Well, at least the Jackets picked up a point tonight.
Columbus fell 3-2 in a shootout tonight at home to the Minnesota Wild, who came into the game as one of the league's worst possession teams, and thoroughly out-shot the Jackets, who got a great effort in net by Sergei Bobrovsky. Let's take a look at how the game unfolded.
ARTEMI PANARIN: ELITE
Stop us if you've heard this one before.
The Breadman had one of his best games as a Blue Jacket. It wasn't enough to lift the club past Minnesota tonight, but he did his damned best, notching an absolute laser of a goal to go along with an assist on the team's first goal of the night. He then added the lone goal for the Jackets in the shootout. Without Panarin out there, the Jackets may have been shut out tonight by Devan Dubnyk, a very talented goalie in the midst of a down season.
While his point totals aren't as eye-popping as his numbers in Chicago were, Panarin is having perhaps his most impressive season if you dig deeper into his stats in Columbus.
DITCH THE SHOOTOUT LINEUP
For how much the Jackets have gone to overtime this season, it sure seems like they could do a lot better beyond that, as they've seemingly struggled to find the back of the net in shootouts.
Artemi Panarin has been fantastic, and the club has gotten memorable shootout goals from guys like Oliver Bjorkstrand, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Jack Johnson this season, but therein lies the problem – none of the latter three players got an attempt in the shootout tonight. Instead, John Tortorella sent Cam Atkinson, Jussi Jokinen and Alexander Wennberg up there, along with Panarin.
Much was made of Jokinen's alleged shootout prowess when the Jackets claimed him off of waivers, but it's clear that it isn't one of his strengths anymore. He was a fantastic shootout player early in his career – over 40% in his first two seasons – but he's just 10-for-44 since the 2010-11 season, including an abysmal 3-for-15 in the last three seasons.
Wennberg's a similar story, as he was an impressive 6-for-13 in his first two seasons, but hasn't had a successful attempt in the last two years.
It's tough to fault Torts for sticking with Atkinson at the top of the lineup, given that his career numbers are fairly consistent and he's one of the most skilled players on the team, but why Wennberg and Jokinen are getting chances above Bjorkstrand, Johnson and Dubois is a mystery.
Hey, at least he couldn't deploy Markus Hannikainen again.
The end result was one point short of what the Jackets wanted, and that's crucial, given their upcoming schedule.
The Metropolitan is, perhaps, the league's toughest division. Despite gaining a point tonight, the Jackets actually slipped two spots in their own divisional standings, and are now fourth in the division. Worse yet, they're closer to the last place spot than the top spot.
January was the perfect time for the team to heal up and do some soul searching, with a bye week, the All-Star break and another four-day hiatus built into the schedule. They also played zero (!!) divisional opponents this month. They certainly didn't take full advantage of that.
Now, they're facing an absolute gauntlet, with 10 games against Metropolitan opponents this month. This team isn't where it needs to be, and it needs to get there quick.
WELCOME BACK, DUBI?
Brandon Dubinsky re-joined the team yesterday after one of the more mysterious we've seen in hockey this year. The Athletic's Aaron Portzline reported that Dubinsky was sent home from the team's Vegas trip due to "personal issues" that may have been "career threatening."
A few days (and "can't comment" comments from the team) later, Dubinsky returned to the ice, and nobody's quite sure what was going on. Regardless, his return is a big boost to a lineup that desperately needed the center depth.
It wasn't his best or most active game, as he played 14:57 and didn't register a shot on net, but it's tough to complain given that it was his first game in over a month.
SECOND PERIOD WOES STRIKE AGAIN
Had it not been for an overturned goal, the Blue Jackets would have headed to the first intermission with a 2-0 lead and a ton of momentum. Instead, they surrendered two goals and played catch-up from there until Artemi Panarin tied it up in the third.
Still, the Jackets didn't do themselves any favors after the overturned goal. The second period, in particular, was brutal, as they gave up 20 shots on goal in the middle frame to a team that came into the night 30th in the league in shot attempt percentage.
It's not the first time the Jackets have been cratered in the second period of a game, and it likely won't be the last, but if they want to be a playoff team (or more), that can't fly.