If this weekend was a measuring stick for how the Blue Jackets compared to the class of the Metropolitan division, the organization has received a jarring wake up call.
While last night's game was arguably a case of the Jackets being their own worst enemy, the return engagement in Columbus saw the Penguins impose their will from the drop of the puck to the end of regulation with virtually no opposition.
They blocked lanes. They protected their goaltender. They collapsed the ice, and they viciously dominated time of possession while snuffing out virtually every attempt the Jackets made to spark their offense. It was an impressive performance from a team that I expect will battle into the postseason for the eighth year in a row.
By the end of sixty minutes, a goaltender who was 0-2 with an 8.00 GAA in the NHL had his first NHL win and shutout on the same night. Of course,it didn't hurt that he only had to stop 19 shots.
If that wasn't enough of an indignity, the Penguins technically only scored two of their three goals tonight, as Blake Comeau was responsible for one when he attempted to block the passing lane between Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby, but ended up chipping the puck past Curtis McElhinney's outstretched leg pad instead.
My wife observed tonight that the Jackets seem to be embracing the feast or famine attitude of professional sports in Ohio. (I should mention she grew up in Cleveland.) We've seen them running hot against teams like Buffalo, Toronto, and Vancouver. Tonight we saw them playing ice cold, and unable to find any kind of middle ground.
When John Davidson came into Columbus, he promised that fans would see a team that was Never Outworked.
If there is any justice on this earth, JD is down in the locker room as I type this unleashing fire and brimstone on this squad, because I have a hard time calling this game anything but, particularly when Marian Gaborik, Cam Atkinson, James Wisniewski, and Nick Foligno failed to register a single shot on net. The Penguins are due some credit for that, but there's a point at which you are expected to play AGAINST the other team, not just simply on the same ice. The fact that players like Boone Jenner and Matt Calvert are missing from the roster hurts, but we shouldn't need rookie and 3rd year pro players to motivate veterans.
There are no standard bearers tonight, and the bottom of the barrel is simply too dark to be counted. We've seen games like this before. Unfortunately, it seems like we'll see more like it again. We saw a few games where this team played well enough to win, and simply didn't get breaks. In this one, they played like they knew they were going to lose, and lived down to the expectation.
If we're going to play afraid against teams like the Penguins, Capitals, or Rangers, it's going to be a long, long year.
Hockey is an 82 game season. We're not even a quarter of the way in yet. But we learned all too well last year that the games you drop in the first month of the season can be the ones that keep you from succeeding in the final weeks of the year.
Mr. Davidson. Mr. Kekalainen. Mr. Richards: We're looking to you.