The Columbus Blue Jackets Are A Lot Of Things, But Boring Is Not One Of Them

By Will Chase on January 4, 2022 at 1:45 pm
Alexandre Texier and Jordan Staal battle for the puck in the first period at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

One thing is for certain, the 2021-22 Columbus Blue Jackets are not boring.

In fact, as Brad Larsen and his coaching staff are probably finding out, this has been an interesting team at this juncture of the season. At Nationwide Arena — Saturday's game notwithstanding — they have been a fun team.

You'll certainly take a 10-4-1 home record just inside the new year of 2022. Their 5-10-0 record away from the friendly confines has been the difference for the new-look club under Larsen.

All of what we've seen from this club so far is probably not too surprising. They're young, raw, fun, and frustrating. Nothing more frustrating than seeing a team blow multiple 3-0 leads, and a 4-0 lead, in the first half of the season.

As the Carolina Hurricanes look to be among the best teams in the entire league, Saturday's game was a nightmarish start to 2022 for Columbus. 

Though the early 4-0 scoreboard dominance against the Hurricanes suggested the Blue Jackets should have won the game — and they should have — the Hurricanes held the edge in expected goals 5.51-2.45, outshot the Blue Jackets 49-18 (16-2 in the third period), and the Hurricanes held a whopping 90-33 advantage for all shot attempts.

Even so, teams should not lose a game they lead by four goals. Some frustrations aside, there have been some positives — mixed with concerns.

As we alluded to at the top, the Blue Jackets are one of the top home teams in the league with their 10 wins in 15 games, and points in all but four. Teams certainly want to play tough at home, and they are entertaining the home crowd more often than not.

Their 3.60 goals per game at Nationwide is the sixth-best in the league, while the road stat for that category is 17th on the road (2.80). However, they allow 4.13 goals on the road and are being outscored 62-42 away from Columbus. 

Elvis Merzlikins (12-8-1, .907, 3.20) has been sensational at Nationwide Arena where he's 10-2-1 (.928, 2.40), yet he's only 2-6-0 on the road (.871, 4.72). 

It's not uncommon to be a little worse on the road than at home, but the polar opposite disparity is interesting, yet bad, and not too fun.

With Elvis Merzlikins feeling discomfort in his lower body, Zach Werenski being placed on COVID protocol, and Alexandre Texier (another positive surprise) out due to a non-COVID illness, things could get even dicier. 

Fortunately for the club, Oliver Bjorkstrand is slated to return to action Tuesday night as he's been activated off COVID protocol.

Then there's Daniil Tarasov (How great has he been?!) who left Saturday's start with a lower-body injury, prompting the Blue Jackets to practice with Joonas Korpisalo and EBUG Bailey Seagraves on Monday.

Interesting has been the keyword with this team, but hopefully, they'll be able to find some consistency in their game on the ice. Or at least within their asset management.

Dan wrote about the Blue Jackets' New Year's Resolutions, one of which spoke to the pending restricted and unrestricted free agent situations with Max Domi, Joonas Korpisalo, Patrik Laine, and others.

There was also the constant scratching of Yegor Chinakhov in December but he's since played in the last three games. One message for the team going forward: If you're not going to play young players, send them down to Cleveland!

Cole Sillinger represents a fun crop of current Blue Jackets talent to pair with the crop for the immediate future. Four players have cracked the scoresheet with their first goals this season including Chinakhov and Sillinger.

Interesting doesn't always mean good and this team has shown volatility — which we all expected — but the case can be made that they have been fun in a lot of key areas.

The next opportunity for the Blue Jackets doesn't figure to get any easier as the Tampa Bay Lightning comes into town for Tuesday's matchup.