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Offensive and OT Struggles Continue, Goaltending and Defense Continues to Shine in 2-1 OT Loss

It’s been a tough start to the week for Blue Jacket fans. With Seth Jones being placed on IR with an ankle injury, Cam Atkinson out with an injury (at least he’s not on IR), and an alarming emergency call up, there hasn’t been much to cheer about. The 2-1 OT loss for the Jackets against the Lightning on Monday also didn’t add much to help cure this feeling of uncertainty around Columbus.

I would say for the last week there has been an alarming realization among the fanbase, the Blue Jackets need offense, and they need it fast. The Jackets have scored just 5 goals in the past 4 games, all the way back to the Florida Panthers last Tuesday. The Jackets seem to be struggling to find a consistent goal scorer, and some fans seem to be wondering what management is doing to alleviate the offensive woes, most likely they are wondering what, if any, moves Jarmo and management will make at the deadline. The biggest problem to the offense I can pick out is the passing. The Jackets seem to miss simple passes on good opportunities, a prime example being last night on a two on one, and the Jackets missed a golden opportunity when they missed a cross ice pass that most likely would have given the Jackets offense a wide open look at the net.

On top of the offensive struggles, the Blue Jackets have continued to struggle on the power play. The Jackets went 0/3 on the power play last night. The Blue Jackets are now at 16.6% on the power play on the season. The biggest struggles being entry to the zone and the ability to win the faceoff to start the power play and getting set up.

The CBJ have also struggled in OT and the shootout this year. The Jackets are tied with New Jersey for the 3rd most OT and shootout losses in the NHL. Most of the time the Blue Jackets are missing out on a very important point in these losses because of careless penalties and plays with the puck. For example, a Zach Werenski turnover behind his own net that gave Tampa an easy game winning goal last night. The Jackets must take better care of the puck if they want to grab the second point from OT games, especially down the stretch in what seems to be a point race with the Islanders, Flyers, and Hurricanes for the final playoff spots.

Not everything is going bad in Columbus, however. The CBJ defense and goaltending is playing at a championship level. Even without Seth Jones, the defense didn’t miss a beat in the loss to Tampa Bay. Merzlikins also continues to play at a high level, holding the high-flying Lightning offense to just 2 goals. The defense certainly has helped Elvis in his streak of outstanding play, keeping everything to the outside and blocking shots. If you want to know my idea of outstanding, Merzlikins last week gave up just .67 goals a game, had a .971 save percentage, and two shutouts.

My last positive drawn from the game against Tampa Bay is Foudy. Foudy overall played very well last night, earning praise from Tortorella after the game on his poise. Foudy displayed great puck control, vision, playmaking ability, and goal scoring ability. Foudy has many of the Jackets best scoring chances after Oliver Bjorkstrand’s goal. His passing looked great at times as well. The biggest upside to Foudy is his speed. He showed he knows when to use his speed to his advantage. He also showed off some good puck handling at times as well. I believe we will be seeing a lot of Foudy in the seasons to come, his time is almost here.

As hopeless as many fans feel, there are plenty of positives to draw from the Blue Jackets right now. Yes, we are being sieged by injuries, yes, the offense is struggling, but with the caliber of defense and goaltending the CBJ are getting right now, they are realistically one big trade or move away from being a real contender.

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