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2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Reasons for Concern

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What are the biggest challenges facing the Blue Jackets?

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

I know what you’re thinking: why is PD, the self-proclaimed optimist, writing a negative article? Because it was assigned to me, that’s why. But I find this to be a useful exercise. While I hope for the best, if I keep expectations low for this postseason, I won’t be as disappointed. As the Jackets wrap up their best season ever, there are still some causes for concern:

Injuries

There are several players currently working their way back from injuries. The two most likely to miss the playoffs are Ryan Murray and Lukas Sedlak. Fortunately late season acquisitions like Kyle Quincey and Oliver BJORKSTRAND have made those losses sting less.

The big threat to postseason success is the shoulder injury to Zach Werenski. The Jackets’ chances of advancing are much lower if Werenski cannot play. While Markus Nutivaara and Gabriel Carlsson possess skill, neither is the offensive threat that Werenski is. His arrival arguably had the biggest impact on the Jackets’ turnaround. His absence could derail the season.

Youth and Inexperience

In general, it has been a positive development that the team got younger this year. That youth brought speed and skill into the lineup. The downside, however, is that this roster remains mostly untested. That inexperience may be one cause for the recent losing streak. While certain players (most notably Brandon Saad and Scott Hartnell) have playoff experience elsewhere, that’s different from the team having collective experience. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup last year, so they know exactly how to approach this series. The Jackets will be learning as they go.

Scoring Drought

For the entire season, the offensive numbers for the Jackets are impressive. Look closer, however, and you see a team whose production has sharply declined. Since January 5, Pittsburgh has scored 24 more goals in 2 fewer games. In that span, the Jackets power play was 11.4%, the worst in the league. Torts seems to expect the team to snap out of it. Why haven’t they done so yet?

I feel like this team has the yips on offense, and the power play in particular. In the first half of the season, passes and shots came quickly. Now there is too much hesitation.

Losing Streak

The Jackets the last team in the NHL to avoid a three game losing streak. That run came to an end with a 6 game losing streak near the end of the season, snapped in the final game at Toronto. I don’t buy that momentum is a thing, but a streak like that is worrisome. Did they become complacent after clinching? If so, can they snap out of it for the playoffs? All season they avoided losing streaks because they kept the same approach to every game. Obviously that changed in April.

Fletcher will have an article later today with the reasons for optimism.

What do you think? Do you share these concerns, or not? Do you have any other concerns?