Five Thoughts: A Lack of Pace and Finish Spell Doom for the Blue Jackets in Buffalo

By Rob Mixer on January 11, 2018 at 9:59 pm
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella looks on during the team's 3-1 loss in Buffalo.



Well, well, well.

You hate to look at games and label them before they're even played – and in full disclosure, the notion of a "trap game" is a bit tired – but this one had an odor on it at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

The Blue Jackets didn't have the pace and crispness to their game needed to get out of town with two points, especially against a bad team that's reeling of late. They got what they deserved tonight, with one more chance before the bye week to bank some points.


Artemi Panarin was one of few bright spots for the Blue Jackets tonight.

He was all over the place and looked dangerous whenever the puck touched his stick. He brought the Blue Jackets within a goal late in the third period (and it was a thing of beauty). On top of that, he rang the goal post twice: once in the first period on his backhand, and then again in the third on a wicked one-timer that would've tied the game.

Panarin had over a dozen shot attempts in the game and it was hell for the Sabres to lock him down. He's up to 12 goals on the season with his power play tally tonight.


In a one-goal game, you hate to have things like this happen.

The Sabres dumped the puck in and, after a poor bounce off the end boards, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky got wires crossed at the side of the net. Neither player was in a position to make a play on the puck as it drifted toward the net, and unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, Kyle Okposo was there to bang it in and put Buffalo head 2-0 with 13 minutes and change remaining.

That was a killer, especially for a team like the Blue Jackets that's struggling to score. Two goals is a mountain right now.


One look at the box score and things don't look so bad. It's a loss, of course, but the Blue Jackets did a lot of good in the game despite failing to beat unproven goaltender Linus Ullmark, who was making his first start of the season for the Sabres.

The Blue Jackets had 45 shots on goal and out-shot Buffalo by a 19-7 margin in the third period – and only in the final 20 minutes did they look dangerous in the offensive zone. At times, it was an onslaught and most often it was the Panarin line leading the way. But overall, the Blue Jackets and Sabres were dead-even in scoring chances with only one power play handed out in the game.


The Blue Jackets are the better team. No question about it. They needed to come out in this game and dictate tempo: make the Sabres, a struggling team with fragile confidence, play at their speed. It didn't happen that way; the Blue Jackets looked out-of-sync and confused at times, but they made up for it in the third period by playing more shifts below the hash marks and protecting pucks.


Alexander Wennberg played his first game since Dec. 21 due to a back injury. John Tortorella slotted him back at center between Boone Jenner and Nick Foligno, and the line played solid but didn't generate enough dangerous chances. Wennberg played over 18 minutes in the game but struggled in the face-off circle, winning only 29 percent of his draws.

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