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Blue Jackets Continue to Struggle, Yet Still Find Themselves in Prime Position

It has been a rough couple of weeks for the Blue Jackets, and it seems there are no signs of it getting much better. Yes, they did snap their 8-game losing streak against the Ottawa Senators on Monday night, but the struggles are still evident. The team looks tired and beat up, they have lost boatloads of talent for the year, and have watched their playoff chances drop from around 70% all the way down to about 20% within a few weeks. While there is a chance, the playoffs seem less and less likely by the day.

While it all may seem bad, and most of it is bad, there is some hope for the rest of this season being somewhat a success. For example, when Bjorkstrand, the Jackets leading goal scorer went down, it seemed all hope was lost, and the offense was done for. However, surprisingly since he has gone down the Jackets offense has come alive, scoring 11 goals in just three games. The Jackets have found their offensive game and have been much more aggressive on the forecheck and have had excellent puck retrieval in the offensive zone. Even though the power play has continued to struggle to score, it has looked much better, the Jackets are keeping the puck moving, funneling pucks to the net, and getting some very high-quality scoring chances.

However, unfortunately with the rise of the offense has come the downfall of the defense. Of course, the production will go down when a big part of a team is lost for an extended period of time, in this case star defenseman Seth Jones. While the offense has found their groove, the defense has lost it’s, giving up 12 goals in that same stretch of three games. Yes, the CBJ still have Werenski, Savard, Gavrikov, and many other skilled defensemen, it is impossible to replace production from a player like Seth Jones. Elvis Merzlikins is also a rookie and has come back down to Earth, letting pucks past him he wasn’t just a few weeks ago. Good news is, Joonas Korpisalo is back and hopefully can help the Blue Jackets defensive woes.

Speaking of the return of Korpisalo, another positive for the Blue Jackets is that there are reinforcements on the way. According to word off the street, forwards Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg are close to returning for the Blue Jackets off of IR. There is no doubt that Atkinson will bring more of a spark to the offense, and Wennberg will add much needed depth at the center position. Hopefully the Jackets can hold down the fort and that last wild card position until these 2 players return.

Another positive for this team has been the fight. They will not go easily or quietly, even if they lose a game, or end up missing the playoffs at least they have given a fight and have not just given up. The last three games have proven this. Down 2-0 against Nashville, they came back to take a 3-2 lead, at times against Ottawa on Monday, it looked like it was over, they ended up winning in overtime, and then last night in Minnesota, they came back from 4-1 down against the Wild and lost 5-4. Even though the Jackets have lost 2 out of 3 of those games it shows their determination and is great to see.

The last thing I want to touch on is the Blue Jackets’ signing of Matteau and the Milano trade. First of all, Matteau has fit into the Blue Jackets system almost perfectly. He has 2 goals and an assist since his arrival. He also has shown his ability to get in on the forecheck and to lay out massive and punishing hits on the opposing team. This was a great signing by Jarmo, and the Blue Jackets and I believe Matteau will be successful here in Columbus.

Now I am onto Milano, and this one is tricky. Please, Milano supporters, don’t shoot the messenger here. Every single time I mention Milano on Twitter people come after me. Matteau and Shore are both better fits here in Columbus than Milano would ever be. I am not saying he isn’t a good player; he just didn’t fit in the Columbus system of play. Columbus has always been a defense over flashy offense kind of team, even before Tortorella came. Shore fits that system and so does Matteau, they are hard-working players, unlike Milano who rarely played defense, had a tendency to turn to puck over, and relied on his speed and finesse to be successful. His style just wasn’t the Columbus style and he wasn’t going to fit in here. Yes, he scored 2 goals with Anaheim last night, but his game fits the west coast style better. Duclair and Milano may have left the Jackets to find success, but I assure you this isn’t just the CBJ and Tortorella that experience this, the whole NHL does. Players always leave one city to find much more success in another, it’s a part of the sport. Duclair wasn’t successful anywhere until he landed in Ottawa and has cooled down since his barrage of goals to start the season. Sonny Milano probably will cool down as well, but I wish him the best of luck in Anaheim.

It has been a strange couple of weeks for the Blue Jackets. I understand the panic starting to rise in the fan base. However, I also want you to understand the positives as well. Remember, if the CBJ miss the playoffs this year, that is a reasonable end for a team so beat up. The Jackets are going to flirt with the NHL and franchise record for man games lost in a season and still currently hold a wild card. The future is bright and there are reinforcements on the way for this team, don’t lose hope because of this one unlucky season.

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