In an attempt to generate more offense in the third period, Brad Larsen started mixing the lines up. Patrik Laine was back on the top line alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Boone Jenner. Kent Johnson was bumped up a line to skate alongside Jack Roslovic and Gustav Nyquist. Yegor Chinakhov found himself on the third line with Cole Sillinger and Kirill Marchenko.
The result? The Jackets had zero shots on goal for an 11:35 stretch of the third. In fact, they did not register their first 5-on-5 shot until the 19:35 mark of the period – after Florida had scored the empty netter to seal it. In a game where you’re down 3-0, that’s not a good recipe for success.
Putting Laine back on the top line was an awful mistake. Florida was essentially a one line team last night; their top line of Matthew Tkachuk, Alexsander Barkov, and Sam Reinhart were on the ice for all four goals. As the home team they had the advantage of making the last change, and they matched this line up against the top line of the Blue Jackets all throughout the third period.
When Elvis Merzlikins was pulled and the Jackets had loaded up offensively, it was this line that was on the ice to defend the lead. The Jackets never stood a chance, completely unable to gain the blue line – let alone create any offense.
By the end of the game, Florida was down to just 10 forwards due to injury. If the Jackets had rolled four capable lines out on them, it seems like they would have been able to make the game a little bit closer. Would they have won? Probably not. But, at least they would have been given a puncher’s chance.
When he rolled out Laine and Gaudreau together, Lars made it easy for Florida to roll out their top line and top defense pairing. He let them off the hook by essentially rolling out two lines for most of the period. The team’s fourth line saw just four shifts – much of that ice time being shorthanded.
Cole Sillinger and Kirill Marchenko essentially saw just three shifts apiece – though Cole had one extra four second blurb mid-way through. One shift for each of these lines came AFTER the 4-0 goal. And then, the 5-on-5 shots came from the guys who were mostly stapled to the bench in the third.
I’ve defended a lot of decisions with this group, but this one was a real head scratcher. The lines had developed some nice chemistry. While they hadn’t scored last night; in their previous two games they combined for 9 goals. It felt like they were right there, but a couple of posts and some timely saves made all the difference.
Changing them up and limiting the bench last night, was a huge mistake in my opinion.