Columbus Blue Jackets Drop A Pair Of Weekend Games, But There's Reason For Optimism

By Dan Dukart on November 15, 2021 at 10:15 am
The New York Rangers skate against the Columbus Blue Jackets
Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports

In the NHL, players, teams, and management are graded based on wins and losses. 

But for a young team on the rise, it's important to keep the big picture in perspective. After a 7-3-0 start, the best start in franchise history, the Columbus Blue Jackets dropped a pair of games over the weekend, 4-3 to the Washington Capitals and 5-3 to the New York Rangers, both at Nationwide Arena. Realistically, this team was never going to play at a 7-3-0 pace over the course of 82 games, so some regression to the mean was expected. Still, it was a frustrating weekend in the sense that this team could have gotten a different result if not for a few changes.

Turnovers, some iffy goaltending, and a 63-second stretch really were the difference between zero and potentially four points in the standings.

In the game against Washington, the Blue Jackets gift-wrapped the Capitals with three goals directly off turnovers. Head Coach Brad Larsen mentioned this in his postgame media, saying "Their first three goals, we turned the puck over three times. We talk about, when you force plays against a dangerous team, they make you pay. And they did.”

And that's probably true, but it's hard to watch that game and not pin at least some of the blame and Joonas Korpisalo. While Larsen seemed to exonerate Korpisalo of guilt on the first three goals, there really was no excusing the game-winning goal. 

It was an untimely goal, and at a minimum cost the Blue Jackets one point in the standings. According to MoneyPuck, the Blue Jackets 'deserved to win' over 80% of the time in 1,000 simulations of the game. That's obviously theoretical, but it tracks with what I think we all saw: the Blue Jackets deserving a better fate.

The game against the Rangers was a bit of a different story. The same MoneyPuck metric gave the Blue Jackets the edge 68% of the time, but I'm not sure I felt as strongly about their chances watching that game as I did against the Rangers. Namely, because the team fell asleep at the wheel for 63 seconds in the second period. 

In that 1:03, the Blue Jackets gave up goals to Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin, and Jacob Trouba, turning a 2-1 lead into a 4-2 deficit. In the NHL, gifting a team a three-spot is a death wish. Suffice it to say, they got their wish.  

Were both losses frustrating? Sure. But it's important to keep the big picture in mind. Both the Capitals and Rangers are expected to be contenders this year. The Blue Jackets deserved a better fate, at least, in one of the two games (if not both). And these are important lessons for a team that frankly isn't expected to be a contender. For a young team on the rise, it's hard to be overly upset about that.