The Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 in their exhibition game against each other on Thursday night. This was a perfect excuse to see two of Toronto’s most relevant rivals against each other. It was a good opportunity to see where the Leafs fit in in all of this. I did my best at seeing and exploiting any flaws in both teams’ games, I hope you enjoy it. Omar and I were really hoping for a four-goal comeback in the third period, sadly it didn’t come.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Alexandre Texier (42) - Pierre-Luc Dubois (18) - Oliver Bjorkstrand (28)
Nick Foligno (71) - Alexander Wennberg (10) - Cam Atkinson (13)
Gustav Nyquist (14) - Boone Jenner (38) - Liam Foudy (19)
Cam Robinson (50) - Riley Nash (20) - Emil Bemstrom (52)
Nathan Gerbe (24)
Zach Werenski (8) - Seth Jones (3)
Vladislav Gavrikov (44) - David Savard (58)
Ryan Murray (27) - Dean Kukan (46)
Markus Nutivaara (65)
Joonas Korpisalo (70)
Elvis Merzlikins (90)
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Jack Studnicka
Sean Kuraly - Charlie Coyle - Anders Bjork
Joakim Nordstrom - Par Lindholm - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Jeremy Lauzon
Boone Jenner opened the scoring in the first period off a rush from rookie Liam Foudy. The winger skated around Torey Krug and threw the puck into an open space where Jenner was able to shovel the puck home after being Sean Kuraly to the front of the net.
Boone Jenner puts the Blue Jackets on the board off a pass from Liam Foudy pic.twitter.com/evRkmoUYyR— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 30, 2020
The Bruins came back in the second half of the period and scared the Blue Jackets a bit in the defensive zone. Jack Studnicka was able to sneak behind the defense off a disrupted zone entry by Kukan and Nutivaara. He got a great chance on the backhand that Korpisalo stopped.
The Blue Jackets were trying to use their sticks to disrupt the play but Jack Studnicka managed to get through and put a shot on Korpisalo pic.twitter.com/HGKfUgEFKI— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 30, 2020
The Blue Jackets were later able to earn a power play after John Moore got sent to the box for interference on Cam Atkinson. Off the first faceoff, Oliver Bjorkstrand got a wrist shot off from above the right faceoff dot that Rask smothered. On the second offensive shift, Zach Werenski had the puck bounce over his stick at the corner of the blueline and the group wasted the rest of the power play trying to reset.
In the last five minutes of the period, there were a string of penalties that led to the Blue Jackets extending their lead. First, Matt Grzelcyk took a hooking penalty. Then a few seconds into the power play, Seth Jones took a slashing penalty. During the 4v4, both sides traded chance (three each). At the tail end of the 4v4, Brad Marchand took a hooking penalty on Texier and Werenski was able to one-time a pass to the point into the back of the net, doubling the team’s lead.
Zach Wirenski puts Columbus up by two off the one-timer pic.twitter.com/REer1ULUW0— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 30, 2020
Anders Bjork tried to bully his way through the entire Blue Jackets roster on the next shift, and nearly got there, but was pushed out wide as he reached the net. The Blue Jackets came back the other way and effectively transitioned the puck from the left wing to the right wing for an open chance for Gustav Nyquist. Dubois and Bjorkstrand had the two assists with Jones coming down low with the trio to provide some width.
This is the Blue Jackets first line and pairing, and it’s pretty scary in transition. If the Leafs can do their best to stop it by remembering their assignments not getting stuck puck-watching, they should come out on top.
Good rush here. Nearly everyone touches the puck pic.twitter.com/y8lSIkVo0F— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 30, 2020
The Blue Jackets were much more involved in the front of the Bruins net than they’ve shown in general this year. The Bruins didn’t look great at all, their tempo was not at the same level as Columbus. Both 5v5 goals came from the slot, with Werenski’s goal coming at 4v3 and from the top of the point. The Bruins gave the Blue Jackets three penalties in this period, which was a major part of the domination in puck possession.
Each of the three goals for Columbus are a warning for the Leafs in three different aspects of the game:
- They have to be clean against rushes and make sure there is both forward support along the wings and they don’t let anything get directly behind them — the puck should be going to the walls, if anywhere.
- They have to watch out for the first line + first pair unit on the ice together. They can beat an average-to-good defense cleanly on occasion and unless the Leafs first line is out-scoring them at 5v5, it’s a big issue.
- Watch the penalties because anything can happen on a power play, including a point shot getting in. Don’t give the Blue Jackets the momentum with sustained puck possession, keep the puck yourself.
Overall, I did enjoy that first period. Rask got shelled for three goals by Columbus and Marchand pouting in the box for a power play goal against. Gotta be happy with that!— Hardev Lad (@HardevLad) July 31, 2020
The Blue Jackets kept giving the Bruins problems into the second period, often by out-working them along the walls and in footraces. One in particular earned the Blue Jackets another power play when Krug hauled down Dubois as he was trying to go around the outside.
On the power play, the Blue Jackets second unit basically looks like they’re playing 5v5 with extra space. They work the puck around the outside and along the boards and occasionally step up from low-danger areas for medium-danger shots at the tops of the circles.
The first unit works the puck between Werenski and Bjorkstrand to open up shooting lanes, with Jones on the opposite wing looking for one-timers, but they don’t really penetrate the middle very often at all.
With 10:06 to go in the second period, we got goalie changes for both sides.
The Bruins exploited the Blue Jackets being so aggressive on the strong side of the breakout, and missed David Pastrnak completely on the weak side. Elvis is...human.
David Pastrnak puts the Bruins on the board pic.twitter.com/sO9kP1q7pN— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 31, 2020
I could absolutely see Tyson Barrie doing this:
Dubois strips Marchand but can't beat the crossbar pic.twitter.com/2JQWvkKV2G— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 31, 2020
The Bruins were a lot better in this period. They scored a goal, but more importantly, they filled the Blue Jackets slot with a big blog of death. Of their 15 shot attempts in the period, 10 were scoring chances, and 5 were high-danger chances. The Blue Jackets were only able to come up with 6 HDCF at 5v5 in the first two periods combined.
There was no scoring in the third other than an empty net goal for Alexandre Texier. Much of the period saw the Bruins sifting through the Blue Jackets defense and had them scrambling on many occasions. Elvis Merzlikins was good in net, saving all seven medium and low danger shots, and giving up only one goal from a high danger area. He looked okay for the most part, but a lot more scrambly when the puck was in tight than Korpisalo.
- The Blue Jackets are not immune to a hard forecheck themselves. If you pressure their defensemen and work them hard, you can win offensive zone chances. Later in the game, the Bruins were skating circles around the Blue Jackets, forcing them to dive and stretch to keep up. If the Leafs can keep their tempo up and be sharp with their passes, they can break down this defense. This game had a bunch of good examples, particularly in their lateral movement.
- Like Nick Robertson, Jack Studnicka looked like he was trying harder than everyone else and was rewarded with some good chances. He led the Bruins in ixG, which also should tell you how hard the Bruins were trying. They have three games to get ramped up, they didn’t need this.
- I don’t know who the Blue Jackets start in game one, but I would go with Korpisalo because he looked like he had a better game. That said, I think Merzlikins had a tougher night because the Bruins didn’t wake up until the third period.
- I’m sorry about the lack of a recap in the second half of the game, something else came up at around 8:40. /