Blue Jackets Rebound: Club Responds, Gets Collaborative Team-wide Effort In Victory Over Flyers

By Will Chase on January 21, 2022 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets' Boone Jenner and Jake Voracek celebrate their win at the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets are 2-1 in their previous three games.

The cumulative score in those games: 10-10.

That's, of course, a 6-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, a 9-2 defeat at the Florida Panthers, and then a 2-1 rebound and response win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

You'll take the 2-1 record no matter who the opponents are because who wouldn't take winning two out of three? Whether it's a 9-2 loss or a 2-1 win, the one loss, and one win mean the same in the standings.

However, a 9-2 defeat was so bad and so embarrassing that the club practiced hard on Monday with bag skating, more drills, and probably some yelling. 

Maybe the club would have preferred playing the next game right away to shake the loss, but as the schedule would have it, the Blue Jackets had four days off before taking on a Flyers team who came into Thursday's game on a nine-game losing streak.

Head coach Brad Larsen liked the whole team effort by his guys.

"We're kind of patchworking here," Larsen said. "With (Cole Sillinger) out too, we're missing some key guys here. They battled hard. It wasn't perfect, they're (Flyers) going to get some chances, but I thought we did a pretty good job of clearing second chance opportunities.

They were digging in, they were competing and that's what I want to see."

Birthday boy Sean Kuraly is a player that's won over Larsen with his nightly impact. He had an assist to go with three shots and a 52.9% (9-of-17) face-off win percentage.

"(Kuraly) is an important player for me," Larsen said. "He's a guy that takes a lot of the hard minutes. He was really good in the face-off circle tonight where we needed him. So was Boone (Jenner) as usual, and he played a big role in the penalty kill. He just quietly does his thing and he's doing a good job on it.

He's built trust here in his first 30-plus games and what he can bring in his effort. He's very consistent in that area."

A penalty 28 seconds into the game is never the way you script things, but that said, a good penalty kill can have a positive effect on your team. The Blue Jackets were four-for-four on the night, stifling the Flyers all game. 

"It's all tied together, special teams, five-on-five, find a way to win," Larsen said. "Especially after the game in Florida, as ugly as that was. You come on the road, it's hard to win on the road and this is a's a tough building to win in. I know they're having a little bit of a tough stretch here but that makes these games sometimes even harder.

They're desperate. We're patchworking here, guys are stepping up, playing in bigger roles, and we found a way tonight."

Patrik Laine's lethal top-shelf shot gave him six goals on the season and two in the last three games, yet just two in the new year.

"I'd love to see him shoot more," Larsen said. "I think he's got more opportunity to shoot it. It's frustrating because his shot is so lethal. I don't know why he wouldn't shoot more at times. I shake my head because every time he shoots, it's got a chance to go in. I think he ended up with five shots, I wish he had 10 and there are opportunities to unleash that shot.

I'll never get mad at him for shooting the puck so certainly, in more in volume and in bulk, that's a good thing for him."

Following last week's shutout win over the Hurricanes, and one of his best career performances, Elvis Merzlikins talked about learning from the bad moments through the course of an 82-game season.

Then he suffered one of his worst career games.

Thursday's game was a microcosm for Merzlikins and the team of rebounding and finding their way.

"It was an important game for him, for our whole team quite honestly," Larsen said. "But for him especially it was a rough start, and for all of us. (He) comes back in, it's a huge game for us to try and get a response here, and try to get back in the win column, and he was a big part of that tonight."

While Sean Kuraly agreed with the notion that the team was playing to get Voracek that win against his old team, Voracek was quick to shut that idea down.

"We were trying to get a win as a team," Voracek said. 

Voracek agreed with Larsen's assessment of Laine shooting more. He also agreed that Merzlikins played well and responded nicely following a tough game.

"That's what good players do," Voracek said. "They just move on and prepare for another game so he did that. He did it a lot of times this year, that's why he's such a good goalie. That's what you've gotta do, you cannot be thinking about the past."

The Blue Jackets also got a goal from Oliver Bjorkstand on Thursday for his 12th of the season to open the scoring.

Now the Blue Jackets have to turn the page quickly as they get ready to face Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time this season at Nationwide Arena at 7:00 pm ET.