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Blended Blue Jackets Seek Answers

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It hasn’t quite gone to execution since trade deadline day.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Remember how fun it was when the Blue Jackets bit the bullet and went for it at the trade deadline, acquiring at worst, rentals that could only fuel the Jackets’ spring run? Instead it’s been a mixed bag, with disappointing losses against the Penguins, an awful effort at home against the Oilers, and what felt like a crippling loss to close out the homestead against the Jets to cap off a brutal last weekend.

Not to mention, only bringing more attention to the inconsistent-to-poor play at home all season.

“We know what we have to do. We just have to fix it” said captain Nick Foligno. That was after Saturday’s loss. Well, it’s March. If you know what the problem is, why haven’t you corrected what ails sooner?

Well, credit to the captain. He hit the scoresheet Sunday with a big goal and dropping the gloves. He was noticeable on the ice. But the team still lost.

Trying to right the ship and fix what ails, John Tortorella continues blending his players’ minutes, which only baffles the fan base when you dock your best scorers’ opportunities in games the team absolutely has to have. I get “sending a message” to a point, but who would you rather have late in a game, tied or down one goal — Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cam Atkinson, or the fourth line anchored by Riley Nash? Even the captain has fallen off his 50 point days, looking to hit at least 30 points for the second consecutive season.

I know line numbers don’t matter and everything can get blended five seconds into the start of a game. But there’s a reason your best players are where they are starting out. Or like in overtime last Thursday against the Flyers. Brandon Dubinsky took the draw — which we know the presence he brings in that spot and that Torts loves — and flanked by Blue Jackets overtime king Seth Jones, and Artemi Panarin, both among NHL leaders with three and four overtime game-winners respectively this season. In a three-on-three speed game, obviously you want someone like Dubois out there as soon as possible and that’s what happened. Dubinsky lost the draw by the way.

You know I’ve been a huge proponent of Tortorella, and I credit him for getting this team to the level it has reached in the years since he took over behind the bench. But with its most decorated roster in the history of the franchise, the thought has crossed my mind that perhaps Tortorella doesn’t know how to utilize the talent he has. Ryan Dzingel getting essentially the Anthony Duclair type minutes?

NHL.com

It made sense going back to familiarity for the sake of chemistry, pitting Dubois back with Panarin and Atkinson on the first line, while Dzingel and Matt Duchene were on the second line, and joined by Oliver Bjorkstrand in recent games. But Dzingel was back on the third line last night starting out. It doesn’t really matter once you drop the puck. And things kept changing last night against the Devils as well.

No doubt the loss of Ryan Murray is felt big time, as the blender mixes and tries to match on the back end. But Scott Harrington with Jones? At least go back to Zach Werenski, which Torts did do each of the last two games.

The team is 2-3 since the deadline, which in itself, is only blown far worse out of proportion because of the reality the Blue Jackets find themselves in. Chasing the second wild card, and facing the Penguins twice in the coming days. Sergei Bobrovsky has started the last eight games with Joonas Korpisalo getting two starts since Feb. 2. Bobrovsky has basically been anything from twirling consecutive shutouts, as he did against the Senators and Sharks, on back-to-back days, home and away, and then looking baffled such as last Tuesday, as he always does, against the Penguins. Sometimes those stupid goals get by, whether off screens and deflections. But he’s allowed at least four goals against Pittsburgh in the last four starts against them going back to last season.

Enough is enough.

Which leads me to think he can’t possibly get the start against them Thursday or Saturday. Not both. Keith Kinkaid, who last played a game, still with the Devils on Feb. 19, came against the Penguins, who beat him. Korpisalo, who was not the designated No. 2 behind Bobrovsky last night in New Jersey, could see action. Or do you roll Bobrovsky because he’s your best and you roll your best this time of year?

The Metro has five legitimate playoff contenders. The division leaders are looking to run away. The Hurricanes rarely lose, though they did last night at the Bruins in overtime. The Penguins continue to be the problems, both on the ice and psychologically for the Jackets, who also got an overtime win against the Panthers. With two more mammoth games against them this week, losing one of these divisional games can be catastrophic, but both. . .

Guess it’s too late for Bobrovsky to see the psychologist?