As the old saying goes, there is no substitute for experience.
And on Wednesday night, on national television, the Blue Jackets coaching staff leaned on top players and rookie sensations alike in a come-from-behind, 3-2 OT win over the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers, at home, are in a fight for points. A year after making it to the Western Conference Finals, the Oilers find themselves in a Wild Card position. Two points against the basement-dwelling Blue Jackets would be easy, right? Not so fast, said Blue Jackets rookies Kirill Marchenko and Kent Johnson, who scored the third-period game-tying and overtime game-winning goals, respectively.
Marchenko, who skated 16:01 and played the bumper position on the top power-play unit, scored on a power-forward type of move, showcasing the 22-year-olds diverse toolkit.
Kirill Marchenko has the 11th goal of his rookie campaign pic.twitter.com/gtrvZo4kSI— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 26, 2023
With 11 goals in his first 25 NHL games, Marchenko finds himself in rare air and is quietly climbing the rookie goal-scoring leaderboard, trailing only Shane Pinto (12), Wyatt Johnston (13), and Matty Beniers (17). Of course, he's played half the games of his peers, having only been promoted to the NHL in December.
Then there's Johnson, who skated 16:28 in the win. After turning the puck over on the Oilers' first goal of the game, it would have been easy (predictable?) for head coach Brad Larsen to staple him to the bench. Instead, Larsen and his staff realized that the 20-year-old could gain valuable experience by skating a regular shift in a one-goal game in a hostile road environment.
Like Marchenko, Johnson is quietly in the Calder Trophy race. His 22 points (9-13-22) in 45 games rank him T-5 in rookie scoring. Each of the players higher than him in the race is averaging well over a minute more of ice time per game than Johnson (13:37).
It's not a coincidence that he scored the winning goal in 3v3 overtime while skating alongside Johnny Gaudreau.
The two points gained from winning this game won't mean anything in the playoff picture. But the moxie showed by the Blue Jackets' two most promising young players in a game like that should be noted and celebrated.