Columbus Blue Jackets Losses in Colorado, Vegas, Highlight Just How Stark The Difference Is Between Contender And Pretender

By Dan Dukart on March 25, 2024 at 10:15 am
Vegas Golden Knights center Ivan Barbashev celebrates with defenseman Ben Hutton
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
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The Columbus Blue Jackets lost to the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights over the weekend, and neither game was particularly close.

Despite scoring the first goal in both games, the opposition was able to flip the script with overpowering second periods, then poured it on in the third. The 6-1 and 4-2 scores were arguably not indicative of the level of dominance. Between the two games, the Blue Jackets were outshot 178-93 and out-chanced 97-42, per NaturalStatTrick (Colorado link/Vegas link).

Sure, the Blue Jackets iced a lineup with a handful of AHL players. A bad roster was further depleted and went up against two genuine contenders, the winners of the past two Stanley Cups. But what was perhaps the most jarring were the intermission interviews, where Cole Sillinger (Friday) and Mathieu Olivier (Saturday) gave candid statements that showcased the differences between contenders and lottery teams.

Sillinger, the poor kid, had nothing to say. "It's our job to, honestly, go out there and try to get one", he ended the interview with, as though it was obvious that there was a Gulf of Mexico-sized chasm between the two clubs. What can you say, really?

After the game, Pascal Vincent was rightfully complimentary of Colorado, saying "That’s the best team we’ve seen (this season)." 

Against Vegas, it was more of the same. The team was competitive in the first period, but the wheels fell off in the second frame and by the time the third period was underway, it was mostly academic.

Mathieu Olivier, in his intermission interview, was less stupefied than Sillinger, instead going for the indignant route. "I don't know what the hell we're doing out there as a team", he spat. 

Elvis Merzlikinks (Friday) and Daniil Tarasov (Saturday) were both, all things considered, pretty exceptional. After the Vegas game, Tarasov admitted that it was the toughest game he's played in the NHL. He was under heavy fire for the majority of the game, as Vegas swarmed and attacked in waves.  

At the end of the day, some of this is to be expected. A bad roster that is further inhibited by dressing a handful of AHL players should lose to the NHL's elite, as they tune up for what they hope is a long and fruitful postseason. And it was nice to hear some candid, in-the-moment thoughts. Sillinger was flummoxed as if to say, what could we possibly do differently out there? Let's just keep trying, I guess... right?  Losing wears on teams. Johnny Gaudreau showed arguably his first two signs of frustration this season, after the Detroit Red Wings OT loss and again after the Valeri Nichushkin goal in the Colorado game that extended the deficit to 6-1

The Blue Jackets have a long way to go. This humbling weekend was further evidence of that, as if it were needed.

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