With a number of questions about how the team would respond from the loss in Nashville, the back to back games, and facing a fired up Wild team in their home opener, the Blue Jackets provided answers, but not ones that were to the fans liking.
Going down early and often, I think there's a split between those calling out Steve Mason for allowing 7 goals in his first two starts this season, and those who called out the defense in front of him, particularly tonight. From the opening minutes of the game where Sammy Pahlsson allowed Matt Cullen to skate past him to Radek Martinek failing to take away the passing lane between Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi for the final goal, the Jackets simply didn't look like they had the ability to respond tonight, and allowed a sold out Xcel Energy Center to feed their home team all the energy they could wish.
On the plus side, one question we did not expect to have answered so quickly was how Curtis Sanford would respond in the backup role - and though he wasn't given a terribly serious test, he did respond well in a bad situation.
We've been told repeatedly that the NHL season is a marathon, not a sprint, but it doesn't feel good when your team seems stuck in the starting blocks. I'll be honest, I didn't watch this game live, and watching recaps and digests I don't feel I missed a lot. If this was an attempt by the Jackets to utilize the "lower energy" system, it certainly wasn't a success, and it's clear Scott Arniel was displeased by several of his forwards as he attempted to shake up the lines to grab some sparks.
With James Wisniewski out another 6 games, the Jackets need an answer on the power play, and they need it quickly. The team is now 0-11 on the man advantage so far, and that glaring weakness has to be pointed out as a major reason for why the team has yet to put a W on the board.
Another concern is for how the NHL will respond to the hit on Matt Calvert by Pierre-Marc Bouchard. The hit looks much more like a deliberate swing than an accidental high stick, and reports of Calvert needing stitches afterwards are cringe inducing. The double minor Bouchard received was fair, but given that this was a strike to the head, will we get to see another Brendan Shanahan video?
All in all, there's nothing to say that hasn't already come up - when Scott Arniel described the Calvert situation as "A joke", he could have described the entire game, but we're not laughing.
The team seemed to be finding chemistry, even without Wiz, as the season ended. Where has that gone? The season may depend on how quickly they can get it back.
Final Score: Wild 4 - Jackets 2
- Curtis Sanford - Admittedly, only asked to make 3 saves, but I think the team needed to see him come in and show some confidence.
- Maksim Mayorov - On a night where he had the chance to impress, he came in and had a solid game, including his first goal of the season after cleaning up the rebound from a Grant Clitsome point shot. I certainly feel like he did more with his ice time than Pahlsson.
- Derek Dorsett - Believe it or not, Dorsett tied with Rick Nash for the lead in shots on goal tonight (4), took no penalties, and got his first of the season as well.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Samuel Pahlsson - From the drop of the puck, our top checking center looked like he was unprepared for this game. Receiving only 10 minutes of ice time tonight, it seems Arniel agreed. I could see a scenario where Pahlsson spends some time in the press box if this keeps up.
- Tired Legs - Nobody really seemed to get themselves moving at game speed until the second period, as far as I can see.
- Special Teams - The powerless power play is bad enough, but getting burned on two of the four penalty kill opportunities? Yikes.
With more questions than answers right now, the Jackets will be back in action Monday to face the Vancouver Canucks back in Nationwide.