It was another tough night for the Blue Jackets tonight, as they lost their eighth straight game (0-7-1) to the Lightning.
This was to be expected, after injuries and trades depleted the roster and left John Tortorella with a host of AHL players playing NHL minutes.
But that doesn't mean that the players are accepting their fate, or that it's not taking a toll on them. Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 25 of the 27 shots he faced, was brutally honest after the game about how this season and current losing streak are affecting him and the rest of the team.
"I'm tired of losing the game," said Merzlikins. "I know we are trying, but this is getting embarrassing. It is what it is. I'm going to be honest with you guys. It's painful, sitting in that locker room. Trust me, we are trying. Seriously, we are trying. We didn't give up, but it's just really such a bad year. I just want to finish and delete this year and not think about it."
From the lack of success, so the lack of time players have gotten to spend with their friends and families, to COVID outbreaks and game postponements, this season has been a trying time for everyone involved. Even the teams that are having great success this year are struggling with the isolation that comes with operating a sports league during a pandemic.
"We're embarrassing our organization and that's the bad part. We are not doing this on purpose. We are really trying."– Elvis Merzlikins
The Blue Jackets aren't going to the playoffs, which is what many people knew for a while, but that doesn't mean that this stretch of games is any easier from the mental side of things.
"We have to get all together, like be really close to each other," said Merzlikins. "I am honest and I would not lie to you, but the boys in the locker room, they are taking it rough. We are trying, we really do. If you look at technical stuff, we do really good things as well. I don't know why the result is not coming. But this is hockey. You have to be patient. I am the first guy who's not patient. I hate to wait. I want to do things right away. We have to stay patient...we're not going to the playoffs. It's not going to change anything. It's embarrassing for us and our organization. We're embarrassing our organization and that's the bad part. We are not doing this on purpose. We are really trying."
It's been affecting Merzlikins away from the rink, too.
"Personally, it's bothering me," he said. "I can't sleep. What have we lost now, seven straight games? This is really sad. You can't imagine that because you are not part of our family and you don't live this together with us in the locker room, so you can't understand that, but it hurts. For me personally, it hurts. Seven games? That's really heavy. That's seriously heavy. I don't want to get to Buffalo...even for them it was hard but they got somehow through it. They got that win and we have to find that way too. Tonight, we played really good, I think. We had a lot of scoring chances, we just didn't score. I don't know even what to do. I have no words. I'm sorry."
With more and more people getting vaccinated every day, hopefully the next NHL season will be as back to normal as possible. Merzlikins and the rest of the Blue Jackets are certainly looking forward to that, but they still have seven games remaining in the 2020-21 campaign. If they are able to put together a couple wins, it'll do wonders for them going towards next season. They still have three more games against the Red Wings, which are winnable. They aren't your typical must-wins, due to the team's standing, but for morale in the locker room, they are.
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