NHL season is officially under way in Central Ohio. Last night, the Jackets took the ice with booming energy from the city of Columbus. Unfortunately, they came up short in a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Here are five observations that stood out from opening night for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Elvis Merzlikins was really good.
Yeah, you read that right. Elvis made 33 saves on 35 shots last night, many of them from high danger areas. We can debate his style all day long, but in the end, his job is to stop pucks, and he did that. He gave the team a chance to win, and that’s all we can really ask for in a starting goaltender. On most nights, that kind of performance leads to positive results. He deserved better.
The transition game needs a lot of work.
The Jackets got crushed transitionally last night, turning the puck over way too often in the neutral zone, allowing odd-man rushes the other way. This is part of the reason Elvis had to be so good; the team just wasn’t able to generate zone entries with control, and almost every player on the ice was guilty of trying to do too much with the puck at the blue lines. Fortunately, this is something that can be corrected via coaching. Oh, and having one of your best puck handlers in the lineup probably wouldn’t hurt here, either. (They scratched him for 9 minutes of Jack Roslovic?!?)
Adam Fantilli is the real deal.
On just his third NHL shift, Adam Fantilli picked up a primary assist. By driving the net and getting a high danger scoring chance, he was able to set up Jake Bean for the first goal of the season for the Blue Jackets. Though you could see signs of jitters, he was terrific for the Blue Jackets last night – to the point that he probably should have played a lot more than 13:40.
The power-play is still a mess.
The Columbus power-play went 0-4, and was booed off the ice more than once last night. This is an issue that has plagued this team for far too long, and it doesn’t seem like it should be all that complicated to fix. They have the talent here, that should lead to at least a capable/dangerous unit. New assistant coach Mark Recchi has his work cut out for him. A good place to start? Maybe get rid of the ridiculous neutral zone drop pass that gets read like an old book by every team in the league now.
The returning faces were strong.
Most notably, Jake Bean and Alexandre Texier. Both guys played with a ton of energy and stood out in positive ways last night. While some of the other guys who missed last season due to injury seemed to struggle, we can chalk that up to rust. But getting a solid effort from two of them on opening night was very encouraging.
In the end, while the team didn’t get the results they wanted, there are plenty of positives to take from last night’s game. There are 81 games left in the season, so hopefully they can correct some of the issues we saw and move forward. The Jackets next face off on Saturday night, as they host the New York Rangers at Nationwide Arena.