Columbus Head Coach Brad Larsen spoke to VHN Tuesday morning about the Vancouver Canucks / Columbus Blue Jackets game that took place in Ohio back on November 26th that his team won 4-2.
“They outplayed us in our building,” Larsen said. “They were the better team but we found a way to win. (Now) They’re playing with confidence, they’ve won four in a row and we know we’ve gotta be sharp tonight. Hopefully we can find our game.”
The Blue Jackets come into Vancouver with a record of 14-11-1 in fifth place in the Metro Division and would presently not be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. The Vancouver Canucks have improved to 12-15-and-2.
We discussed the crazy recent and ongoing road schedule for the Blue Jackets. A challenge that pales in comparison to the emotional mountain this team continues to overcome with the death of netminder Matiss Kivlenieks, who was killed by errant fireworks at a 4th of July party in Michigan this summer. Kivlenieks actually put himself between the explosives and his fellow Latvian and goaltender Elvis Merzlikins and his pregnant wife in order to save them. He actually blocked one with his chest, or as some have put it, he made the greatest save of his life to save someone else’s.
Merzlikins later gave his newborn son the middle name Matiss, while he and others have dedicated their season to him.
The actual audio of this brief interview can be heard at the bottom.
Rob Simpson: Simmer’s Morning Skate with Brad Larsen, the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, first of all, we have a little more Covid action going on here. Two of the Vancouver Canucks, I guess you just have to plow through this and keep going.
Brad Larsen: Well, we just do what the league’s telling us to do, right, so we can manage our side of it. That’s all we’re doing. And yeah, it’s everywhere. You can see Calgary. You see Carolina. You see Boston, there’s some guys, it’s around and all the other sports are going through it too, like the NFL. So that’s the world we live in right now, and we get to just manage as best we can.
RS: On top of that, I think 13 of 17 at some point on the road for you guys, this is a hell of a challenge.
BL: Yeah, I tried to count it up. I think we’re on the road, on a stretch that runs twenty-nine of thirty-four or thirty-five days on the road. It’s crazy. It’s my 25th year in pro hockey and I have never seen back-to-back-to-back road trips like this. So you know, you can’t look at the big picture. It’s, I know it sounds silly and gets redundant and kind of stale, but it’s really one day at a time and just try and focus on on what we have tonight.
RS: Is this club performing better than you originally expected, where you at as a hockey team?
BL: Well, I think like any of us, from week to week, it changes. You know, we’ve had a decent week. We went 2-1-1 this past week here with a tough schedule. And, you know, we got the win in Seattle. I thought it wasn’t a complete game, but you know, it’s a tough game for us on the turnaround in the travel and the time change and all that stuff. So we found a way to get the result.
RS: Brad, there’s an incredible personal story this season for you guys. With the passing of Matiss this summer, your goaltender killed, and Elvis, his fellow Latvian stepping up and kind of owning it. What do you say about Elvis and the whole thing?
BL: Well, it it affected a lot of people. I mean, to get that call that night and it’s just surreal, right? He’s a young man. He’s, he’s got his whole life ahead of him and, you know, from a tragic accident like that and it affected a lot of people, and it affected Elvis. And man, there’s a lot of people closest to him, who are really close to this young man. So it’s been hard on the organization and individuals who knew him better. Absolutely. And I know it’s been hard on Elvis personally. But, you know, every day you just, you know, there’s been a lot of communication, a lot of just just dealing with it, working through it. And yeah, there’s no there’s no timetable on grieving, right? And things are going to pop up, I think, too, maybe trigger some things and go through it. So we’re we’re trying to deal like a family and just be open and honest about it and deal with it as the day comes.
RS: … because I know he’s using it that as his inspiration. So hopefully that continues to work for him.
BL: Yeah, no, he’s he took it upon himself to really dedicate a lot of things to Matiss and, you know, like so many others too, you know, PIerre Luc Dubois, he switched his number, he played with him. And there’s other guys who quietly, you know, do it on their own. And again, everybody’s dealing with it differently and it’s just something we try to, you know, make sure that we’re talking about and addressing. And if they need help or talk, we talk.
RS: Well, I appreciate you talking about it and always a pleasure to talk to you here on Simmer’s Morning Skate. Have a good evening.
BL: All right, thank you.
7 pm start, Columbus Blue Jackets at Vancouver Canucks, Rogers Arena.