The Columbus Blue Jackets lost their sixth straight game on Monday night, falling 4-2 to the Florida Panthers. In some ways it was the ideal result: a good effort from the visitors, but in the end another regulation loss which puts the team closer to a high draft pick. There was the usual mix of positives and negatives:
Good: The Jackets came out buzzing, with all four lines controlling possession in the early minutes of the game.
Bad: Despite this, the Panthers drew first blood. It was an unlucky goal, with a pass from behind the net by Alex Wennberg deflecting off of Seth Jones’s stick to a wide-open Frank Vatrano:
Good: Elvis Merzlikins and the defense somehow managed to keep the puck out of the net during this sequence, which ended up with Elvis losing his stick and using Patrik Laine’s for the final minute.
Bad: Elvis was hung out to dry like this all night. Patric Hornqvist in particular was his usual pest self, and found little resistance from Columbus skaters. Elvis still isn’t as sharp as he was last season but he’s also getting significantly less help in front.
More bad: The second period has been a trouble spot lately, and this one was no exception. At 5v5, the Panthers had 25 shot attempts to just 12 for the Jackets. This also includes a high danger advantage of 4-1 and expected goal margin of 1.14-0.42.
The Panthers doubled their lead in the first minute of the period, capitalizing on an ill-timed and insufficiently urgent line change by the Blue Jackets. The result was an easy three-on-two rush by the Panthers and a Sam Bennett goal. Vladislav Gavrikov and Mikko Lehtonen were traffic cones and Kevin Stenlund and Eric Robinson couldn’t reach the play in time to help out.
Good: Gavin Bayruether adds some spark in his Blue Jackets debut, with a fight that removed Bennet from the game for 17 minutes.
Bad: The hit on Duclair that started the encounter was unnecessary and the kind of hit that needs to be erased from the game (/glares at Tom Wilson). Focus less on laying big hits and more on, you know, controlling the puck.
Good: That spark led to a great goal from Oliver BJORKSTRAND. It proves his greatness, in that he can create a goal out of a less than ideal situation. He was outnumbered by Panthers players, but his shot through traffic was true.
Some magic from The Maestro pic.twitter.com/VK9knopNwM— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) April 20, 2021
Bad: The tissue soft Blue Jackets once again allowed a quick response goal. On the next shift, Anthony Duclair carried the puck down the length of the ice, circled behind the net (no one is going to stop him? Ok) and passed to Radko Gudas for the booming slapshot.
More bad: Columbus challenged for goaltender interference, but it seemed obvious to me that the contact was incidental, outside of the crease, and arguably caused by Lehtonen’s contact with Juho Lammikko. Predictably, the challenge was unsuccessful like most of our challenges this year.
Good: The silver lining is that the penalty kill was excellent tonight. In the ensuing penalty, the Jackets did not allow a shot attempt, and Alexandre Texier’s hustle drew a penalty. The Jackets didn’t convert on their power play, but in 3:24 with the man advantage they generated ten shot attempts and six shots on goal. Much improved puck movement from the moment of unit of Laine, BJORKSTRAND, Jack Roslovic, Cam Atkinson, and Seth Jones.
More good: Rather than fold like in the Dallas games, the Jackets responded with a major push in the third period, winning the shot attempt battle 21-11. Their effort was personified by Zac Dalpe, who demonstrated persistence with four shots in the crease to cut the lead to one.
I was critical in the preview of Dalpe getting playing time, but in this game he earned it. Hopefully the younger players learn from his example. Stay prepared, work hard, and never give up when an opportunity presents itself.
Bad: Their push wasn’t enough, and Vatrano added a empty net goal to seal the victory. Even worse, Detroit earned a point in their game, which means the Blue Jackets are officially in last place in the division. I have accepted that it’s a lost season, but finishing in last place is taking it too far. I want to see this team win a few more games before this is over.
The Jackets and Panthers are right back at it on Tuesday night in the final game of their season series.