The Columbus Blue Jackets return to Ohio following a tough loss in Chicago last night. They dropped a 3-2 decision in overtime, so at least the Jackets got a point out of the deal. Latvian Elvis Merzlikins got the nod for the Blue Jackets and he performed pretty well.
He stopped 30 of 33 shots, with the 3rd goal coming after the 60-minute mark. After six years of success in Switzerland, the 25-year-old got his second taste of NHL action Friday night. It was considerably better than his first outing, where he was shellacked for 7 goals on 40 shots against the Penguins.
Columbus saved their starting netminder for Saturday, as Joonas Korpisalo will be called on to protect the crease against the New York Islanders. The Blue Jackets passed on handing Sergei Bobrovsky elite money for Korpisalo. He served as Bobrovsky’s backup and held up well. Well enough to give the Blue Jackets’ confidence to go with him as their starter this season. All things considered, Korpisalo is under a lot of pressure to steal some games for the Blue Jackets this year.
Keep in mind that Columbus lost a ton of firepower this past offseason. Their former leading playmaker, Artemi Panarin, signed a wealthy deal to play for the Rangers. Trade deadline acquisitions Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel also signed for bigger contracts elsewhere. This was all expected to begin with, so there were no surprises with their exits.
That puts more pressure on the defence and goaltending to win games. Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois will do their best in the attacking zone, though replacing the production of Panarin and Duchene isn’t easy. The Islanders could be down an offensive weapon without Jordan Eberle for the second straight game after missing the 3-1 win over the Jets on Thursday. Head below for our free Islanders vs. Blue Jackets pick.
N.Y. Islanders vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Pick
The Islanders got out of a character in a 5-2 loss against the Carolina Hurricanes four games ago. Defensively they were getting hammered against the speedy Hurricanes, as they allowed 39 shots in the losing effort. That was after a 5-2 loss against the Oilers, so the Islanders were feeling out of sorts before getting things sorted out. The Isles have looked more like the team we saw last season recently. They’re on a three-game win streak with victories of 3-2, 3-2, and 3-1.
When the Isles are playing their brand of hockey those kinds of wins happen in bunches. They didn’t blow a lot of teams out of the water last season, but still managed to finish with a record of 48-27-7. Robin Lehner played a big role in that, but they’re in good hands with Semyon Varlamov between the pipes. Signing Varlamov was a pretty good move by the Isles after Lehner packed his bags up and went to Chicago. He isn’t having the same success with that defence with the Blackhawks.
Varlamov has been sharp in three out of his four outings this season. He has allowed 2 or fewer goals in those three games. In total, Varlamov owns a 2.55 GAA and 0.923 save percentage on the season. He’s been solid against the Blue Jackets in his career, with a 2.34 GAA and 0.931 save percentage. In their most recent meeting, the Blue Jackets earned a 4-0 win in March. This is a much different Jackets team, though, and it isn’t for the better.
That was the first game in three efforts that Columbus scored a goal against the Islanders. They were blanked by scores of 2-0 and 3-0 in what was textbook outings for the Isles. Joonas Korpisalo has been absolutely lights out against the Islanders in his career. He sports a 1.86 GAA and 0.941 save percentage in five games against the Isles. The UNDER has gone 5-0 in their previous five tilts and 7-2 in the last nine, so this is typically a low-scoring affair. Consider a look at the UNDER in what looks like a 3-2 final score on Saturday in Columbus.