TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The Blue Jackets know their opponent in the NHL Prospects Tournament final on Tuesday night, and they’ll be facing the Dallas Stars in a matchup of two very impressive teams.
Columbus advanced to the championship game by virtue of two regulation wins (worth three points each) in the first two games, and they’re going into Tuesday’s game on a roll after beating St. Louis by a 7-2 final tonight at Centre Ice Arena.
And once again, they had to shake off a slow start before they hit stride.
St. Louis scored first and had a 2-1 lead after the first period, and controlled the game for large stretches for the Blue Jackets caught fire in the second. Columbus scored four times in the second period to pull away, and added two more in the third for good measure.
Oliver Bjorkstrand (2 PPGs), Peter Quenneville, Josh Anderson (this is not a recording), Dillon Heatherington (playing his first game since Friday due to injury), Kerby Rychel and Nick Moutrey tallied for the Blue Jackets, who have essentially scored at will and made it difficult for opposing teams to contain them with four lines that can score.
The power play was once again a factor, and Bjorkstrand tied the game in the first period with a quick shot off a rebound that beat Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington inside the near post.
Bjorkstrand’s second power play marker was something Portland Winterhawks fans have seen before: a wicked one-timer from the left circle on a great feed from Marko Dano that increased the Jackets’ lead to 5-2 late in the second.
Columbus’ offense continued to produce scoring chances, and racked up 11 chances in the second period alone to really tilt the ice. Anton Forsberg didn’t have much work but was solid when called upon, including a couple of really nice saves in the third period when St. Louis tried to get back in it.
Another note on the Jackets’ scoring: they have now scored 17 goals in three games, and have shown an ability to put games out of reach when they’re playing their style of hockey.
A few other notes from Monday’s game:
-Lukas Sedlak got back in the lineup tonight and provided what the Blue Jackets want from him: a solid, dependable game with energy in the bottom six. He’s about to enter year No. 2 of pro hockey and the Blue Jackets would like to see him become a strong defensive center for Springfield (AHL).
- Rychel has played with an edge in this tournament, and said earlier this week he feels a lot comfortable in his second Traverse City go-round. He’s played primarily on left wing, and has lined up next to fellow 2013 first-round pick Alexander Wennberg on a few occasions.
- Moutrey scored a nice goal off the rush, finishing off a centering pass from Julien Pelletier on a 2-on-1. Moutrey has played in a checking/energy role this week and has done a solid job, while managing to chip in some offense, as well.
- Wennberg didn’t score tonight and hasn't scored much in the tournament, but his on-ice intelligence and anticipation is fun to watch. From the “very obvious” department, he’s a very smart hockey player. He’s subtly effective and disruptive in a quiet way.
- Have really enjoyed watching Olivier LeBlanc this week, too; he’s a good skater, moves the puck well and finds a way to get pucks through from the point. He’s seemed to get more confidence with each game.
- Talked to Blue Jackets assistant GM Bill Zito, who’s taken on a lot of the planning for this tournament. He said mainly, the Blue Jackets want this to be a learning experience for the players because the environment is conducive to it, and having strong competition is a nice bonus.
- One of the standouts for Columbus this week is Anderson, who’s thrown his body around and made no friends on the opposing teams. Not only is he bringing a physical element but he’s scoring, too, which is something the Blue Jackets believe he’s capable of doing more often.
- Also in the pesky department has been TJ Tynan, who’s been noticeable this week and made plays at even strength and the power play.
- The Windsor Spitfires are getting a good player in Markus Soberg. He’s played well this week and it hasn't mattered who he’s lined up with — he’s played with a few different sets of line mates and, for the most part, been pretty consistent.