Blue Jackets absorb painful lesson in 6-3 loss to St. Louis Blues

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  • Zach Werenski
    Zach Werenski
    American ice hockey player
Nov 27, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  St. Louis Blues defenseman Marco Scandella (6) and Columbus Blue Jackets center Gustav Nyquist (14) battle for the puck during the first period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; St. Louis Blues defenseman Marco Scandella (6) and Columbus Blue Jackets center Gustav Nyquist (14) battle for the puck during the first period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A day later, the Blue Jackets’ luck ran out.

After stealing a win Friday night at Nationwide Arena, they came to St. Louis to finish a back-to-back set hoping to win a fourth straight game by playing better than they did against the Vancouver Canucks 24 hours earlier.

Instead, the St. Louis Blues handed them a harsh lesson in a 6-3 rout Saturday night at Enterprise Center – overcoming a slow start to dominate the final two periods against young Columbus team that was overwhelmed and overmatched for long stretches.

“I liked our first and then for about 14 minutes there (in the second period), we just couldn’t stop anything,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “We couldn’t gather ourselves.”

That was because the Blues (11-7-3) were all over them. They pounced on seemingly every mistake Columbus made with the puck and turned them into a bushel of scoring chances and goals.

Ivan Barbashev and Pavel Buchnevich led the way with two goals each for St. Louis, which had dropped it past two games and had a 5-7-3 record since opening the season with five straight wins. The Blues, who scored three goals in the second and three more in the third, got three assists from star forward Vladimir Tarasenko and 24 saves from goalie Ville Husso – who made several key stops to keep the Blue Jackets from clawing back into it.

Nov 27, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (8) shoots as St. Louis Blues goaltender Ville Husso (35) defends the net during the first period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (8) shoots as St. Louis Blues goaltender Ville Husso (35) defends the net during the first period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

“We kind of lost ourselves,” said defenseman Zach Werenski, who assisted on the first of Adam Boqvist’s two goals for the Blue Jackets. “We weren’t playing our game and they were coming in waves. It seems like we couldn’t get our game back. Obviously, it’s a skill team over there. We gave them too many opportunities and they made us pay for it.”

Boqvist led the Blue Jackets (12-7-0) with a three-point game (two goals, one assist). Captain Boone Jenner scored his team-leading 10th goal and goalie Joonas Korpisalo took the loss in net.

Next up is a game Tuesday in Nashville against the Predators.

“I think this was one of the worst games of the year for us, and we’re facing Nashville next game,” Boqvist said. “They’re a very good team, as well. So, we’ve got to (take) a few days here and be ready for that one.”

Nov 27, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  Columbus Blue Jackets center Alexandre Texier (42) and St. Louis Blues left wing Brandon Saad (20) battle for the puck during the first period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Alexandre Texier (42) and St. Louis Blues left wing Brandon Saad (20) battle for the puck during the first period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Blues overwhelm Blue Jackets in second period with increased intensity

The way the Blue Jackets played in the first period, it looked like the Blues might have a long night of defending ahead of them. Shots were even at 7-7, but the Jackets led 1-0 on Jenner’s power-play goal and dictated the majority of action.

St. Louis was without two key forwards, Klim Kostin and David Perron, and went with just 11 forwards and seven defensemen. That seventh defenseman, Robert Bortuzzo, was deployed as a forward on a fourth line that also included rookie Dakota Joshua – an emergency recall from the minors who kept the Blues from going with only 10 forwards and eight defensemen.

The Blue had also dropped their previous two games and were 5-7-3 since beginning the season with a five-game winning streak.

None of that mattered once the puck dropped to open the second period, which St. Louis owned with three goals, a 17-8 shot advantage and dominant puck possession. The Blues took a 3-1 lead on goals by Buchnevich, Barbashev and Kyrou, got a few huge saves from Husso and headed to the second intermission rejuvenated.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Blues had a 17-10 edge in even-strength scoring chances in the second and a whopping 9-2 margin in high-danger chances. They buzzed around the Blue Jackets’ net from start to finish, even after Columbus finally settled things down in the final six minutes.

