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Rather than suck, the resilient, exciting Blue Jackets have other plans

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Saturday night’s third period aside, the Blue Jackets have largely played well in what is supposed to be a transition year.

Carolina Hurricanes v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

Oh man. Last night’s third period could not have come at a worse time in light of what I wrote below. But I’m writing this disclaimer to let you know the bottom is largely staying in tact and the title remains, for one game does not constitute a season.

That meltdown was bound to happen because sports (I feel somewhat better saying that Thursday’s game against the Hurricanes evens out last night’s loss since the Blue Jackets overcame a two-goal deficit Thursday but I digress) but the fifth goal in Saturday’s game was the all-too typical power play response in which they capped off an 0-for-5 night and the Flyers regained the lead on a short-handed goal — this season the Jackets have four power play goals through 11 games while giving up three short-handed tallies. Big yikes.

And many more chances given up while on the power play...

Anyway. Back to regularly scheduled programming.

Before Saturday’s game.

In the immortal words of John Tortorella:

As I broached the subject of my next topic, I thought about talking up Pierre-Luc Dubois. Dubois is the current leader of the Jackets with five goals, and though it’s still quite early, he might be answering early questions like ‘how will Dubois do without Panarin’ and ‘Can Dubois drive the offensive play.’

But it is early, and I don’t quite feel like exhausting to much time over analytics or numbers as they yet to paint a full picture.

I’d rather speak to the buzz I have about this team at the pulse of my fingertips every day.

A few weeks ago the Blue Jackets were 2-3-0, and I was encouraged with the state of things. Now they are 5-4-2, having ridden a season-best so far six-game point streak. I’m really happy about the way Joonas Korpisalo has looked in the early start to the season, maybe the best of surprises thus far, exuding confidence with every start. Elvis Merzlikins looked much better in his second career start and maybe that next appearance for the Latvian comes Wednesday against the Oilers.

Seeds touched up on the awful power play, and of course, when I wrote about it maybe starting to turn a corner a few weeks ago, that was all for naught. You can try moving pieces around and changing schemes but at what point does Brad Larsen answer for the part of his job that has continuously failed under his watch?

Maybe he is a fall guy, but how long do you continue with something, or someone, if it's not working? Could Rick Nash coach the power play?

Looking at John Tortorella’s teams, aside from one year in his early Lightning days, and 2016-17, when the power play started hot in Columbus and promptly fell off, his teams have always had less-than league average power plays.

If you really want to cling to something, there will be few isolated opportunities where they do generate chances. But then there’s the same ole struggling to reload through the neutral zone or even getting a shot off.

But vibe with this team is this ‘glass half-full’ feeling I have, and the recent six-game point streak speaks to that. They’ve outshot opponents in eight of their last nine contests and have only been outshot twice this season. Analytically speaking when 5v5, Columbus has done well in their games.

While the quantity of shots at the net only mean so much if they aren’t finding themselves into the back of the net, you’d still rather have 40 shots than 15, if only because the frequency would be more likely to get past the goalie more often. (More like the Sabres game Oct. 7 and not like the Flyers game last night.)

Charting Hockey

It’s like BABIP (Batting average balls in play) in baseball. If you’re scolding the ball but finding hard outs right at fielders, a higher BAPIP in that instance could indicate more bad luck than anything, and that eventually, the ball will find itself in between the fielders. Which the below graphic illustrates straddling the line of bad and unlucky.

Charting Hockey

Cam Atkinson has three goals, and accounts for exactly half the overall total of the power play. He has one game-winning even-strength goal which came Thursday against the Hurricanes in overtime that is so fun to watch I have to include it here.

He’s one of those you expect to start finding the back of the net anytime now.

Last weekend the Jackets dropped back-to-back overtime games to the Blackhawks and Islanders. I’ll take the that first road point in a tough place like Chicago. The Jackets sure had their chances in that game to win, and even more so back at home the next night against the Islanders. That game was indubitably frustrating to watch, if only because they had their most chances of the year in any game so far, but for all the shots they unleashed, a significant portion didn’t even find the net.

Thomas Greiss did enough to fight off the swarm and the Jackets settled for two of four points in that weekend.

Not the end of the world but you prefer those divisional four-point games in your back pocket in October. However, any of us would take a six-game point streak and that helps embody my glass-half full outlook. The team has played edgy and resilient. The goaltending, being the backbone of any successful team, is mixed with enough talent that the Blue Jackets are sure capable of more than anyone around the league wants to give credit towards.

But man, Saturday’s game was a mood-killer and their next game is Wednesday against a surprising Oilers team on my birthday. Go back to practice (ahem power play) and get this thing right!