Tonight’s game started out well. We saw the Blue Jackets playing like they hadn’t played even in the wins over the weekend. They checked often and they checked hard. They kept the puck in the offensive zone for extended periods of time. The 5v5 Corgi after one period was 17-6 in favor of the Jackets.
At the 8:55 mark, one of those extended possessions resulted in a Nick Foligno goal. Ryan Murray unloaded from deep and the puck caromed off of Wennberg’s stick and then Foligno’s skate.
Early in the second period, New York’s first line would strike. John Tavares sent a pass across the ice to Josh Bailey, whose shot deflected off of Seth Jones’ skate into the goal.
From there the Islanders continued to dominate possession in the same way the Blue Jackets dominated the first period.
At the 16:29 mark, that first line struck again, this time Nickolay Kulemin. A Tavares shot on goal resulted in a scrum in front, and Kulemin’s backhand stick poked the puck in.
So, ok, we’ve fought through bad second periods before, right? We can bounce back in the third like we did against Ottawa or Carolina, right?
Just 35 seconds into the third, Brock Nelson carried the puck into the offensive zone and let a shot fly from the top of the left faceoff circle. It sailed over Bob’s glove and into the net. Definitely one Bob would want back.
Just 5 minutes later, former Jacket Jason Chimera struck in a similar fashion. Yet another sloppy turnover in the neutral zone by Columbus resulted in Chimera’s breakaway. He didn’t get have to get close before he also fired a shot over Bob’s glove. At that point Torts had seen enough and he sent in Joonas Korpisalo to finish the game. To the young Finn’s credit, he stopped all 5 shots he saw in 13 minutes of play.
With 5 minutes left, Cam Atkinson made another of his highlight plays. As the Islanders attempted to clear the puck, he caught it at the top of the zone, dropped the puck to the ice and immediately fired a shot from the slot. That made the score 4-2 and that is how it would stand.
Tortorella was visibly frustrated after the game and held a very brief presser, as he explained to the media that he was tired of discussing what went right and what went wrong.
It was a bad game. There’s no sugarcoating this. The first period was great, but why did things fall apart in the second and third periods?
- The streak got into their heads. Dubi denied this after the game, but I think there’s some truth to it. It was good to gain confidence from the streak, but some players may have felt the winning ways would come easy all season.
- Being shorthanded has taken its toll. That’s three games now without both David Savard and Markus Nutivaara. Despite being an offensive juggernaut, the pairing of Scott Harrington and Dalton Prout just isn’t good enough to be getting regular minutes. That means the other 4 defenseman are burdened with a heavier load. Ryan Murray unfortunately appears overmatched in that elevated role. The other three are bound to feel some fatigue from their extra minutes.
- The flu bug struck. Matt Calvert and Sergei Bobrovsky missed time with the flu. Zach Werenski almost missed a game while sick. I’d have to think that more players than that were hit but played through it. I’ve worked while sick but I can tell you I was nowhere near as effective...and that’s a desk job!
- Teams have adjusted. We’re seeing opponents put a lot more pressure on the Jackets in the neutral zone. Columbus is unable to gain clean entries into the offensive zone like they did in the first half of the season. This is going to require a counteradjustment. Last night, they kept possession in the first half through an aggressive forecheck, but they could not sustain it.
- Mental fatigue. Call it a streak hangover, call it the young players having to adjust to more games than they’re used to at the NCAA or AHL levels. Call it the pressure of now playing with a target on their back. Whatever it is, everyone is a step slower. The legs are tired and the passes aren’t as quick and sharp as they used to be. Hopefully this can be solved by the All Star break.
Before that break there is one more game, on Thursday at Nashville. Let’s hope the Jackets can dig deep and gain at least a point before they get their well deserved rest.
Let’s not forget that Columbus still sits in second place in the Metro and second place in the entire NHL. They are 5-6 since the streak ended, but a .500 pace still puts them on pace to finish over 100 points. So things aren’t ALL bad.
What do you think has gone wrong of late, and how would you fix it? What do you think we can expect after the break? If they can’t recapture the high level of the streak, can they at least win at the same pace they had in November?