Well, we now know–with virtual certainty–which direction the Columbus Blue Jackets are headed as Monday's NHL trade deadline looms.
They weren't very good tonight. Did they show flashes? Of course, but that's been this team's calling card in 2020-21: good at times, dreadful at others, and perpetually treading water. When you run into a pissed-off Tampa Bay Lightning team without your best stuff, this is the result.
Here are tonight's three things from Nationwide Arena.
You couldn't draw up a more volatile opening stretch for the Blue Jackets.
The Lightning haven't won in a few. They're not happy. Columbus beat them again the other night and it wasn't all that close. Anything less than their best probably wouldn't turn out well for the Blue Jackets–and, behold.
Blake Coleman scored 58 seconds in. Tampa Bay added two more in the early going and chased Joonas Korpisalo after only a few minutes of work, and into the game came Elvis Merzlikins.
Let's interject briefly: the Blue Jackets weren't awful in this stretch, but their performance wasn't nearly good enough. They didn't help their goaltender, and their goaltender didn't help them. Steven Stamkos' 2-0 goal is one that Korpisalo should stop, and Victor Hedman's 4-1 goal is one that Merzlikins should stop.
As John Tortorella would say, everyone has some skin in this one.
WE DON'T KNOW, JACK
Jack Roslovic is such an intriguing player. One night, he's scoring highlight-reel goals and making beautiful plays to set up line mates and the next he's almost unrecognizable.
He and Tortorella have definitely had their heads butted together for most of the season, but what has to frustrate the head coach is Roslovic's propensity for making the same mistakes over and over. Roslovic is often careless with the puck, but can also score impressive goals. We saw the former on Tampa Bay's fifth goal.
We also saw his skill here.
There's a lot to like with Roslovic, but an equal amount of work to be done. Tortorella has a few weeks to continue that work, and then, it'll be up to whoever's next behind the bench in Columbus (assuming, as we expect, that this is Tortorella's final season).
David Savard's "precautionary" healthy scratch set the tone: the Blue Jackets are deadline sellers. It's a position they haven't been in for a while, which is what Tortorella alluded to on the radio this week. The Blue Jackets have to handle this situation in a different way, because they're used to being buyers.
It's not comfortable knowing that your team is about to get broken up, but that's the business reality–especially when the team's performance has been subpar for the majority of the year.
This is new territory for these Blue Jackets. It's up to them to ensure this is the only time they have to venture into it.