The dust finally settled Thursday morning, roughly 24 hours after the announcement of the hiring of John Tortorella as the new head coach of the Blue Jackets. The team held a meeting in the morning and then had an optional skate as Torts is not a big believer in mandatory morning skates on game days.
In the win column, it mattered not. The Columbus Blue Jackets set a new record for mediocrity in the modern NHL era - the first team to ever lose eight straight games to start a season. You have to go back to World War II to find a worse start by an NHL team.
The Jackets skated in Minnesota as the two youngest franchises in the NHL faced off for one of their two matchups this season. Sergei Bobrovsky got the call in net, perhaps a chance to regain some confidence. It was Fedor Tyutin's 500th game with Columbus, just the fourth player ever to hit that mark.
There was some good pace to start and Columbus actually dictated play for much of the night. On a dump in by the Wild just five minutes into the game, Jack Johnson retrieved the puck and settled behind Bobrovsky momentarily. Even though he had two outlets open, Johnson inexplicably tried to hammer the puck around the glass and out. Ryan Suter picked up the free puck at the blue line and skated into the zone. Suter skated wide around Brandon Dubinsky to the goal line and threw the puck to the net. Zach Parise beat Jack Johnson to the weak side doorstep and redirected the shot into the net.
It was an awful sequence for Johnson, but the whole defense got undressed. Five minutes later, the Jackets were able to respond. Following up on a Cody Goloubef shot, Alexander Wennberg tracked down the puck and immediately fired a shot from Dubnyk's right. Somehow the puck snuck underneath the Wild goalie and the game was tied.
Finally, inexplicably, Columbus was the team scoring a goal in the final minute of a period. Off of a bit of a set play on the power play, Cam Atkinson took a feed from Ryan Murray on the doorstep and tipped it through the crease to Dubinsky who was waiting on the opposite side. Dubi was able to fire it home into the open night to give the CBJ a 2-1 lead over 20 minutes.
The Jackets would not score again. In net, Bob seemed to fight the puck most of the night. He had a gaping five hole early in the 2nd period when Nino Niederreiter gathered a rebound from a point shot in the middle of the slot. The puck had gone up in the air above everyone's head and no one was checking Niederreiter, who turned and fired a shot on the ice. It was yet another soft goal given up by Bobrovsky.
Later in the period, Goloubef went to the box on a rather odd double minor call. On the power play, Thomas Vanek was camped wide of the net to Bobrovsky's right. Vanek was, however, able to tip home a Jason Zucker shot from an improbably angle. The Wild had a 3-2 lead and held on for the win from there.
Final Score - Minnesota 3-2
Well, there is a lot to digest from this one. The Torts Era has begun. Bobrovsky was mostly still shaky, though he had a couple of really good saves. It's clear Tortorella is still figuring the guys out as lines kept changing.
In an interesting move, though a hallmark of Tortorella, the Jackets rolled mostly just two lines in the final period. The "top" line became Foligno-Dubinsky-Saad and they were spelled by the Hartnell-Wennberg-Atkinson line with Matt Calvert seeing some time, too. I'm not sure Ryan Johansen had more than three shifts over the final 20 minutes. He logged just 13:57 in ice time, and the All-Star MVP is now being called out somewhat by Jody Shelley (among others) for not playing the right way. He certainly caught Tortorella's attention, in a bad way, to start this new era of CBJ hockey.
Alex Wennberg had a superb game. He was all over the ice and engaged. Dubinsky looked a lot better as well. Also a positive...the team didn't allow 4 goals for the first time all year.
The bad, of course, is that this team just cannot win. This was their most complete 60 minutes of hockey (outside of those first 55 minutes in Game 1). The compete level was better. There were less defensive lapses, though still some turnovers. Simply put, they did not look 0-8 bad but that is where they sit now.
They will play for their first win as the road trip continues Saturday in Colorado.