The Columbus Blue Jackets capped off their western road trip with a 1-2-1 record, getting points in the first two games before losing in regulation in the final two.
All things considered, it wasn't a terrible trip, save for the fact that pending UFA
trade chip Gus Nyquist was injured and is out indefinitely. The Blue Jackets were outscored 14-9 on the swing, and it wasn't difficult to see where the offense was coming from.
Kirill Marchenko continued his torrid scoring pace, scoring four (!) of the club's nine goals. He's on a 40-goal pace over an 82-game season, and when the book is closed on the 2022-23 season, it's plausible - likely, really - that Marchenko's breakout is the best storyline from the season. Marchenko is quietly (honestly, is anyone outside of Columbus seeing what this guy is doing?) second among rookies in goals with 13, and leader Matty Beniers has scored just four more goals in twenty more games.
Kent Johnson scored two goals and added an assist on the four-game trip, scoring the lone goal in Saturday's 3-1 loss and the OT winner against the Oilers, meaning that 66.6% of the goals scored on the road trip were by the two ascending youngsters. Incredibly, the last five goals scored by the Blue Jackets have been scored by one of those two players.
The last five #CBJ goals have read— Mark Scheig (@mark_scheig) January 29, 2023
Five in a row from rookies. Not good enough from the veterans.
The other three goals on the trip were scored by Boone Jenner, who had a pair in his own right, and Patrik Laine, who scored a power-play goal. Johnny Gaudreau added four assists in the four games and remains the club's leading scorer by a country mile, with 13-35-48 in 50 games. Adam Boqvist, who was made a scratch with an upper-body injury in the last game of the four-game trip, also added four assists in the three games.
Nobody considers Jenner (29) or Gaudreau (29) young players, and there are no additional points for being young and scoring, but Laine (24) and Boqvist (22), are still in the early stages of their respective careers.
Kirill Marchenko cranks home Gaudreau's power play feed to bring Columbus back within 1!#CBJ pic.twitter.com/FDAURoKPlr— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) January 24, 2023
Kirill Marchenko has the 11th goal of his rookie campaign pic.twitter.com/gtrvZo4kSI— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 26, 2023
Kirill Marchenko tips home Boqvist's point wrister for a power play goal, quickly responding for Columbus!#CBJ pic.twitter.com/SW1RGac0wK— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) January 28, 2023
Marchenko's second of the game, from Jenner and Gaudreau. #CBJ pic.twitter.com/NYk33S5cUc— 1st Ohio Battery (@1stOhioBattery) January 28, 2023
With the All-Star break coming up, it's natural to reflect on the season that has been, and what's to come in the next few months. This team is in the NHL's basement, and the only thing that really matters at this point is that the club's future is properly developed. We've written ad nauseam about Marchenko and Johnson, and for good reason - they've been among the team's best players. There's a reason that there has been little to say about other youngsters, like Emil Bemstrom or Liam Foudy; they haven't done enough to warrant additional attention.
Kent Johnson with the OT winner pic.twitter.com/THS4Qu5fGk— NHLonTNT (@NHL_On_TNT) January 26, 2023
Kent Johnson with an absolute snipe to cut the deficit in half. pic.twitter.com/yd2X6ZmKrW— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 29, 2023
It's not a coincidence that Marchenko (career-high) and Johnson (second-most) played a lot of minutes in the final game of the road trip against the Seattle Kraken. By that point, it had become obvious to the coaching staff that these two players needed to get more than just a regular shift. Thank goodness.