It was 11 months ago that Jarred Tinordi made the error that may have, at least temporarily, changed the trajectory of his career. With time winding down in a 2-2 game between the Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets, and with Tinordi back-tracking in the neutral zone, the young defender attempted a pass to his partner, Mike Weaver.
That decision would cost him more than the game. Ryan Johansen, Columbus' burgeoning powerhouse of a scorer, intercepted the pass and busted in the Habs zone. Despite a desperate effort to recover from Tinordi, and with Weaver bearing down to try to salvage the play, there was no stopping Johansen, who snapped a game-winning wrist shot past Carey Price.
That giveaway immediately cost Tinordi an opportunity to contribute. He would play in only five of his team's remaining 11 games, sometimes with as little as ten minutes of ice. When it became clear to the coaching staff that the Canadiens could not continue to rely on Douglas Murray, it was Nathan Beaulieu who was called to fill in, not Tinordi.
Tonight, almost a year later, that mistake will come full circle. Against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and playing in just his second game since November, Tinordi will get a chance to contribute again. As part of a defensive corps still trying to find consistency, and with two of his colleagues (Sergei Gonchar and Alexei Emelin) nursing injuries, Tinordi has the opportunity to establish himself as an important cog in the stretch run and playoffs. For the physically gifted rearguard, it's all likely just one year later than he planned.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00 PM ET
In Canada (French): TVA Sports
In Canada(English): City
In the Blue Jackets region: Fox Sports Ohio
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Tale of the Tape
|49.3||Score-Adjusted Fenwick %||45.8|
|1.19||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.76|
Know Your Enemy
The Blue Jackets are just over .500 in the month since their last meeting with Montreal, and with the trade deadline fast approaching and the season beginning to wind down, the death knell is fast approaching for the 2014-15 iteration of the Columbus franchise.
Down to their last 1.2% chance (per sportsclubtstats) of qualifying for hockey past the second week of April, the Blue Jackets need a full court press if they're to scramble their way into the postseason picture. That would be a highly improbable feat, and with their Vezina-winning goaltender out, the Jackets' chances get even more remote.
Sergei Bobrovsky has returned to skating after being injured a few weeks back, but is not ready to play this evening. That means the Columbus crease will be occupied by Curtis McElhinney, who has already logged 24 games this season in place of Bob. His even strength save percentage actually clocks in a little higher than Bobrovsky's, but at 25th place out of the 37 goalies to play more than 1000 minutes so far, McElhinney is far from the type of undeniable force that might will be Jackets into the playoffs. The 31-year-old veteran's numbers put him right in Jaroslav Halak's neighbourhood this year, but without the Islanders skating in front of him, there is only so much McElhinney can do.
Thankfully, at least in the eyes of Ohio hockey fans, the Jackets still have their offensive tone-setter, as Ryan Johansen is enjoying another productive campaign. With 52 points, Johansen is nearly at a point per game, and holds a share of the team scoring lead with Nick Foligno. Unfortunately, it's been a struggle beyond that top line, as Scott Hartnell is the only other player to clear 30 points this year. For reference, the offensively-challenged Habs have seven players above the thirty point plateau.
They will have slightly more support than they did last time they took on the Habs, however, as Artem Anisimov has rejoined their lineup. The Russian centre has a track record of production around a half-point per game, which is just the type of scoring depth Columbus has been lacking.
Last Time Out
That last Canadiens last game against Columbus, played on January 14, was perhaps most notable for the powerplay outburst that propelled the Habs to victory. Down by two with eight and a half minutes to go, the Habs capitalized on three straight powerplays in a span of under four minutes to take the lead. They would hold that lead, earning a 3-2 triumph.
While the powerplay productivity was exciting, and certainly welcome, it may have overshadowed some good work at even strength. The Habs carried the play at even strength, and likely deserved some offence outside of man advantage situations. That game looked very much like Thursday's contest with the Panthers, except for the part where the Habs didn't earn two points, and did allow Dave Bolland to beat them in the shootout.
With the battle for the Eastern Conference crown growing ever tighter, the Habs should have plenty of motivation to reproduce the strong effort they brought forth two nights ago. And armed with the chance to be a contributor again, a certain young defenceman will seek to be a part of that success.