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Blue Jackets Look to Stay Afloat After Weekend of Horrors

Andrew Peeke Scores his first NHL goal early in the first period against New Jersey.
(photo credit to the Columbus Blue Jackets via Twitter)

It’s Monday, that’s normally a bad thing, but in Columbus today it is not, it marks the end of what can only be described as weekend of horrors for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets struggled and dropped all 3 games from Thursday to Sunday, all to teams in the bottom 10 of the league. Even though it may seem like the disaster, the Blue Jackets still find themselves in a playoff spot and will eventually see some reinforcements returning from injury.

The Blue Jackets started their weekend off in Buffalo, a game most considered an easy win. The Jackets started off good, building a 2-0 lead with goals by Gerbe, off a beautiful assist from Gavrikov, at the end of the first period, and Boone Jenner in the second period. It all went downhill from there. The Sabers scored a goal at the end of the second period and tied it in the third on a power play spawned by a bad penalty. The Sabers later took a lead late in the third period. The CBJ were clearly missing star defenseman Seth Jones. However, when all hope looked lost, Nutivaara got around Jack Eichel and scored back door with an unreal pass from Oliver Bjorkstrand, the Jackets tied it up at 3-3 and sent it to OT where they got a crucial point. However, Buffalo would go on to collect the extra point in this one with a goal from Olofsson to end sudden death overtime.

The Blue Jackets then returned to Nationwide Arena on a back-to-back hosting the New York Rangers and former Jacket, Artemi Panarin. This game started off bad for the CBJ from the start, giving up a goal on a faceoff just 22 seconds into the game. While the Blue Jackets defense played much better in this game, the offense did not, looking anemic for most of the game. The only goal scored being what can only be described as a completely lucky backhander from Oliver Bjorkstrand late in the second period, tying the score at one. The Jackets and Rangers exchanged chances in the third, but the CBJ defense prevailed until the Jackets took a silly too many men on the ice penalty allowing the Rangers to score on the power play, giving them the 2-1 lead. The CBJ would have no late game heroics for this game, the Rangers added an empty net goal, giving them the win 3-1.

The Jackets returned to action on Sunday and what was probably the worst loss of the weekend. The Jackets looked early on that they were going to take care of business against New Jersey, the fourth worst team in the NHL. The Jackets, much like the Buffalo game, jumped out to a 2-0, the only difference, it was a much quicker 2 goals. Peeke scored his first NHL goal on a rebound from a Sonny Milano shot and Zach Werenski added another off of a shot from the point. After that, much like the Buffalo game, it went downhill from there, but also like the goals, it happened a lot quicker than Thursday’s game. The Jackets fell into the trap of trying to match the skill and speed of New Jersey and the defense got burned, leaving Merzlikins out to dry and the Devils scored 3 quick goals to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission. The Jackets played a much better third period, knotting the score at 3 midway through the third period on a Stenlund goal spurred off of a New Jersey turnover. The Jackets offense looked pretty good throughout this one, firing 55 shots on goal, the third most in franchise history and the most on the season. These were quality shots too, according to Alison Lukan, the Jackets had 4.44 expected goals, the third highest total from the season. However, Blackwood stood tall in the New Jersey net after giving up two quick goals to start, making some amazing stops, especially on the CBJ power play. The score remained tied at the end of 3 and we headed to OT. There’s no word to describe the Blue Jackets OT period last night other than disastrous. Players were running into each other, there were passes to nowhere, turnovers, and the Jackets seemed in constant retreat instead of attack. Merzlikins was the overtime hero as New Jersey had 5 grade A chances to score, he stopped them all. Shootout wasn’t much better. Dubois scored in round 2, but Merzlikins gave up a goal after an amazing play and shot from New Jersey. However, the CBJ had 3 golden opportunities to win, 2 hitting the post and 1 missing the mark. New Jersey later scored and Milano couldn’t tie it, missing the net after having Blackwood beat. This lost seemed much more tough than the others this weekend for sure.

The power play struggles continue for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are 2 for the last 26 power plays. However, even though they did not score a power play goal against New Jersey, they looked much better, quickly moving the puck and getting shots on net, and getting good opportunities. It’s a good start to getting the power play going.

The OT struggles also continued over the weekend, the CBJ are now tied for the most OT and shootout losses in the NHL with the Boston Bruins. A fellow CBJ fan tweeted a stat about this I was too lazy to look into, his name is Chris B. He found that if the Jackets won half of those (6) we would be in second place in the Metropolitan division and if they won 7, first place in the division. The Jackets have missed out on many key points that would have them in a much better spot in the playoff picture. They must figure out the OT woes.

While the defense has shown they are missing Seth Jones on defense, giving up 9 goals in 3 games on defense, their offense is starting to play better. Where the Jackets couldn’t buy a goal last week, they are now getting lots of quality opportunities and were able to score 7 goals over the weekend. While it was still inconsistent it was better, the CBJ need to find that consistency or make some moves, even though that is difficult because of the number of injuries, there isn’t much to trade.

The Blue Jackets have a bright future. 7 players have scored their first NHL goal this year for Columbus. The Jackets have many good prospects and rookies to look forward to in the future and we have been lucky to have a sneak peek this season.

While it all may seem awful, that isn’t necessarily the case. The Jackets still are in a playoff spot and still grabbed 2 points on the weekend and are tied with the 3rd place Islanders. The CBJ still control their own playoff destiny with two games coming up against the Flyers, who are just one point behind, they have a chance to put some distance between them and the Flyers and the second wildcard spot. If the Jackets can stay afloat for right now there are players coming back from injury such as Korpisalo, Anderson, Atkinson, and Murray. If they can hold on, reinforcements are on the way and the Jackets still have a pretty good chance of making the playoffs.

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