The Blue Jackets' Defensive Issues Come From Improper Positioning, Not A Lack Of Effort, According to John Tortorella

By Jacob Nitzberg on February 17, 2021 at 5:43 pm
Feb 15, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Martin Necas (88) and Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (90) watch the puck during the third period at PNC Arena.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The month of February has not been particularly kind to the Blue Jackets.

While they've started to wake up offensively, their defensive numbers have plummeted. As a team that prides themselves on their defensive ability and effort, this surprising turnaround has the club scrambling for answers. 

In the last 15 days, the Blue Jackets have given up six or more goals three times, and five or more goals four times. On Monday night, they were blasted by the Hurricanes, 7-3, in an absolute beatdown. 

"There are certain players that are absolutely giving, there are certain players that aren't, and some who don't know how to. It's been a bit of a smorgasbord, in terms of effort," said Tortorella after the game.

However, today on Hockey and Hounds, Tortorella said he didn't think that the Blue Jackets have an effort problem, but that their issue is positioning when defending.

"I have no problem with the effort. I just have problems with the consistency of concentration."– John Tortorella

It's apparent that their blue line is struggling, and turnovers in their own end have plagued them throughout the season.

"It's positioning. It's how you enter your end zone when you're backchecking, when the opposing team has the puck...which not only sets you up to defend the proper way, but also if you do come out with the puck, as far as if you win a battle, you're in the right position as far as getting out of your end zone," said Tortorella.

Many times, the Blue Jackets look to have gained control of the puck and are just one pass away from breaking out, but the pass goes awry and they're hemmed in their own zone again. A prime example is the Hurricanes' goal that made it 3-3 on Monday night. Michael Del Zotto can't find the right pass, and it turns into a goal against. 

"I think the word is just a concentration of a detail of positioning. That's been with us for most of the year...a lot of people throw out the words that they didn't work hard enough. When you lose 7-3, people are thinking that you didn't put effort in. I have no problem with the effort. I just have problems with the consistency of concentration," said Tortorella.

The Blue Jackets can't afford to keep making defensive miscues if they want to keep pace in the Central Division. Their "consistency of concentration," to quote Tortorella, needs to improve as soon as possible.

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