Larsen said the biggest issue was not matching the rise in intensity and physicality.

“Recognize the situation and what’s going on, and we’ve got to get more competitive in those situations,” he said. “We’ve got to get into the body. You can’t just let them do what they want with the puck, and these are things we’re going to have to learn here on the go.”

Nov 27, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (55) defends against Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Gregory Hofmann (15) during the first period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (55) defends against Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Gregory Hofmann (15) during the first period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jackets' experiment nets two power-play goals against Blues

One of the positives for the Jackets is the re-emergence of their top power-play unit as a dangerous group.

Searching for answers to keep their power-play effective with Patrik Laine on the shelf, the Jackets are getting a nice payoff from an experiment they first tried last Monday in Buffalo.

Rather than continuing to use defensemen Zach Werenski and Adam Boqvist as separate quarterbacks for each unit, the pair are now both on the top group to form a skilled puck-moving trio with forward Jakub Voracek.

Boqvist, who has a right-handed shot, starts out on the left wing, Werenski mans the point in the 1-3-1 and Voracek – a lefty – lines up on the right wing. Once they get set up in the offensive zone, all three can interchange to keep the penalty-killers moving and guessing.

Werenski, for example, scored from the right faceoff circle Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets and sent the shot that Jenner tipped home from above the left circle in this game. Boqvist scored his first goal of the game from the left circle, one-timing a diagonal feed from Voracek past Husso, and all three spent time from the quarterback spot at the point.

“I think for a penalty kill, especially pre-scouting, they don’t really know what to look for,” Werenski said. “There’s so many different options we can run. It’s a lot of different looks and whenever you can do that on a power play, and you get moving, it makes it hard for the penalty kill to stay within their structure. Things open up and plays can be made.”

The Blue Jackets went 2 of 4 on power plays against the Blues and now rank 10th in the NHL in success rate (21.8%).

Adam Boqvist emerging as offensive force for Blue Jackets

Keep one thing in mind about Boqvist.

He’s only 21 and is already playing his third NHL season, spending the first two with the Chicago Blackhawks and logging a lot of time as a defense partner of Duncan Keith – a Norris Trophy winner in 2010 and three-time Stanley Cup champion.

The defensive side of the game is Boqvist’s biggest challenge, but he’s got plenty of time to develop in that area.

His offensive side is already close to elite, which he’s showing more now that he’s playing a significant role on the top power play unit. Boqvist’s shot is impressive, as both a one-timer or snap shot, and his passing ability helps keep plays alive inside the offensive zone.

After starting the season as Werenski’s defense partner on the top pairing, Boqvist fell out of the rotation because of a lower-body injury and returned to action on the third pairing with Gavin Bayreuther. Late in the second period against the Blues, Boqvist moved back up to the right side of the top pairing with Werenski and Jake Bean slid down to skate with Bayreuther.

Bean was playing 24 hours after logging a career-high ice time by a full two minutes Friday against the Canucks. How the pairings shake out before the game against Nashville on Tuesday will be interesting to observe.

Getting Boqvist going offensively, no matter which partner he plays with, would give the Jackets another nice scoring option from the back end.

Blue Jackets three stars

First star

Adam Boqvist, defenseman

This was the 21-year old defenseman’s best game as a Blue Jacket. His second goal cut the Blues’ lead to 3-2 in the third and he moved up to play with Zach Werenski on the top defense pairing late in the second. Boqvist has scored goals in the past two games and his offensive skills are beginning to show.

Second star

Boone Jenner, center

The Blue Jackets’ captain netted his team-leading 10th goal of the season and won 68% of his faceoffs (15 of 22). Jenner’s goal total continues to climb after struggling the past five years to convert his mountain of scoring chances into goals.

Third star

Sean Kuraly, center

According to Natural Stat Trick, the veteran center was second on the team with three individual scoring chances and nearly scored on a couple. Husso was forced to make strong saves to keep Kuraly from scoring. Kuraly led the Blue Jackets with four hits and won 53% of his faceoffs (8 of 15).

bhedger@dispatch.com

@BrianHedger

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Blue Jackets overwhelmed by St. Louis Blues

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