Laine had his head up, looking at the Flames' empty net far down the ice, and Andersson apparently didn't like his effort to tack a freebie onto the end of the Jacket's 3-1 victory Friday night at Nationwide Arena. So, he blasted the Finnish forward with another illegal hit against a Blue Jackets star, which was the second in the season’s first four games.
Andersson drew a major penalty, a game misconduct and a stream of blood running down his nose courtesy of Blue Jackets defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who'd had enough of opponents taking cheap shots at his teammates. His immediate reaction was lauded in the Jackets' locker room and by coach Pascal Vincent, who'd put his team through two hard practices leading into the game.
“We’re a pack here and we protect each other,” Vincent said. “(The hit) was on ‘Patty.’ It could’ve been on anyone. That’s how we’re going to respond. That’s what a team looks like.”
It’s been an interesting week in Columbus.
Here are five observations from an impressive Blue Jackets victory:
Columbus Blue Jackets stand their ground against Calgary Flames
One look at the Flames’ roster shows an older, bigger, rougher team than Columbus.
Calgary tried to exploit its physical edge, but the Jackets didn't back down. Prior to the uproar at the game’s conclusion, Columbus pushed back for three periods of a game that became progressively contentious.
That included Cole Sillinger, a 20-year old center in his third NHL season, dumping veteran Nazem Kadri to the ice in the first to earn an interference penalty and touch off a fight with a strong, edgy veteran center.
Sillinger handled himself well and it felt like a coming-of-age moment. It also looked like a return to the style of play Sillinger showed two years ago as a plucky 18-year old rookie. The Blue Jackets used an emotional boost from that clash to kill a 5-on-3 power play for the Flames that followed, and they were just warming up.
The Jackets were credited with nine hits to the Flames’ 14, but their intensity, competition level and pushback didn't dip. It was the type of response coach Pascal Vincent wanted to see after putting his team through two challenging practices.
“It was a great response,” Vincent said. “We challenged our guys. They challenged each other. We played against a big team and they responded well. It’s a good effort.”
Columbus Blue Jackets’ fourth line leads the way against Calgary Flames
It’s a good night for a team’s fourth line to finish with more faceoffs in the offensive zone than defensive zone. That means they’re flipping the ice against the opposing lines they're matched against, which usually helps the top two lines get more possession that start with the puck.
In that regard, the Jackets’ fourth line of Sean Kuraly, Justin Danforth and Jack Roslovic hit the target. They also generated goals scored by Kuraly and Danforth to give the Jackets a 2-0 lead in the third. As a line, they were Vincent’s most effective group in gaining possession, generating shots and creating scoring chances. With those three on the ice for 8:45 of 5-on-5, the Blue Jackets attempted five more shots (9-4), put three more shots on goal (4-1) and created four more scoring chances (5-1).
They also took more faceoffs in the offensive zone than defensive zone (3-2).
“My linemates were playing well tonight,” Kuraly said. “Jack and ‘Danny,’ they had their legs (going), they felt good with the puck. I think we all did. It was just working well as a group of three. We trusted each other to win our battles.”
Spencer Martin building trust with Columbus Blue Jackets
Vincent told reporters Friday that Elvis Merzlikins would return from an illness to start in the Jackets’ net, but that changed by early afternoon. Merzlikins’ condition deteriorated and Martin got the nod instead.
Merzlikins was healthy enough to handle the backup role while Martin excelled with a chance to start, making 36 saves on 37 shots. That included 11 of 12 in the third period while protecting narrow leads.
It was Martin’s first NHL victory since Dec. 27, 2022 over the San Jose Sharks, when he was with the Vancouver Canucks. The Blue Jackets claimed him off waivers from Vancouver in the preseason and, so far, it’s working out.
“We know he’s talented,” Vincent said. “I didn’t know him, but he’s proven to be a good NHL goalie, so everything is earned here. If you play well, you’re going to keep playing. Every time we’ve played him so far, he’s played pretty good. He works hard in practices, so it gives us two options, which is really good.”
Martin has now played in three games for the Blue Jackets and his stat line is 1-1-0 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.
“We kept it to the outside, (good) boxouts, I saw almost every shot,” Martin said. “It was one of those games where they were trying to find answers to our (defensive) zone, so they were just shooting it at the net. That makes my job a lot easier.”
Columbus Blue Jackets defensemen Zach Werenski, Damon Severson rebound against Calgary Flames
Two of the Blue Jackets’ top performers against Calgary were defensemen Zach Werenski and Damon Severson, who each rebounded from adversities.
Werenski returned from a severe “Charley Horse” that sidelined him two games while Severson rebounded from getting benched in the third period against Detroit.
They worked together as the Jackets’ top defense pairing and put together an impressive effort.
Werenski finished with two points and scored his first goal of the season into an empty net with a shot from the Columbus zone and Severson played a solid 20:15 while logging one attempt and blocking a shot.
“Severson tonight was outstanding,” Vincent said. “So, those guys, when they play well, they’re going to play.”
Justin Danforth again playing key role for Columbus Blue Jackets
Versatility is a key asset that forward Justin Danforth adds to the Blue Jackets’ roster and he’s doing it again.
Danforth, 30, can play any of the three forward positions on any line, if needed, and he owns a skill level that could land him a power-play role at some point. Danforth also has a combination of speed, strength, grit and skill that makes him successful in the NHL and his absence last season due to a shoulder tear was a big loss.
Danforth added 1-1-2 against the Flames for a 2-1-3 scoring output in four games, a rate he’s familiar with after starring in Europe to earn his first NHL contract two years ago with the Jackets.
“What he does is he matches skill with relentlessness, effort and battle,” Kuraly said. “He came (to the NHL) the hard way and you can tell with how he plays. He knows how hard it is to get here and it’s refreshing to see. It’s fun to see and fun to play with.”
Get more Columbus Blue Jackets talk on the Cannon Fodder Podcast
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Blue Jackets down Calgary Flames: 5 observations