The Blue Jackets' 5-1-0 start was great. It's also a thing of the past.
Over the last week, they've faced tougher tests and hit their first speed bump of the season. After a 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets, the Blue Jackets faced two opponents who have been in the NHL's upper tier: the Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the Eastern Conference's top teams, and the Los Angeles Kings are off to a 6-0-1 start coming off another playoff miss.
Spoiler: it didn't go well.
Their home stand continues this week against Buffalo and Winnipeg, two teams that the Blue Jackets should beat. They're still looking for the power play to hit stride and trying to keep their young players on track while going through scoring droughts, so John Tortorella's plate has been full.
Let's take stock of the week, shall we?
Finally, The Power Play
Rub your eyes, adjust your monitors: the Blue Jackets scored a power play goal on Saturday night. No, it wasn't a tic-tac-toe play or a rocket one-timer from Artemi Panarin, but Panarin did set it up. Nick Foligno drove the middle on a 3-on-2 rush, Panarin got him the puck, and Foligno snapped a quick shot through Jonathan Quick. Simple as that, right? It was Columbus' first power play goal since opening night (Zach Werenski), ending an 0-for-18 drought.
After a back injury caused him to miss all of training camp, the preseason and then the first seven games of the regular season, Boone Jenner made his season debut on Saturday against the Kings. He played over 18 minutes and lined up on the left side of Nick Foligno and Oliver Bjorkstrand, and was one of the Jackets' most noticeable forwards in the game.
Tortorella has a game plan for how he will divvy up goaltending responsibilities this year (no, he won't elaborate), but it does involve getting regular work from No. 2 netminder Joonas Korpisalo. Not unlike his teammates, Korpisalo plodded through his first appearance back on Oct. 7, a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks — but he rebounded with a solid effort in Winnipeg. The Blue Jackets need Korpisalo to not only spell Bobrovsky, but also help them accumulate points and if he plays like he did last Tuesday, it's only going to help both player and team down the road.
The guy who stopped 103 of the first 105 shots he saw wasn't going to keep up that pace forever, but the past week was a reset to reality for Sergei Bobrovsky. He played well in the Blue Jackets' 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay (and obviously got no run support), but in games against Minnesota and Los Angeles, he wasn't the same old Bob. A couple of sharp angle shots fooled him in the loss to the Kings, and there were some nervy moments in the overtime win in St. Paul last week. Bobrovsky gave up seven goals in two starts this past week, which is quite un-Bob, but he's likely to get both home starts this week to try and right the ship.
All you need for evidence here is the Anze Kopitar game-winner on Saturday; the Blue Jackets, caught watching the puck, were beaten cleanly by a Dustin Brown pass across the middle of the ice in their defensive zone, and a quick redirection by Kopitar sealed the deal with 2:14 left. They've not been as tight with their checking in the last two games — Tortorella said their win in Winnipeg was an example of how they can check to create offense — and it's hurt them, especially considering a four-goal outburst is more than enough to win.
The Blue Jackets have beaten below average and middle-of-the-road teams so far and haven't fared as well against their three top-tier opponents (Chicago, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles). Could it simply be an early-season blip? Absolutely, but in three games against the NHL's top clubs out of the gate, the Blue Jackets have looked out of sync and a stride behind.