The Blue Jackets Are Learning How Thin Their Margin Of Error Can Be Moving Forward

By Chris Pennington on December 29, 2018 at 10:15 am
The Columbus Blue Jackets' five-game winning streak was snapped on Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports

Playing just "good" is not good enough anymore, if it ever was.

For the Columbus Blue Jackets to establish themselves officially as a Stanley Cup- contending hockey team, well, a few things need to happen. 

But the main one? They have to play damn-near perfect when they play the best teams in the league - and cling to their identity of out-working opponents, something the Blue Jackets have struggled to do at times throughout the course of this season.

Don't believe us? The Jackets dropped a game to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night, which snapped a five-game winning streak for Columbus. 

And during that winning streak, vibes and mood was definitely high. Positively-spun articles were being pumped out by every Jackets' outlet, players were pumped and John Tortorella was smiling.

But, the teams that the Jackets were beating during that streak?

Two wins against the last-place-in-the-NHL New Jersey Devils, two against the lowly New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, and finally, a narrow 1-0 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights, at home, when Sergei Bobrovsky stood on his head, and the Knights played their backup goalie.

I know, I'm being that guy. Yes, the Blue Jackets are in a cool second-place in the Metropolitan Division, but context is important:

The Blue Jackets have faced a team that is in a current playoff spot, or one spot out, eighteen times this season. They have only won eight of those games.

And even with one of the top offenses in the NHL, they have sputtered in those games against top-level opponents. Two-goal nights are not going to win you most games when you play teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, or even the Pittsburgh Penguins or Washington Capitals, especially in the playoffs.

"We definitely had our gotta bury those," said Boone Jenner after Friday's loss. "And a team like that, they capitalize on some of their chances, and we see that as the difference."

Jenner is right that the Jackets struggled with finishing their chances. They even led both teams with a 54.76% scoring chances for (SCF%) and still came up two goals short, and could have been three if Artemi Panarin didn't net one with under two minutes to go.

So, what's the solution?

Well, there may not be a black-and-white one other than just being willing to outwork opponents every single night through their blue-collar attitude, which is a great way to avoid mistakes and create scoring opportunities. This style of play can be exhausting, but it's the Blue Jackets identity.

They can't light the lamp consistently on the power play. They don't have an abundance of skilled players. Outside of Panarin, they don't really have anyone to just go get them a goal in crunch time.

If the Blue Jackets want to be an elite team, they need to out-hustle their opponents every night. It's the annoying way to play, but it's the way they need to play. 

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