Mathieu Olivier Shows his Value, Sparks Best Blue Jacket Effort of the Season

The Blue Jackets came together and ended the 10-game winning streak of the Eastern Conference leading New York Rangers last night.

Feb 25, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Mathieu Olivier (24) and New
Feb 25, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Mathieu Olivier (24) and New / Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers came to Columbus last night with an undefeated record in the month of February. They had not lost since January 26th - a stretch nearly one-month long.

The odds really seemed stacked against the Blue Jackets, whose only consistency this season has been inconsistency. The Rangers have been consistent all year, sitting atop the Eastern Conference. But, they were playing on the second half of a back-to-back.

This meant we would see Jonathan Quick in goal. Quick held a 19-8-9 record against the Jackets throughout his career. And, we all know how this team typically performs against the opposition's backup goalies. The Rangers were riding high, winning their last three games by a combined 10-3 margin.

The Jackets needed something special to happen to beat a team that sat 35 points ahead of them in the standings when the game started. Mathieu Olivier provided that spark early on. He slayed the league's rookie giant.

The Rangers brought Matt Rempe into the fold over the last couple of weeks, and he's been lauded with fanfare for being a willing combatant against anyone the opposition throws his way.

Coming into last night's game, the 6'8", 240 pound rookie had already accrued 27 penalty minutes in 4 games played. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've seen his antics playing out. He fought NY Islanders veteran pugilist Matt Martin on his first NHL shift - in their outdoor Stadium Series matchup.

He obliterated New Jersey Devils forward Nathan Bastian in his third game, earning an ejection. On Saturday night, he took on another noted enforcer in Philadelphia's Nic Deslauriers; performing pretty well against one of the league's toughest players.

The Blue Jackets needed to neutralize the threat provided by Rempe somehow. He's been notable, in some way, in every Rangers game he's played. He and Olivier were seen talking during pre-game warmups. We all know what that usually means, and the very first time the two came together on the ice, the gloves came off.

Rempe has a 7" height advantage and nearly 20 pounds over Olivier. But he did not seem prepared for the barrage of haymakers that Mathieu threw - and landed - on him in this fight.

Olivier neutralized the Rempe threat right away, sending him to the locker room for repairs less than three minutes into the game. The result was an excited home crowd, and an energetic bench that came out buzzing.

What followed was arguably this team's most complete performance of the season. All four lines rolled as the Jackets peppered the Rangers goal with 41 shots. Elvis Merzlikins stood tall, making 38 saves while they cruised to a 4-2 victory over the best team in the Eastern Conference.

We have all questioned this team's decisions over the last few years as they push through a rebuild. But Mathieu Olivier showed his value in a big way last night. He provided the spark the Jackets needed, and showed the rest of the NHL that he's here to protect this young team's skilled players.

Hopefully this is the jumping off point for this team's eventual turn-around. We may get our answer on Wednesday night, as these two teams meet up in New York for a rematch.