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CBJ Today: The joy of Bemstrom's big night

The Blue Jackets forward broke out in a big way with a hat trick Monday

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Each weekday this season, will post CBJ Today, a look at news, notes, analysis and fun stuff from around the Blue Jackets world. It's everything you need to know if you're a fan going into the day. 

The Daily Buzz 

The Blue Jackets played perhaps one of the most memorable games of the season Monday night, dropping a 4-3 final in Nationwide Arena to a Nashville team that is closing in on a playoff berth. It was memorable for the first hat trick of the season for the Blue Jackets, as Emil Bemstrom tallied three times in a span of 13:13 to tie the score with just the sixth natural hat trick in team history, only to see Nashville rebound to win the game in ovetime.

Bemstrom Goes Off 

Let's be honest -- that was pretty cool, wasn't it? 

A hat trick in a losing effort late in the campaign qualifying as one of the most memorable moments of the year says a lot about the season, but that is also partly why Bemstrom's night was so random and so fun. 

In a year in which so much has gone wrong for the Jackets and for Bemstrom, who entered the game with zero goals in 16 games during an injury-plagued season, to see a 13-minute span in which everything went right was a bit of a gift.  

Video: NSH@CBJ: Bemstrom records a natural hat trick in 3rd

"If you pan the bench when he scores his goals, you'd see how much the guys are pulling for him," head coach John Tortorella said. "We haven't had many fun times this year. That was good. I'm happy for the kid." 

First, Bemstrom batted in his own rebound early in the third period in what had been a 3-0 game to get the party going, then with his confidence clearly tarting to soar, he ripped a pair of shots into the net past goalie Juuse Saros for his second and third goals. 

As Tortorella said, it wasn't hard to see how much the Jackets enjoyed seeing Bemstrom emerge from a tough season with the accomplishment. First, he was swallowed up by his teammates on the ice after scoring the third goal, then he was greeted with head pads, fist bumps, high fives and all other matters of acknowledgement from the Jackets when he got back to the bench and Nationwide Arena workers cleared the hats from the ice. 

"That's awesome," Bemstrom said postgame. "I think all of the guys have been waiting for my first goal this year. They were all cheering for me. I am just so happy to be a part of this team." 

To say it's been a trying year for Bemstrom on the ice would probably be an understatement. He scored 23 times to lead the Swedish league at age 19 two years ago, an accomplishment that usually tickets the player for future stardom. Bemstrom was up and down a year ago, finishing with 10 goals in 56 games as a rookie, but this year the goals just simply haven't come. 

He had a number of chances early in the season -- breakaways, open shots, etc. -- that just somehow didn't go in, then missed 21 games from mid-March through April with an ankle injury. Bemstrom was back in the lineup Saturday night at Carolina and was just as snakebitten, missing a chance on an open net in the first period when defenseman Jaccob Slavin came out of nowhere to dive and block his shot. 

"You know he can put the puck in the net," Michael Del Zotto said postgame. "Any goal scorer goes through a streak of not scoring and it weighs on them. They're different breeds, guys who put the puck in the net that easily. I'm super happy for him." 

Bemstrom confirmed part of what Del Zotto was saying. While the Swedish winger said he tried not to let the goalless streak weigh on him too much, he was happy to see things turn around so quickly. 

"Ask any goal scorer, a goal can make a huge difference, and today it did," he said. 

Video: Postgame: Bemstrom (5/3/21)

There's another note to the hat trick that stands out. With Bemstrom sitting on two goals and the Jackets on a late man advantage, Tortorella chose to put Bemstrom on the ice in Oliver Bjorkstrand's spot on the right wing. Might as well ride the hot hand, even if it's at the expense of the top scorer on the team, right? 

"I didn't have a conversation," Tortorella said of the move. "I said, 'Bemmer, go in there for Bjorky.' That was the conversation." 

It ended up working out, as with Nashville cognizant of Patrik Laine on the other side, Bemstrom and Seth Jones were able to work the puck back and forth until the shooting lane appeared that he wanted, then Bemstrom fired a shot past the glove of Saros.  

"I guess he trusted me at that point," Bemstrom said. "I am glad I scored." 

Aren't we all? 

"I'm not even sure if he's old enough to have a beer to celebrate," Del Zotto said of the 21-year-old, "but hopefully that's on the agenda for him tonight." 

Overtime Woes Continue 

Of course, the frustration of the night was that Bemstrom's heroics earned the Jackets a point, but nothing more as Nashville captured the win in overtime on Roman Josi's goal. 

It concluded an extra frame in which the Blue Jackets were outshot 5-0, and Columbus is now 2-9 when the game gets decided in the 3-on-3 format (5-12 overall past 60 minutes thanks to a 3-3 shootout mark). 

It's a far cry from a couple of years ago when the Jackets were basically automatic in OT. Of course, some pretty dynamic players from the 2018 and '19 rosters aren't here anymore, but there's still enough talent that you'd think overtime could go a little better, but it just hasn't happened this year. 

Whether it's in the team's heads at this point or not, it's certainly become a point of frustration. 

"It just gets old," Tortorella said. "That's 12 of them where we haven't been able to do it in an overtime or a shootout. It's frustrating." 

Out of Our Blue... 

I can't believe I forgot to mention this in yesterday's piece, but how about the blue pants the team wore with the white road sweaters Saturday night in Carolina? 

The union blue pants were introduced this year to go with the team's red Reverse Retro jerseys, and they've proved to be a hit among players and team personnel, prompting the uniform modification on Saturday. 

It seemed like the online reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and I have to agree. While I've never had an issue with the team's red pants -- and I'm a uniform nerd with pretty strong opinions on such things -- the blue britches were a sharp look when paired with the white tops.  

So, will we see this more in the future? Per the team, "If a formal request ultimately is made to alter the club's uniform, the change would not be implemented until the 2022-23 NHL season." 

That's a solid maybe, and it wouldn't be for a bit. Either way, credit to the Jackets for giving a new look a try. 

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