Gritty play with puck personifies Columbus' Jenner
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Be assured the fans in Consol Energy Center, save the few who made the trip from Columbus, weren't saying “Boooooone” when Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner scored in the first period of Game 5 Saturday.
That term of affection is reserved for the home fans in Nationwide Arena who have watched a player who was on the bubble to make the team out of training camp become the top rookie goal scorer (three) in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Jenner has a point in each game of the first round best-of-seven series that the Penguins lead 3-2 going into Game 6 Monday in Columbus and has managed to irritate opponents with his physical play.
“I love how he holds onto the puck and the things he does with it and his tenacity,” teammate Nick Foligno said. “He makes other teams hate him. That's an impressive thing to do at 20 years old, especially in this league.”
Despite his aggressive nature, Jenner has been called for only two minor penalties in the series.
“He finds that fine line and that's what makes people hate him even more,” Foligno said. “He can be in your face and do it all legally and hit you and whack you. That makes him a real big threat on the ice.”
Jenner's five postseason points puts him second among rookies to Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon (2-8-10). While MacKinnon gets his points through dazzling plays, Jenner finds most of his in the hand-to-hand combat around the goal.
“I like to play a hard brand of hockey in between the whistles, but I don't want to put the team at a disadvantage by being undisciplined,” Jenner said.
The 6-foot-2, 208 pounder from Dorchester, Ontario, scored on the power play in Game 4 by stationing himself in front of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and having a shot by Brandon Dubinsky hit off his body and float into the goal.
In the Game 5 loss to the Penguins, Jenner was checked to the ice left of the goal by Kris Letang, but got up in time to poke the puck in after it skimmed through the crease for another power-play goal.
“Boone has done nothing but impressed us,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “He still makes his mistakes, just like everyone is going to. But I've given him more and more and he's been able to handle it.”
Jenner was Columbus' fifth pick and 127th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft. While playing last season for Oshawa, he finished third in the Ontario Hockey League in goals (45) and 10th in assists (82) before turning pro and finishing the season with the Blue Jackets' AHL team in Springfield.
He scored his first two NHL goals at Montreal on Oct. 13 and finished the season with 16 goals and 13 assists and often was on a line with 21-year-old center Ryan Johansen, who had a breakout season with 33 goals.
“I've had a chance to play with him for a couple of months now,” Johansen said. “We've seen some chemistry and done a lot of good things on the ice. A lot of credit for my success is because of him. He's made me a way better player.”
What Richards has seen of Jenner in the playoffs makes him even more excited for the future.
“What's this kid going to be like in four or five years based on how he's going right now?” he said. “His work, his tenacity, how he stays on the puck and determination — it drives other players crazy.”
Craig Merz is a freelance writer.