Three Things: Alexander Wennberg Returns, Joonas Korpisalo Gets the Hook and Blue Jackets' Defensive Woes Cost Them

By Peter Fish on February 28, 2020 at 9:34 pm
Feb 28, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Minnesota Wild center Alex Galchenyuk (27) shoots the puck past Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Andrew Peeke (2) during the game at Nationwide Arena.
Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets were deservedly shut out by the Minnesota Wild.

What looked like an even start to the first quickly derailed after the Jackets failed to get the puck out of the zone, which led to the Wild's early opening goal. Less than a minute later, the Jackets gave up another odd-man rush and Jared Spurgeon rifled the puck past Joonas Korpisalo to put Minnesota up by two.

Just like that, they were in real trouble.

In the third, the Blue Jackets tried to break through, but the Wild were strong on the defensive side of the puck and found the back of the net again on the power play.

Let's get into tonight's three things.

Wennberg Returns

Alexander Wennberg's return was a welcomed sight for John Tortorella and team, as they've been decimated by injuries up and down the lineup. Wennberg had a strong chance from the slot with six minutes left in the first period, but he just missed the net. It's a positive sign that Wennberg is looking to shoot the puck since returning from injury, because the Jackets need goals and they need them now.

While Wennberg making contributions on offense is important, where Columbus missed him was on the penalty kill. Wennberg is one of the best penalty killers on the team and was sorely missed on the defensive side of the puck. Tortorella wasted no time using him shorthanded tonight.

Goalie Change

It was a rough night for Korpisalo, but he didn't get much help. The Blue Jackets were sloppy, they turned pucks over, and they yielded some grade-A chances from their own mistakes. Korpisalo was pulled 14 minutes into the second period after allowing four goals on 15 shots, and while for the most part the goals weren't his fault due to several odd-man rushes or quality looks, the Blue Jackets probably didn't see this coming.

This pull was about the team. They weren't competing hard enough to provide offensive or defensive support for the man between the pipes, and there's no doubt Tortorella made the goaltending change to send a jolt through the team and try to shift the momentum. As we know by now, it didn't work.

Matiss Kivlenieks was fine after coming on in relief of Korpisalo, allowing one goal on a power play chance for Minnesota.

Oh Defense, Where Art Thou?

The Jackets have given up at least three goals in each of their last nine games, and at least four goals in seven of the last nine games. This is no coincidence, either, as the Jackets lost All-Star defenseman Seth Jones right before these defensive struggles began – but they have also missed Murray on the blue line. The injuries mean unproven or over-utilized players like Andrew Peeke and Scott Harrington must play more minutes and a larger burden falls on the top four. It's been a struggle.

When Murray returns, the Jackets will likely fare better in their own end of the ice, but what they need is Jones to return. Unless they make the Stanley Cup Playoffs – a long shot at this point, you'd have to think – that's not going to happen.