It was said that the Blue Jackets would know where they stood in terms of playoff odds and trade deadline strategy after this pivotal road trip. Well, I’d say it’s pretty clear now. On a beautiful Easter Sunday, the Jackets failed to resurrect their season and dropped a 3-0 snoozer to the Florida Panthers to wrap up their six game road trip in which they went a miserable 1-5-0.
From the start of this one, it was clear that yet again, the Jackets would struggle to get anything going. The team would play a solid “road period” considering they exited it tied. Florida had the better of the chances in the first, most of them involving Panthers’ Captain Aleksander Barkov. Must be nice to have a legitimate top line center. The Jackets had a few chances in the period that ultimately resulted in a whiff by Cam Atkinson on a bouncing puck that Driedger misplayed behind the net, and some cracked shin pads when Seth Jones took a feed from Werenski and fired it directly into a sliding Panthers defender. Korpisalo was the Jackets’ best player in the period.
The second and third period somewhat blended together in the sense that the Blue Jackets were never really a threat. Two minutes into the second frame, Alexandre Texier would pick up a loose puck in the defensive zone and attempt a one-handed pass to Liam Foudy, who for some reason also tried to receive the pass one-handed. This was easily broken up by MacKenzie Weegar, who poked the puck directly to Patric Hornqvist who then fed Barkov a short pass for a one-time shot that beat Korpisalo high glove side.
1-0 Panthers (Barkov from Hornqvist and Weegar)
The rest of the period contained more of the same CBJ hockey we’ve grown accustomed to this year. Dump. Chase. Defend. Repeat.
Riley Nash would exit the game early in the period and would not return. One can only wonder which defenseman Torts will insert into the lineup in his place should it be longer term. Oliver Bjorkstrand also seemingly made an appearance on every line to try and get something, anything going. Alas, it was not to be.
The Jackets would draw their first power play chance at the end of the period when Carter Verhaeghe would go off for hooking Grigorenko, with the vast majority of time carrying over into the third.
Honestly, what is there to really say about the third? The Jackets had a golden chance to get right back into this game and carry momentum into the final period, and they responded with a performance that saw their xGF% drop below 30%. In other words, they went out with a whimper.
The Panthers would score the only goals of the period. The first coming from a bad backhand pass from Laine, looking to find Cam in the neutral zone. Frank Vatrano was right there to easily intercept the pass and head in on Korpisalo for an odd-man rush. He’d elect to keep and shoot the puck, beating the Columbus netminder cleanly.
2-0 Panthers (Vatrano - unassisted)
If there needed to be a dagger, it would come off yet another neutral zone turnover when once again, MacKenzie Weegar broke up a pass and sent Barkov the other way with speed. He threaded a perfect pass across the offensive zone to Gustav Forsling who beat Korpi low, glove side.
3-0 Panthers (Forsling from Barkov and Weegar)
The Jackets would get some power play time at the end of the game from two Florida penalties, and would surprisingly maintain possession for the most part. In the end however, they decided they’d rather keep their six game streak without a power play goal alive.
Final Score: 3-0 Panthers
With this game, the Blue Jackets’ playoffs odds (3.5%) have been surpassed by their lottery odds (5.9%). At least the boys have something to play for when they host Tampa Bay this week at Nationwide.