period break that I'm gonna go to Elvis (if I score) because (of) just the way he helped me around the way and he's a close, close friend and I've known him a long time.

"It was kind of a bit of respect for what he did for me, and I almost forgot it. After that, I turned back and I went to him. So yeah, it was special."

On the development of his goal and assist from Bjorkstrand:

"Yeah it happened I think after a face-off," Hofmann said. "(Bjorkstrand), I think he tried to block the guys, the puck bounced and came right there on my stick and I have to shoot pretty quick and it went in. Great job from (Bjorkstrand) and I was able to finish so it was really nice."

As the team continues to jell and find chemistry among the four lines, it appears Larsen and the coaching staff might have found another line in Hofmann - Roslovic - Bjorkstrand that could be a sticking point, at least for the immediate future. Roslovic also had an assist as the trio combined for five points (one goal, three assists).

Six games into a long season, this has been a very fun group to watch night in and night out thus far.