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Mark Scheig The Hockey Writers

Published on Saturday, February 17, 2018





Inconsistent Blue Jackets Remain Confident

Our Kristyn Repke posed a great question to Cam Atkinson after Friday night’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Notice Atkinson’s answer. He first says “I can’t really pinpoint one thing.” Then after being asked how concerning that is, he talks about still finding ways to get points and ways to win. He doesn’t think it’s a concern.

Whether fans see it that way or not (most don’t), this is the general feeling in the Blue Jackets locker room. They know they can play better. They know their offense is no where close to where it needs to be. But most everyone I’ve talked to in one way or another echoes a similar sentiment.

“We find ways to win. We stay with it. We’re on the right track.” Some variation of these is what you’ll hear the players say. I asked both Pierre-Luc Dubois and Brandon Dubinsky the same question. “How would you evaluate the overall confidence level of the team?”

“We’ve been playing better recently,” Dubois said. “We didn’t play a very good game last night (vs. Philadelphia), but we still got a point. We’re all pushing in the same direction. We are confident. We know we can play well.”

“It’s strong. We know how we can play here,” Dubinsky said. “We know what we’re capable of. We know what we gotta do moving forward.”

They say they’re confident. Fans wonder if this is true. There’s just 24 games left in the regular season. Will the Columbus Blue Jackets find a late run in them to make the playoffs?

Brandon Dubinsky says the team knows what they need to do moving forward to make the playoffs. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Reviewing Last Four Games

If we look at the last four games, you can see why the team remains confident in the face of inconsistency. The Blue Jackets fired 50+ shots on goals in a 6-1 win over New Jersey and a 4-1 win over the Islanders. It’s easy to think finally, maybe something’s coming together.

Then came Toronto. Although they fired 57 shots, they lost 6-3. Let’s face it. Joonas Korpisalo was not great in that game. The Blue Jackets were down 2-0 on a couple of soft goals. That said, John Tortorella still felt they would win the game.

The Blue Jackets did tie it only to find themselves down 4-2 later. They made it 4-3 but could get no closer. They ran into a hot Frederik Andersen. You win more of these games than lose when you fire 57 shots and have over 20 scoring chances.

The disheartening part came Friday night. Given the game’s importance, the Blue Jackets came out sloppy with the puck. They made turnovers that should have had them down two or three nothing. Sergei Bobrovsky stoned the Flyers and kept the game scoreless.

The Flyers did score thanks to a great play by Wayne Simmonds. That was their only goal in regulation. The Blue Jackets needed just two to win. Most nights, that’s something they do. It didn’t happen Friday.

It took a late Atkinson goal to force overtime. Then thanks to a good defensive play by Travis Konecny, the Flyers converted on a 2-on-1 in overtime to hand the Blue Jackets their first loss in the 3-on-3 part of overtime this season. It was also the Flyers’ first win in 11 tries at Nationwide Arena.

Travis Konecny Flyers

A great defensive play by Travis Konecny in overtime helped the Flyers win Friday night. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Words Vs. Action

Nobody was happy with this point in the Blue Jackets’ locker room. Tortorella said he didn’t have an answer about why his team had this kind of effort given such an important game. Many of the players said it was a missed opportunity.

Still, the Blue Jackets remain confident. Tortorella said on Saturday after practice that he trusts the team. Dubois and Dubinsky said they’re confident.

Words are one thing. Their play on the ice is another. We’ll know how confident they are based on how these games unfold. The Blue Jackets host the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday night. Energy should not be an issue. If it is, then Monday brings on a different conversation.

After this, the Blue Jackets go to Newark and to Philadelphia before coming home to face Chicago. That’s it, just four games until the trade deadline.

Here’s the point. The players can say they’re confident. They could be right. We’ll see it for ourselves this week with these four games. Can their play back their words?

Management has to answer the all-important question. How confident are they in the team on the ice? Are they confident the team will find themselves? Based on how they handle the trade deadline, we will see.

It’s all going to unfold on the ice. If there’s a time the Blue Jackets need to show off their “confidence”, it’s now. These 24 games will be a war. It’s put up or shut up time.

Are they confident? Maybe. At least they say they are. A win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday is a good start. A loss? We’ll see if the confidence remains.

In the end, the games do the biggest talking. We’ll see who’s right in the end.


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