How fun was that?
A solid 145 days after the Blue Jackets played their last game, Columbus got back on the ice Thursday night in Toronto. And after a three-goal first period got the juices going, the Blue Jackets cruised to a 4-1 victory against Boston in an exhibition game three days ahead of Game 1 vs. Toronto.
A three-pack of thoughts from the Blue Jackets' victory follows.
A great start
It's an exhibition game, of course, and it was far from perfect given how long it had been since either team took the ice. There were bouncing pucks, a few breakdowns and everything else you'd expect in this situation.
But the Blue Jackets put a great foundation on the ice Thursday night as far as how they're going to have to play against Toronto in the upcoming best-of-five Stanley Cup qualifying series.
Video: Torts checks in with the media on Thursday.
It's no secret what the series will be about, as it boasts a Toronto team with some of the top scorers in the league against a Columbus squad that was one of the best in the NHL at preventing goals.
Whichever team plays to its style is going to be the one with the best chance of success, and the Blue Jackets did a lot of that Thursday night, keeping the high-powered Bruins from getting going in transition and largely shutting down the team's formidable first line.
Tortorella has talked about the Blue Jackets needing to find their identity quickly to take on Toronto, and it appears that message has been heard based on the way Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson spoke after the game.
"We did a lot of good things in a lot of situations," Jones said. "We just wanted to get our feel back, not only physically but mentally, things we need to do as a team systems wise. It was an exhibition game so we're not going to look too hard into it, and obviously the intensity is going to be at another level come Game 1 against Toronto on Sunday, but we like a lot of the good things we did."
"My first game, I think Seth's first game in five or six months, so to get our feet wet and get back to the systems was pretty important for us," Atkinson added. "It was an exhibition game, but we wanted to play the right way and formulate what we're going to do against Toronto and just be above the puck and work hard."
Systems talk? Above the puck? Play the right way?
Somewhere, Tortorella was smiling. In fact, he pretty much was when he took to the virtual interview platform a few minutes later.
"I thought for the most part we put in a lot of good minutes here tonight," he said.
Not that there was much question, but Liam Foudy's game is ready to play on the big stage.
The rookie forward with just two NHL games under his belt certainly didn't look overwhelmed, as he turned in a solid effort that included an assist on Boone Jenner's first period goal. It was a smart play by the 2018 first-round pick, as he entered the zone with speed and threw a backhander with some sauce toward the net that went off Jenner's skates and into the net to make it 1-0.
Video: BOS@CBJ: Jenner finishes Foudy's backhand pass
Foudy had some looks at the net in the first period for himself and generally turned in a good performance. Skating 12:45, mostly on a line with Jenner and Gus Nyquist, Foudy always seemed to be around the puck and showed a tremendous amount of poise with it on his stick.
Again, it wasn't perfect -- he'd probably like a couple attempts to clear the zone back -- but the 20-year-old left little doubt he deserves to be in the lineup for Game 1 vs. Toronto.
"He played very well," Tortorella said. "He'll be in the lineup. He has played well. He's had a good camp. Where he sits on the lines, I don't know yet, but the thing I like about Fouds (is) he's not afraid. He's not afraid to make a play. A very intelligent player, so he'll be in our lineup."
Lineup seems set … except
There seems to be little doubt the 12 forwards who will take the ice when the Blue Jackets take on Toronto for Game 1. The line combinations might change, but they were pretty consistent on this night as follows.
Alexandre Texier - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Nick Foligno - Alexander Wennberg - Cam Atkinson
Gus Nyquist - Boone Jenner - Liam Foudy
Eric Robinson - Riley Nash - Emil Bemstrom
Defensively, two pairings can be written in permanent marker in Jones with Zach Werenski as well as Vladislav Gavrikov flanking David Savard. The only question left is whether Dean Kukan or Markus Nutivaara will pair with Ryan Murray -- each showed some strong moments while splitting time against Boston, but Kukan has appeared to have the edge throughout camp.
But then there's the goaltending situation, where a difficult choice must be made. Both netminders helped their cause with sharp performances Thursday, with Joonas Korpisalo stopping all 11 shots he faced and Elvis Merzlikins turning aside 12 of 13, with the one that went in a fluky play on a bouncing puck in front.
So who gets the nod? It remains to be seen, Tortorella said, after praising both of his goalies who took turns serving as the backbone for the team this year.
"It doesn't surprise me what they did tonight," Tortorella said. "I thought they both played very well. Where it sits when we play on the 2nd, I still don't know. We'll talk about it as a staff and make our decision."