How much more can you ask of Artemi Panarin?
He was far and away the best player on the ice last night in Buffalo.
No player was responsible for more scoring chances on his own accord. He had a dozen shot attempts, played nearly 24 minutes in a game that ended in regulation, and scored a dazzling goal that's still got me watching the highlights.
Panarin's goal – his 12th of the season, now two off the team lead – was also a
unicorn power play goal. He hit the goal post on his backhand in the first period, which was easily the Blue Jackets' worst of the game, and then his one-time rocket banged the crossbar/right post in the third period.
Whenever he touched the puck, something happened.
For the rest of the lineup? Crickets.
Sure, the Blue Jackets were dominant 5-on-5 and had the puck for much of the game. John Tortorella wasn't interested in harping on his players after the game because he felt like they'd done enough to win, but he acknowledged that (aside from his top line) they don't have enough net-front presence or enough drive to get to the interior of the ice.
"Interior of the ice." What's that mean, you might ask? It means getting higher-quality shots and scoring chances by moving the puck away from the perimeter and into the area between the face-off circles. The Blue Jackets had 45 shots last night but how many of those were legit chances? Few and far between. They need a more concerted effort to shoot from dangerous areas, which is one of the reasons their shooting percentage is so low.
"They're trying," Tortorella said after the game, following a few questions asking about what's missing from his players.
They may be trying, but even so, you'd like to think something will break their way before too long. A puck off a stick, leg, ear, anything. The Blue Jackets have to get some production from other lines, kind of like last week when Oliver Bjorkstrand stepped up in the third period and propelled them to a win in Dallas.
Tortorella barely used his fourth line last night and his third line (Calvert-Sedlak-Bjorkstrand) played 12 minutes. Bjorkstrand is third on the team in points. He's got to find a different role for him.
Until other people get their games on track, the burden is on Dubois, Anderson and Panarin to start the engine on a nightly basis. You hope it doesn't catch up to them, too, because they're playing well enough right now that the Blue Jackets might be able to get by for the time being.
YOU SHOULD BE READING
- Here's the video of that Panarin wondergoal from last night. I can't stop watching it.
- The Blue Jackets' sleepy effort in Buffalo was a poor vital sign from a team that needs to play desperate.