The Blue Jackets aren’t good enough to coast through games against “lesser” teams.
They aren’t good enough to survive a poor goaltending performance, especially when it means having to score six goals to win. And they aren’t good enough yet to inspire fear in their opponents, as evidenced by the Ottawa Senators (a team with three wins in its last 19 games entering tonight), who absorbed whatever the Blue Jackets threw at them and came right back the other way.
You’ll have clunkers in an 82-game season. Every team does.
But this one, coming on the heels of a poor third period in Pittsburgh, is perplexing. With the NHL’s best team coming up on New Year’s Eve at Nationwide Arena, the Blue Jackets needed to get two points tonight. This one is going to sit with them on the flight home and until they drop the puck on Sunday.
THIRD PERIOD COLLAPSE
The Blue Jackets held a 4-2 lead with less than six minutes left on Wednesday in Pittsburgh. They lost in a shootout. Tonight, they led 3-1 in the second period before the Senators took advantage of mistakes by the visitors, which helped this game go from encouraging to disastrous in only a few minutes.
And it didn’t stop there – the third period saw the Blue Jackets take on more water.
In a 3-3 game, the Senators played harder and got the breaks. They scored a flukey go-ahead goal at the side of the net courtesy of Mark Stone, who chopped at the puck until it crept through Sergei Bobrovsky’s skate and over the goal line. After a turnover, Erik Karlsson found Bobby Ryan in the slot and he had a half-open net as Bobrovsky had over-committed, and just like that, it was 5-3 Ottawa.
If John Tortorella was looking for a response from his team in the final 20 minutes, he got one. It was ugly.
“It wasn’t a great performance from us by any means,” said Zach Werenski.
On far too many nights, Bobrovsky has bailed out his teammates.
Tonight, it was the opposite.
The Nick Paul goal was a nightmare. Bobrovsky was trying to flip the puck into the corner with one hand on his stick, whiffed on it, and it slid between his legs to make it a 3-2 game. From there, it seemed as though the Senators smelled it in the water. They picked it up and played with more confidence, and got a huge goal from Matt Duchene to tie it 3-3 after 40.
The Stone goal has to be stopped. That’s a tough one. And on a night when the Blue Jackets were just out-of-sync for whatever reason (only they know), they needed better from Bobrovsky.
“Sure, there’s concern about Bob,” Tortorella said post-game. “But he’s in with a lot of other people.”
POWER PLAY AGAIN, BAD
Werenski’s flip-wrister through traffic in the final minute got the Blue Jackets power play on the board, but on the whole, this was a forgettable night for them. And that’s in a season where many nights have been forgettable for the league’s worst power play.
They couldn’t win a draw, they couldn’t establish the zone and getting pucks toward Mike Condon was laborious. Both units looked slow and unimaginative, two things that have to change on a more consistent basis if this thing’s going to get back on the rails.
He said he didn’t think he played well in the game, but having Werenski back made the Blue Jackets noticeably better in transition. That’s about the only positive you can take from the game, having one of your best players back in the lineup.
Sure, he scored a goal (his 11th) and leads all NHL defensemen in goals this season. The 11 goals ties the total number he scored in his rookie season.
SONNY SIDE UP
It’s been written, said, and written again about Sonny Milano and his status with the Blue Jackets. He’s here for a couple weeks, then back to Cleveland and back again.
In his latest opportunity to show the coaching staff that he can stick here, he made it count. Milano opened the scoring and scored the 3-1 goal in the second period, and was a noticeable player at many points during the game. They need him to take another step and become a contributor on the power play, particularly given their ongoing struggles with the man advantage. Milano’s got eight goals on the year, which might seem surprising given all the yo-yo’ing he’s been through.