Riding The Rollercoaster: Blue Jackets Highs And Lows To Be Expected, But Will Need Addressed

By Dan Dukart on November 22, 2021 at 10:15 am
Elvis Merzlikins makes a save against the Vegas Golden Knights
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Through just 15 games, it's hard to say for sure what the Columbus Blue Jackets are, exactly.

But one can say definitively that they are interesting, exciting, and, at times, infuriating. 

And that's to be expected. Among the youngest teams in the NHL, the Blue Jackets are often punching above their weight class, twice beating the Colorado Avalanche, for example. They've also shown their inexperience, being unable to manage momentum swings in recent losses to the New York Rangers and Vegas Golden Knights. 

Saturday night's loss against Vegas was, in some ways, a microcosm of this rollercoaster. The Blue Jackets started hot, scoring in the first minute on a beautiful tip from Gus Nyquist. Later in the first period, Alexandre Texier scored a highlight-reel goal, beating one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL in Mark Stone with a ridiculous deke before scoring in tight.

Then the wheels fell off. Elvis Merzlikins was excellent and frankly kept the game within reach. Eventually, though, the Golden Knights capitalized on the game-winning goal. It was the inevitable end to a night that started with such promise.

In years past, this type of game would have been insufferable. It was frustrating, to be sure, but this team needs to learn these lessons. Players like Cole Sillinger, Yegor Chinakhov, Jake Bean, Andrew Peeke, etc. have never played a major role in the NHL. All of them are expected to be part of the solution, and all of them have shown they can play a role on the team now, and obviously, the expectation is they'll be major assets on the team when they are ready to compete for a championship.

Tonight, the Blue Jackets will take on the lowly Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres have been false-started in their rebuild for the better part of the last decade. The Blue Jackets are already ahead of the Sabres in the current life cycle, but the NHL is an unforgiving league. Losing to the Golden Knights in Vegas is one thing. Turning the page on a loss and bouncing back is what mature teams are expected to do. So while tonight is just game 16 of 82, for a young team on the rise, there is added significance. 

After all, learning to minimize the lows and extend the highs is what separates the average teams from the contenders.