TRAVERSE CITY - So far, it has been a tale of two games for the Blue Jackets rookies.
They were not sharp on Friday night against Detroit. They turned the puck over too often, took ill-advised penalties and fell behind early. On Saturday night, they were the team dictating and it resulted in a much-needed win.
Like every team in their division, the Blue Jackets are 1-1-0 headed into Monday's final preliminary round game. A win over the Chicago Blackhawks prospects puts them in good position, but they may need some help; goal differential is important and head-to-head also matters, so we may not know whether a three-peat is in the offing until late Monday.
Captain Zach Werenski wasn't too concerned after Friday's game and knew his team would respond with a better performance on Saturday.
"(Friday) was everyone's first game in a while, so there were some nerves and rust," Werenski said. "We played a much better game (Saturday) and I think everyone was just more comfortable out there, and it showed."
Some items of note coming out of Sunday's off-day in beautiful Traverse City:
- Vitaly Abramov was night and day from Friday to Saturday; he was a shifty, confident player in the win over St. Louis and showed the creative flair he's been known for. He hangs on to pucks, isn't afraid to shoot, and is quite elusive.
- Jeremy Brodeur put on quite the show on Saturday night with his dad, Martin (you may have heard of him) in the crowd scouting for the Blues. Martin, one of the game's all-time greats, is now the assistant GM for St. Louis.
- Justin Scott was one of Columbus' more noticeable players on Saturday night. Not only did he play with an edge but he always seemed to be in a position to shoot the puck. The 20-year-old scored 28 goals in his final season with the Barrie Colts and was the OHL's leading goal scorer in the playoffs this spring. An intriguing player who is likely to start the season in Cleveland.
- Solid and perhaps a bit under the radar, young Finnish defenseman Markus Nutivaara has played well in Traverse City. He was the 189th overall selection in the 2015 draft and put up 22 points in 50 games with Karpat (in Liiga, Finland's top pro league) last season; he's a candidate to make the jump to Cleveland this season and be an offensive guy on the back end.
To wrap: these next two games are important not only for the Blue Jackets rookies who really want to lock up a third straight tournament win, but also on an individual level. Some of these kids will be invited to Blue Jackets main training camp next week and their audition continues in a high-pressure situation.
Should be entertaining, to say the least. Game 3, Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks, is set for 3:30 p.m. Monday and you can watch on BlueJackets.com, FOX Sports GO and the CBJ App.