Nothing seems to be going right for the Columbus Blue Jackets right now.
The team currently rides a 4-game losing streak in which they've averaged 4.5 goals against and 2 goals for per game.
The current narrative, according to the post-game interviews with the players, is the inability to finish, having chances but not scoring on them. However, not much else is going right either.
The goaltending that appeared to be finding its footing in late October has been struggling and he defensive team structure has allowed for dangerous chances in this time that have hung Korpisalo and Merzlikins out to dry.
So what can be done to end the slump?
We take a look at a few things that have to be accomplished for the Columbus Blue Jackets to find their footing.
- Finding Consistent Lines
Head coach, John Tortorella, has never been shy about blending the lines to find a spark when the team struggles. But so far this season, it appears the right combination hasn't been found yet.
Recently, some new combinations have appeared to work.
Late in the Calgary game, Josh Anderson was centered by Alexander Wennberg, a pairing that makes sense. Wennberg is notoriously pass-first, and Anderson is unmistakably a shooter. It's a match made in hockey heaven, in theory. While they weren't able to provide scoring, perhaps with continued play together, chemistry will boost they performance.
The other pair found late in the Calgary game was the combination of Oliver Bjorkstrand and Pierre-Luc Dubois. In their short time together, they created various scoring chances and appeared to have some creative chemistry.
The issue for Tortorella will be to keep the lines together long enough to find chemistry. Yes, it is important to change what doesn't work, but he has to walk a fine line between giving enough time to figure it out and going elsewhere with the combinations.
- Helping Out the Goaltenders
Despite their numbers, both Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzilikins have provided a strong back-end to the team in the first month. Outside of the two 7-goal losses, most scores are coming from defensive or neutral zone breakdowns rather than poor goalie play.
Opposing players have been left alone in the slot, neutral zone play has led to odd-man rushes, and bad penalties have been taken.
It's the structure of the team that has been preached throughout the first month of the season, and breaks in it have led to dangerous chances. In the current slump, the breakdowns appear to be happening more consistently.
To find their footing in structure, it may take film study or practice time re-focus the structure. But more games and playing-time are always welcome as it's hard to actually apply defensive structure in practice when it's not full speed and full stakes.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have struggled the past for games, but there are actionable ways to improve. If they find reliable lines and hone their structure, the slump will end and, hopefully, not return.