One-goal losses have been a common theme vs. the Lightning this series.
In Games 1, 3, and 4, the Blue Jackets have suffered heartbreaking one-goal losses that now have them on the wrong end of a 3-1 series. While they've been mostly excellent defensively, they've struggled mightily to score goals.
This didn't just come about in the playoffs. During the regular season, it was clear what the Blue Jackets' strengths were: goaltending and the defensemen in front of Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo. Oliver Bjorkstrand and Zach Werenski would bail them out here and there with big goals, but for the majority of the season, the Blue Jackets had a hard time finding the back of the net.
In the playoffs, the Blue Jackets have scored an average of 2.22 goals per game. That's well below their already-poor average of 2.57 goals per game during the regular season. While they were able to beat the Maple Leafs in five games, their offensive struggles have truly come to life in the series against the Lightning.
The fact that they've come this far with the offensive woes that they've had is a true testament to John Tortorella and the work ethic that he's instilled in every skater that takes the ice. While the Blue Jackets may not be the most offensively talented team, they are one of the hardest-working teams. Much more offensively talented teams, like the Maple Leafs or Lightning, still struggle to beat to the Blue Jackets because of how good they are defensively.
While they did outlast Matt Duchene and Artemi Panarin in the playoffs this year, there's no question that this team would be much better with them. The Blue Jackets are one or two dynamic forwards away from truly competing for the Stanley Cup.
One of the answers could be in-house. They certainly missed the contributions of Josh Anderson this season, who is a force offensively and defensively. When he's healthy, Anderson is good for 30 goals and a lot of headaches for opposing defensemen.
Jarmo Kekalainen's priority this summer is resigning RFAs: Pierre-Luc Dubois, Anderson, and Vladislav Gavrikov. If there is cap space left over, don't put it past Kekalainen to acquire a forward, because that's what the Blue Jackets desperately need right now.
Kekalainen has been known to make aggressive moves in the past, like going all-in at the trade deadline last year. The Blue Jackets have a surplus of defensemen, and it's likely that one or more could be moved this summer to bring in offensive talent.
With their current roster, they're still able to hang with teams like the Maple Leafs and the Lightning, but if they bolster their offensive ability, they'll be a force to reckon with next season.