What We Learned: Bob Steals One, But the Blue Jackets' Offense Needs To Get Rolling

By Kyle Morrison on November 12, 2017 at 10:20 am
Sergei Bobrovsky stares down Dylan Larkin as he skates down the wing for Detroit.

Raj Mehta - USA TODAY Sports

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After three straight regulation losses, the Blue Jackets snapped the streak last night in Detroit.

As far as losing streaks go, it was a frustrating but short-lived one that didn't do any harm to the Jackets in the standings. All things considered, that's not bad.

Another silver lining: a stretch of bad play like that gives us plenty of learning material to look back on. Here's what we learned this week:

Sergei Bobrovsky: Stealer of hearts (and games)

The Jackets had no business coming out of Detroit last night with two points.

Bobrovsky was stellar in net, stopping 32 of 33 shots between regulation and overtime, including this save of the year candidate to stop a perfectly executed 2-on-0 rush.

That’s one of the best saves you will ever see, period. He also stopped Anthony Mantha on a breakaway in the same OT period and willed the team into a shootout.

He gave up a goal to the first shooter he faced in the shootout – Frans Nielsen, now the best shootout players of all-time (46 goals) – and then settled down to stop the next *eight* shooters Detroit sent his way.

The lion’s share of the shootout win goes on Bobrovsky’s resume, too. Just two of the Jackets’ nine (!) skaters tried to deke out Jimmy Howard (Artemi Panarin and Jack Johnson – who both scored) while the other seven tried to come in at an angle and snipe one past Howard.

Without Bobrovsky in net, that shootout doesn’t go long enough for Jack Johnson to get a chance, despite players like Nick Foligno (never scored in a shootout) and Brandon Dubinsky (zero shootout attempts last year, although he did go 3-for-4 in 2015-16) getting a chance earlier.

Not that it’s directly related to Bobrovsky’s dominant effort, but perhaps Johnson warrants more consideration to be higher up in the shootout lineup. He got a lot of chances (10-for-24) with the Kings but has had just three in his seven years with Columbus, scoring twice, giving him a career 12-for-27 mark.

His other shootout goal with the team? A game-winner against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014-15. That was also in the ninth round, funny enough (S/T Alison Lukan).

Bonus points to anyone who can name the other player to score in that game's shootout for Columbus – without looking it up.

Shot attempts ≠ goals

Despite going on a four-game skid (the latter three losses coming in regulation) the Jackets never looked overpowered by their opposition. Their possession numbers were still impressive (minus a lackadaisical effort against Carolina), headlined by a 58.33% Corsi night in Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.

The Jackets managed three goals that night, and just one goal in each game since (shootout goals notwithstanding). They only dipped under 50% Corsi in one of their last four games.

Getting chances isn’t the same as finishing chances – something the Jackets will need to be better at going forward – but it’s not time to hit the panic button in that regard. Sure, there were some frustrating misses (Zach Werenski on the doorstep against Nashville, for example), but the more shot attempts you get, the more chances you have to score.

The injuries to the bottom six may be a culprit here, as Tortorella has gone with seven defensemen in three straight games. Sonny Milano hasn’t been in the lineup since the Nashville game on Tuesday. Columbus struggled for offense in that game, and the player who’d scored both of their goals in their last matchup was sitting in the press box. Frustrating, but understandable.

Slumps happen to the best teams too

Having strong possession numbers is one thing – the Jackets did alright in that department during their slump – but passing the eye test is another.

The Jackets looked out-of-sorts and out-of-sync at times this week during their slump, and too tentative at times. Passes in the offensive zone aren’t finding tape. They’re getting out-skated in the neutral zone (particularly against Carolina) with some defensive lapses being thrown into the mix (leading to Jordan Staal’s first goal against Carolina and Matt Irwin’s goal for Nashville).

The talent and coaching are there. The injuries to the bottom six hurt (Calvert and Sedlak would bring energy and help the penalty kill), but they’re far from insurmountable. The goals will come.

If the coaching staff is going to make changes after a disappointing stretch of play, those changes probably won’t (and shouldn’t) be too drastic. A little bit of tinkering and some confidence could go a long way towards getting this team back to the form they showed during their 5-1-0 start.

Even so, the slump didn’t knock the Jackets down in the standings. They're tied with the Penguins (mired in their own slump) for second place, but have a game in hand. Not bad! Plus, the streak gave us this.


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