Blue Jackets Still Seeking Consistency Offensively and Defensively, According to John Tortorella

By Rob Mixer on January 31, 2021 at 3:36 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets center Max Domi (16) controls the puck against the Florida Panthers in the overtime period at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports

If you drifted off in the first period of Friday's game between the Blue Jackets and Blackhawks, you had good reason.

Four shots for Chicago, three for Columbus. Ping-pong up the ice, ping-pong back. Not many chances and little flow. It was a glorified exhibition game.

That's been the challenge for teams in this COVID-19 affected NHL season: there are no fans in the building, zero atmosphere, and a need to generate your own energy. The Blue Jackets, a team that talked before the season about wanting to open things up and be more creative offensively, have had little to draw on.

Their opening series against the Nashville Predators featured more chances against than in their favor, and the results bore no fruit. John Tortorella said Sunday that his team's inconsistencies are one of the reasons why they're still searching for their identity early in the 2020-21 campaign.

"The biggest thing for us (is that) our games have been up and down," Tortorella said. "We've played a real good one and we've a real bad one. I wasn't real thrilled with how we played in the first Chicago game (Friday). I think we need to be better."

In large part due to the performance of Joonas Korpisalo, the Blue Jackets escaped that game with a 2-1 win. Did they deserve the result? You could make a case either way, but their ability to consistently generate scoring chances has been at the forefront of the problem. 

There is some good news, at least of late: the Blue Jackets are settling into forward line combinations, which will likely get disrupted when Patrik Laine enters the lineup, perhaps as soon as Tuesday. Max Domi is the presumed candidate to center Columbus' new star, which is well-timed with his game coming around after a slow start.

Tortorella said it's a delicate balance; they have to be better in the other areas of the game (or, "away from the puck," as he often says) before they can become a stronger team in the offensive end of the rink.

"The first thing we've got to to do is keep gaining traction and find a way to play more consistent as a team, and the offensive stuff will come after that," he said. "We can't forget who we are, how we defend, how we handle the neutral zone, the blue paint...all the stuff we talk about as far as our identity, and the offense will come off of that.

"We've gone through games where we've given up a ton of odd-man rushes because we've gotten a little crazy as far as trying to develop offense. And then, we've settled in and been stingy; in the stingy games, we've created more offense."