Believe it or not, the team that was in rebuilding mode at Little Caesars Arena on Saturday afternoon was *not* the Columbus Blue Jackets.
It's the team that outhustled, outshot, outworked, outplayed, and out-everything-elsed the Blue Jackets in a must-win for Columbus: the Detroit Red Wings.
Columbus lost by a score of 3-1, but the game was never as close as that score would indicate.
Here are three things from a head-shaking afternoon in Detroit:
FIRST IS THE WORST...
There was a point in time, this season even, that the Blue Jackets were scoring first in a majority of their games by a fairly wide margin. Those days are gone, and they've been replaced with scenes like this from the first period of this afternoon's game:
Columbus went scoreless in the first period for the fourth consecutive game, and this afternoon the Red Wings were up 2-0 before the opening frame hit the halfway mark. If you want to really extrapolate the first part of that last sentence, chew on this for a moment: The Columbus Blue Jackets have played 12 games this month. That's 240 minutes of first period hockey. They have three goals in those four hours of hockey, and have been outscored 9-3 in the first period this month. That's not going to get it done.
...BUT SECOND ISN'T THE BEST
Because second (out of two) is where the Blue Jackets are finding themselves in shots on goal in just about every game this season. The Blue Jackets have outshot their opponent in only six of 35 games this season, and this afternoon was no different. The final tally on the scoreboard read 34-22 in favor of the Red Wings, but there was a point in the first period that it was 15-2 Detroit, with shot attempts at a mind-boggling 28-2. Then again, maybe it's for the best that the Blue Jackets get outshot: they're 1-4-1 in those six games where they've ended with more shots on goal.
WHERE IS THE FIGHT?
For the last couple of weeks, the Blue Jackets have preached urgency, effort, and that it's a crucial time of year. If the on-ice leadership really believes that, today certainly did not show it. "We can talk about it," said captain Nick Foligno after the game. "But we got to go do it as well."
Ok, go do it then. Player availability was delayed at the end of the game, which may be an indication that there was a closed-door meeting of the minds at the conclusion of the game. The Blue Jackets and Red Wings are back at it tomorrow afternoon. Which Blue Jacket team will show up? It may not matter in the long-run, but if this team has any passion left, they need to make a powerful statement Sunday.