The Blue Jackets had a rough time of it just making it into Chicago, with mechanical issues preventing their planned flight from Charlotte on Thursday night, and only arrived in Chicago a few hours before the start of the game.
Perhaps that’s why the Jackets took a series of miscues that lead to almost immediate penalties and a power play goal for the Blackhawks, and continued to hand Chicago penalties through the game.
Though they did briefly tie the game, the Hawks regained their advantage almost immediately afterward, and the first period would come to a close with Columbus trailing 2-1, but with a power play to open the second period.
Unfortunately the Jackets produced traffic in front of Corey Crawford and managed to consistently generate shots on the man advantage, but continued to struggle to find a solution for their scoring woes.
The team would also be playing with a shortened bench after Lukas Sedlak left the game with an undisclosed injury, but that adversity seemed to energize the club. Though the Jackets still made mistakes in several areas, they put significant pressure on the Blackhawks and kept the puck in the Chicago zone for a great deal of both the second and third period, skating with the Western Conference leaders and refusing to back down.
The latter half of the game had the intensity and energy of playoff hockey, and though they couldn’t convert, the Blue Jackets also didn’t collapse in the face of it. It’s a glimmer of hope through the clouds that have increasingly swirled around the club.
They need to fix the power play.
They need to pay attention to the little things.
They need to take the final games of the season as seriously as they handled the games leading up to them.
They need to show that they can elevate their game the way they did in the later stages of tonight’s game and keep it there.
But as much as there is a temptation to panic, these are all fixable problems - and the coaching staff will have opportunities to work with the players to do just that.
It all starts Sunday.
Let’s see what happens.