Is Game #3 too early to use the term "must win"?
Confidence is a funny thing in sports. Teams playing with confidence can over-perform their talent expectations. Likewise, teams playing with no confidence can go the other way. There are a couple ways to look at today's game:
1) Friday and Saturday, the Jackets played against a very, very good team. They more than held their own on Friday outside of a couple of costly turnovers, which are fixable. The next three games are against beatable opponents. 80 games to go, plenty of time, and two or three wins in the next three games makes everything look a lot better.
2) We spent a summer trying to convince ourselves that the defense would be fine. It's not. We spent the first month of the 2011-2012 season saying that they just needed to figure things out, get some confidence, and right the ship. They didn't. There's an old adage in sports about "it gets late early" if you're not careful. The Jackets are certainly not at technical "must win" time yet with just two games down and 80 to go, but man, if this one doesn't feel like it a bit to me.
Buffalo was the worst team in the league last year. This is certainly not the same team we saw last season, with the additions of Ryan O'Reilly, a now-healthy Evander Kane, Cody Franson, and #2 overall pick wunderkind Jack Eichel--not to mention hiring Dan Bylsma as head coach. That said, it's a team that lost its goalie Robin Lehner in the first game, and even before he was hurt still had a huge question mark in net. They've scored just twice in two games while giving up seven goals. They've scored just twice in those two games.
In short, even improved, this team is NOT the Rangers.
But, Columbus is also NOT the Jackets we saw in the pre-season that was smothering good teams and pouring in goals seemingly at will. Granted, they won't be seeing Henrik Lundqvist today, but they can't allow themselves to be contained, either.
If the Jackets defense continues to struggle in its own end, the offense is going to have to carry the mail to keep this team afloat until any/all defensive solutions can be unearthed. Today should be a day where they can do that.
As noted, Robin Lehner is out for the Sabres, which really hurts their defensive effort for an already-weak blue line core. Chad Johnson should start. So far this season he has allowed five goals on 50 shots (.875 SV%), which certainly isn’t great. This is a golden opportunity for Columbus to get right offensively. Zach Bogosian is also out for the Sabres.
For the Jackets, it looks like Alexander Wennberg is still a no-go with a concussion from Friday night. William Karlsson should again draw in.
Columbus Blue Jackets
(0-2-0, 0 Points; 8th division, 15th conference)
|Brandon Saad||Ryan Johansen||Nick Foligno|
|Boone Jenner||Brandon Dubinsky||Rene Bourque|
|Scott Hartnell||William Karlsson||Cam Atkinson|
|Matt Calvert||Gregory Campbell||Jared Boll|
|Ryan Murray||David Savard|
|Fedor Tyutin||Jack Johnson|
|Kevin Connauton||Dalton Prout|
(0-2-0, 0 Points; 7th Division, 14th Conference)
|Ryan O'Reilly||Zemgus Girgensons||Tyler Ennis|
|Evander Kane||Jack Eichel||Brian Gionta|
|Matt Moulson||Johan Larsson||Marcus Foligno|
|Nicolas Deslauriers||David Legwand||Jamie McGinn|
|Mike Weber||Cody Franson|
|Josh Gorges||Rasmus Ristolainen|
|Carlo Colaiacovo||Mark Pysyk|