HomeSportsBlue Jackets’ offensive struggles...

Blue Jackets’ offensive struggles offers ‘fourth line’ an elevated function

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The one Blue Jackets’ line that has actually gained traction up to now this season has been middle Sean Kuraly with Eric Robinson and Mathieu Olivier on the wings.

Is that the Blue Jackets fourth line? You’d assume that, primarily based on the three gamers’ pedigree and NHL expertise. However the way in which Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen has used that trio in current weeks — he’s matched it in opposition to the opponents’ high line — would recommend it’s extra of a checking line.

After which there was the third interval on Wednesday in Nationwide Area, when the Blue Jackets have been down 2-1 and determined to attain the tying purpose in opposition to Canadiens goaltender Sam Montembeault.

Larsen shortened his bench in pursuit of the equalizer, alternating closely between the No. 1 line — middle Boone Jenner and wingers Johnny Gaudreau and Gus Nyquist — and Kuraly’s line, which is each a praise to Kuraly & Co. and a gentle rebuke to the opposite traces.

The tying purpose by no means occurred. The Canadiens scored an empty-net purpose with 1:53 to play that ended any drama, however it’s clear which traces Larsen thought gave his membership the very best probability for a comeback.

“The gamers dictate it,” Larsen mentioned. “It’s fairly easy. They scored one other purpose for us (earlier within the sport). They’re giving us quite a lot of good minutes for lots of video games right here, so it’s belief on each ends.

“They’re producing. They’re forechecking. They’re banging. They’re monitoring pucks. They’re getting their seems to be, too, so it’s simple (to play them).”

Kuraly is quietly having a superb season. Solely Jenner (eight) and Gaudreau (seven) have extra targets than Kuraly (six), and solely Gaudreau (18), Jenner (14) and Yegor Chinakhov (10) have extra factors than him (9).

Robinson and Olivier, now with two targets every, have matched or exceeded the goal-scoring of gamers who play a lot greater within the lineup: Cole Sillinger (two), Emil Bemstrom (two), and Roslovic (one).

On Wednesday, Larsen didn’t hesitate to play them. Not solely did they take the opening face-off, however Robinson (16:14) and Kuraly (15:54) have been among the many leaders in ice time for Blue Jackets’ forwards.

“That’s one thing you must earn,” Olivier mentioned. “And when you earn it, you must preserve it. Each sport, you begin over. I firmly consider that.

“If he retains coming again to us like he has the previous couple of video games, excellent. Which means we’re doing our job.”

It additionally implies that different gamers aren’t.

Cole Sillinger, who performed so nicely as a rookie final season, performed simply 9:24 on Wednesday, a season-low. Emil Bemstrom, who was on the highest line simply two video games in the past, performed solely 11:51 (and erased a late second-period energy play with a foul penalty).

The Blue Jackets didn’t have sufficient gamers going, and didn’t do sufficient to make life tough for Montembeault, who made 30 saves and received for the primary time in 5 profession outings in opposition to the Blue Jackets.

The sport dragged by means of two durations with a 0-0 rating, however Olivier put the Blue Jackets on the board only one:08 into the third. He stepped up within the zone to corral a turnover by Montreal’s Mike Matheson and rifled it previous Montembeault.

That purpose appeared to awaken the Canadiens, who misplaced 7-2 to Buffalo in Montreal on Tuesday earlier than a late-night flight to Columbus.

Solely 90 seconds after Olivier’s purpose, Montreal’s Arber Xhekaj fired a puck from above the left circle that deflected off the visitors in entrance of Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo and located a spot behind the web.

Requested if he even noticed the puck, Korpisalo responded: “Not likely. However I ought to have, most likely.”

Then, solely 57 seconds later, the Canadiens had a 2-1 lead. David Savard, the long-time Blue Jackets defenseman, had a puck look off his skate in entrance of the Blue Jackets’ web and rating previous Korpisalo to make it 2-1.

It was Savard’s first purpose in 37 video games.

“It wasn’t a gorgeous purpose, however I’ll take it,” Savard mentioned. “It went off my skate. The toe. However I didn’t kick it.”

It was a kick within the groin to the Blue Jackets, although.

“First one goes off a stick, the second goes off a skate,” Larsen mentioned. “It’s too unhealthy as a result of we have been taking part in a heck of a sport. We weren’t giving up a lot and we had some attractiveness ourselves.”

(Picture of Mathieu Olivier: Russell LaBounty / USA In the present day)

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