Mark Scheig The Hockey Writers
Blue Jackets Enter Deadline on Deceptive Losing Streak
Be careful how you view the Columbus Blue Jackets these days. Depending on which numbers you look at, you might get an entirely different story than what’s really going on.
Entering Saturday night’s game against the Nashville Predators, the Blue Jackets lost seven games in a row. That hasn’t happened to the team since the infamous 0-8-0 start that cost Todd Richards his coaching job. A loss to the Predators would tie that mark for losses. But there’s a catch.
Within the seven game losing streak, the Blue Jackets collected four points. They have gotten to overtime only to find ways to lose. They were 0-3-4 in their last seven games.
The beat went on Saturday night once the dust finally settled after a long, eight-round shootout.
Rocco Grimaldi scored the winning goal in the shootout on a shot that seemed to hit the crossbar, bounce down on Elvis Merzlikins and deflect into the net. Listen when you are losing games and can’t catch breaks, it shows. The end of this shootout was a perfect illustration of the rough luck the Blue Jackets have had of late. The Predators won the game 4-3.
So that’s eight losses in a row for the Blue Jackets. But let me warn you. Be careful not to get too down on yourself here. Although the Blue Jackets are now 0-3-5 in their last eight games, they are collecting points. And if you look back at their last 18 games, the Blue Jackets have lost just three times in regulation. In fact, the Blue Jackets have gained ground on the top of the Metropolitan Division despite the losing streak.
While it’s important to win games ultimately, it’s also important to keep a proper perspective on the situation. The Blue Jackets are down several important players as you know. But yet this team finds a way to scratch, claw and grind out points with half an AHL lineup. This team deserves credit for finding a way to do this.
Plus if you talk to those in the locker room, the message is the same. They’re right in this race. Tortorella reiterates that no matter who’s in the lineup, they will play and try to find a way.
This current losing streak is deceptive. Outside of a brutal first period Saturday night, the Blue Jackets basically dominated the final two periods. At one point in the third, the Blue Jackets held a 33-12 shot advantage from the start of the second period on. That was after the Predators had a 17-6 advantage after one.
I mean, the Columbus Blue Jackets with a heavy AHL presence romped into Bridgestone Arena, which is generally known for being one of the loudest and most intimidating places in the NHL, and had their way for the final 40 minutes. The only thing they didn’t get was a win.
If you want to measure this team by wins, ok I can’t tell you how to react. You’ll likely be very down on yourself and the team with that approach. This is a case where digging deeper is necessary to get the full story. These Blue Jackets will do whatever it takes to find points until their regulars start to return.
Full credit goes to the team for having the proper mindset to withstand all these injuries and stay in this race. They could have very easily said we’re too injured. We can’t do this. Instead, they accepted the challenge at hand and have face it head on.
Whether it results in a playoff spot eventually is to be determined. But these Blue Jackets haven’t quit on the season. They are playing their hearts out against better teams on paper and finding huge points in the standings.
An eight-game losing streak or just three regulation losses in their last 18 games? These are both true statements. Your view will be influenced by how you choose to answer that questions. The Blue Jackets chose option two and haven’t lost their confidence. That will bode well for them eventually.
Quick Side Dishes
- If there is one thing the Blue Jackets did do Saturday night that needs corrected, it’s that they allowed another late goal in a period to lose a lead. Here’s Riley Nash postgame: “We’ve talked about it. It’s just trying to be on the right side of the puck, trying to make sure you can close out those periods. Obviously we haven’t been doing a fantastic job of that. Tonight’s goal, the guy spins and fires it on net and tips it home. But he is all alone in front so there is a breakdown there. It’s something we’re definitely trying to work on. I think it just takes a little bit of extra focus and awareness when you’re in the last minute and a half, two minutes of a period to really bear down and maybe if you might have an offensive chance to error on the side of caution.”
- To the Blue Jackets credit, despite allowing that tying goal, they played an even third period and did a better job in overtime. You can only expect so much when your regular overtime players are out of the lineup. It’s a patchwork group making it work.
- Calvin Thurkauf did make his NHL debut in Nashville. In eight minutes of ice time, he collected one hit. He didn’t get a huge opportunity given the limited minutes but he did fine. I was watching for some of his decision-making throughout the night. He kept things simple and didn’t make any critical mistakes. That’s all you can ask for.
- While Thurkauf played, Sonny Milano did not. He was a healthy scratch again. Tortorella pregame just said “it was a decision that we made.” He didn’t get into specifics but you can see the picture here. First it was Stefan Matteau. Then it was Thurkauf. The Blue Jackets felt better about playing these two over Milano. That speaks volumes. Now this is me thinking out loud. I wondered if part of this was holding him out for a deadline trade. If Milano can’t crack the lineup now, when will he ever crack the lineup once the regulars come back? I think a fresh start is needed and if the right deal comes up, I don’t think the Blue Jackets have a problem with it either.
- The Blue Jackets will hold a full morning skate on trade deadline Monday before their game against the Ottawa Senators. How different will each team look come puck drop? Remember that once the deadline passes, there is no more 23-man roster restriction.
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