Welcome back to Blue Jackets News and Rumors. They have played four games since last we spoke winning three of the four including Monday night’s 7-4 win in Buffalo.
Two players in particular stood out in a big way in that game. That will be our focus of this week. We will talk about the importance of Max Domi and Jack Roslovic to this team and how they each need to bring their best every night moving forward. Then we’ll take a look at the goalies to this point to see where they stand.
Max Domi Is Feeling It
What a start to the season Domi has been through. From fractured ribs to being placed in Covid-19 protocol, he has had to endure some challenging situations just 16 games into the season. To his credit, he has maintained a positive attitude throughout. Monday night in Buffalo, he showed what he is capable of doing.
Domi posted a line of 1-2-3 and was +4 for the night. His line dominated every time they were on the ice. The Sabres had no answers for them. What stood out was his speed and his skill.
Being out for stretches can help with looking fresh. But Domi seemed to play with a purpose all night. He was making creative plays, including one heck of an assist on Roslovic’s second goal where he danced around a Sabres’ defender and then hit Roslovic with a pass. This is why the Blue Jackets acquired Domi. When he’s on, he can impact the game.
Postgame, Domi only cared about one thing: winning the game. He was asked about his 1-2-3 performance. “I don’t care,” Domi said. “It’s just a huge win so we’ll take it. It’s fun to play when we’re winning. Coming back from Vegas it’s not easy all the time. But we found a way. I think that shows a lot of character.”
Roslovic then went on to say that Domi was the one who carried that line. “I think he was really good. He was talkative. He was supportive. He was a ball of energy.”
In the grand scheme of things, getting this kind of contribution from Domi will be essential to how the rest of the season goes. He’s with the Blue Jackets to make an impact. He must continue to consistently play like this. He’s shown it in spurts. But now it’s a matter of stringing these games together.
Domi’s emergence will help with depth scoring over the season also. It seems he and Roslovic have developed a nice chemistry when together. Domi was a big part of getting Roslovic off the schneid. Let’s go there next.
Jack Roslovic Finally Breaks Through
Roslovic went the first 15 games without a goal. His minutes were down and it seemed he was trying to find his game. Monday night though, he connected on his first two goals of the season. It flipped the game from 1-0 Sabres to 2-1 Blue Jackets making this another comeback win.
The first goal was admittedly a little bit lucky. Roslovic said as much postgame. He was able to chip the puck over Dustin Tokarski and it snuck in. Then the second goal was the great play by Domi to set him up.
Like Domi, Roslovic’s focus was on the team aspect of it despite his early struggles. “I think of it as my job and to do that is important,” Roslovic said. But you learn a lot of things as well you’re always consistently learning all the time. There’s many ways to help the team win and we’ve been playing well. It was a good road trip and a good way to end it.”
Roslovic has already proven he can be an offensive difference maker. He is still learning the role of center from a defensive perspective. The Blue Jackets need him to find consistency every night just like Domi. Their emergence would give them three solid lines who are a threat to score. Then factor in Sean Kuraly’s line and you have a team that can roll four lines at you.
Head coach Brad Larsen echoed those feelings postgame about how important both Roslovic and Domi are to their success. “We need that,” Larsen said. “I’m sure for (Roslovic) it’s a release a little bit. Goal scorers and offensive guys when they have a night like that you can tell they’re feeling it right away. They got more ice time and they played really well tonight. It was a good line.”
Related: Brad Larsen Showing Well So Far
Expect this duo to stay together as linemates moving forward. They each bring an element of speed and skill that can be tough to defend. Their emergence should open up opportunities for other lines. The key for them will be to bring it every night. Monday night was exactly what you want to see from them. They made the Blue Jackets look like a threat.
Merzlikins vs. Korpisalo
This appears to be a good time to check in on the state of the Blue Jackets’ goaltending now that we are in Thanksgiving week. Both Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo have had a handful of starts. So how are they performing?
Let’s start on the surface. Here are their numbers after Monday’s game.
- Merzlikins: 10 games. 7-3-0, 2.69 goals-against average, .918 save percentage.
- Korpisalo: 6 games. 3-3-0, 3.63 goals-against average, .894 save percentage.
If you stop there, it seems obvious who has been the better goalie. But we do need to look a little deeper for some perspective. Mainly, how are they doing in comparison to what’s expected? Does it tell the same story?
Courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, here is a look at some other numbers. It does confirm Merzlikins has been better, but it does bring up a key point. These are in all situations.
- Merzlikins: 27 goals against in 28.3 expected goals against. GSAA is 3.09.
- Korpisalo: 22 goals against in 17.14 expected goals against. GSAA is -3.09.
GSAA is goals saved above average. Merzlikins allowing less than 28.3 goals implies he’s doing better than expected. Conversely, Korpisalo allowing more than 17.14 implies he is doing worse than expected.
But if you watched Monday’s game, Korpisalo had tough chances against. He allowed a power-play goal at the end of the first period that was deflected. He then had to face Dylan Cozens right down the wing uncontested. Not many goalies would have stopped that shot. But then to Korpisalo’s credit, he played well in the third period to shut it down.
It made me wonder about the kind of chances each goalie is facing. This stood out to me.
In 10 games, Merzlikins has had to face 17 rush chances against, an average of 1.7 chances per game. Meanwhile Korpisalo has had to face 19 chances against in just six games, an average of 3.17 chances per game. That’s almost double what Merzlikins has had to face. So while Merzlikins does have the better numbers, Korpisalo has faced more rush chances against.
Korpisalo has also seen more shots against. He’s seen 34.32 shots as compared to Merzlikins’ 32.94. So it does explain some of what’s going on for perspective, but it’s clear Merzlikins has been the better goalie.
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That still doesn’t change the fact that the Blue Jackets have two solid goalies who can win on any given night. Korpisalo definitely has room for improvement. But so does the team in front of him too. But in the near term, Merzlikins deserves a majority of the starts.
- Vladislav Gavrikov scored twice Monday night including the game-winning goal. That’s the first multi-goal game of his career. I hope he had enough money to cover all those phone calls.
- Monday night established a new franchise record for the Blue Jackets. Their two goals in 55 seconds to start the second period was the fastest two goals to start a period in their history.
- Larsen was not at the morning skate Monday in Buffalo but did coach that night. He attended to a personal matter. When asked if the matter was taken care of or if there would be other instances, Larsen said it’s dealt with.
- And we’ll end this week by extending our condolences to Patrik Laine for the passing of his father Harri. He is still on IR recovering from an oblique strain and is expected to be out a couple more weeks at least. But our thoughts are with Laine and his family over this very unfortunate news.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.