The Columbus Blue Jackets were humbled in a lopsided 4-2 loss at the hands of the Nashville Predators on Saturday evening.
The game followed a familiar script: solid goaltending, a lack of sustained offensive push, and critical defensive mistakes. One point I think is worth making is that when a team struggles to play at one end of the ice, it's compounded at the other. So when the Blue Jackets continually struggle to defend, or they can't break out cleanly, it impacts their ability to play offense. Similarly, when the team is unable to sustain a forecheck, the ice tilts the other way. Make no mistake, the Blue Jackets are fighting wars on several fronts right now, but the defensive woes continue to plague this team.
PLAY #1 - ROSLOVIC LOSES COVERAGE
On the Predators' second goal, fourth-liners Luke Kunin and Colton Sissons combined for a tap-in. To give credit where it's due, it was a nice play, and further, Jack Roslovic knew right away that he was at fault.
Here's What Happened: In a vacuum, a low 3-on-3 play means that the defending team's two defensemen and center will check the opposition's three forwards. After the puck is chipped behind Micahel Del Zotto, Andrew Peek comes over to help his defense partner. The puck goes behind the net, and so Del Zotto follows the play to the opposite side corner. So far, nothing to see here. Then, Sissons beats Roslovic in a slow but methodical race to the crease. Sissons knows that if he gets there too early, he will be easily marked by the defender. Too late, and the play will miss him entirely. By timing his inside route, he leaves Roslovic behind him, unable to defend the redirect.
Here's What Should Have Happened: Roslovic needed to have inside position against Sissons, and you'd ideally like to see Del Zotto attaching closer to Kunin, taking away more of his time and space.
PLAY #2 - WANTED: POISE
Despite a second period in where the Blue Jackets were outclassed, the score was even at two apiece heading into the final frame. That changed quickly, with the Predators scoring just 0:16 seconds into the third period.
Here's what happened: The play starts winningly, with a Blue Jackets faceoff win. Vladislav Gavrikov wheels the net on his forehand, which is, again, ideal. What follows is a comedy of errors. Gavrikov's attempted bank pass to Patrik Laine puts the winger in a difficult spot, only furthered by the pinching defenseman. The puck spurts back into the middle of the ice, where Gavrikov has time to make a play... until he doesn't. He whacks the puck seemingly without purpose to Calle Jarnkrok, who fires the puck right away and beats Elvis Merzlikins with a perfectly-placed shot.
Here's what should have happened: Gavrikov should have passed the puck to a teammate instead of to the other team.
PLAY #3 - PEEKE FROZEN
Here's what happened: Another faceoff win, another disaster (somehow) ensues. Nick Foligno drew the puck back cleanly, yes, but not with enough pace to get back to defenseman Andrew Peeke (no fault of Foligno's). Peeke, who had lined up on the wall (more on that in a moment), took a half step back before trying to find his way to the loose puck. At the same time, left-winger Alexandre Texier allowed his check (and eventual goalscorer) Filip Forsberg to get around him untouched.
Forsberg, coming with a full head of steam, is able to poke the puck behind Peeke, then come in on a 2-on-1, where he capitalizes to give the Predators two goals in the first minute of the third period.
Here's what should have happened: I have a lot of thoughts on this play. For starters, I'm not a fan of the alignment that Peeke and Del Zotto lined up in, a wide stance where they were clearly hoping to get to the weak side as fast as possible. But by lining up wide, Peeke is effectively giving the middle of the ice away. Any hockey coach at any level will preach the importance of taking away the middle of the ice. By lining up on the wall, the only ice Peeke is taking away is the perimeter. Seems like a coaching/formational mistake.
Secondary to the formation, which in my estimation is the primary culprit, was the hapless reach by Peeke. An easy-to-remember defensive rule is that you can take the puck or the player, but you can't miss both. Peeke missed on both, and seconds later the puck was in the back of the net.