Early in the third period of this game, with the Columbus Blue Jackets desperately clinging to a 4-3 lead over the Carolina Hurricanes, head coach Brad Larsen called a timeout. During the break, the PA system at Nationwide Arena played the hit 1999 single by Lit, “My Own Worst Enemy.” There could not have been a more appropriate choice of music for this game:
It’s no surprise to me, I am my own worst enemy
’Cause every now and then, I kick the living s*** out of me
The calendar may read 2022 now, but the performance we saw was a reprise of what we saw throughout December 2021, with the Jackets lucking into a 4-0 lead before giving up seven unanswered.
Let’s be clear: this was a game that the Hurricanes deserved to win. At 5v5, they had 72.5% of shot attempts in the first period and 67.86% in the second. In the third, when the Jackets really needed to flip things to hold on to their two goal lead? Carolina had 82.86% of shot attempts. In all situations, the shots on goal were 49-18 in Carolina’s favor. Total domination.
The big difference came down to goaltending. The Jackets jumped out to their lead mostly against Antti Raanta, scoring three times on just nine shots in the first period. Raanta suffered an injury and was replaced after the intermission by Frederik Andersen, who saved eight of nine shots faced over the final 40 minutes.
Wait, just nine shots on goal over the last 40 minutes? Oooof, that is awful.
On the Columbus side, meanwhile, rookie Daniil Tarasov was tremendous in his first home start, and just the third start (fourth appearance) of his NHL career. He had 31 saves on 33 shots faced through two periods, which tied a season high for the Jackets through 40 minutes. Then he left in the second intermission with a lower body injury. Elvis Merzlikins came in cold and while that’s not an easy task, this team needs him to be much, much better. He allowed four goals on 15 shots faced. Some weren’t his fault but some were soft. This goal that iced the game at 6-4 was particularly egregious. You just can’t give up a rebound this juicy (the third goal in this compilation):
Nino ➡️ Bearsy ➡️ Stevie— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) January 1, 2022
Freaking awesome pic.twitter.com/CK8ewpW86C
Naturally, the defense didn’t do Elvis any favors, either. They allowed 2.42 expected goals in the third period alone, which is way too many.
One example of bad defensive zone play came in the second period. Following a Columbus power play, the Hurricanes sent out their big guns while the second power play unit was in the middle of a change. Yegor Chinakhov coughed up a turnover in the defensive zone, and then seemed lost defending the play after that.
I believe Chinakhov should be playing every game because of his offensive upside, but a play like this shows why his minutes are low when he does play. He has a lot to learn about playing away from the puck. I think he’ll get there, but it’s a work in progress. (That being said he still had more 5v5 minutes than Silllinger, Domi, Roslovic, or Bemstrom)
On the positive side, let’s talk about one of the few Jackets doing anything right, Alexandre Texier. On a first period penalty kill, he made this gorgeous outlet pass that sent Gus Nyquist on a breakaway:
Let's all marvel at this alley-oop from Tex pic.twitter.com/8ZGCzc5J69— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) January 1, 2022
Tex added a breakaway goal of his own that went off of former Jacket Ian Cole:
That made it 4-0 with 31:21 remaining. That should be enough time to hold a lead like that! Sigh.
It’s not just that it’s a frustrating way to lose, it’s that it keeps happening like this. There was that game in Vancouver a few weeks ago where the Jackets had a 3-0 lead and lost 4-3. In the comments I wrote this:
Very disappointed with this loss, because they keep losing in the same way. If it happens once or twice, fine, it’s a young team and they’ll work through it. But it’s not clear to me how they’re working through this, or what they’re doing to get better and avoid this happening.
So again, I have to ask, what is being done to fix the problem here? It’s not just a talent issue, because this was one of the more talented forward groups we’ve iced all season. Oliver BJORKSTRAND was the only major missing piece. Patrik Laine and Eric Robinson are back. Nyquist is finally contributing. They’re finding ways to score four goals, which should be enough.
It seems to me that the problem is focus. They’re not ready for the other team to respond. Is it because these Jackets also fold when they’re down by a lot? The tying goal and go-ahead goal came just 16 seconds apart. After giving up a goal is exactly when you should be dead set on regaining momentum, and NOT getting caught on your heels, giving up another goal.
I expect to lose to a team like Carolina because they are more talented and because they play well together as a team. I can accept that. What I cannot accept is losing to them because the Jackets can’t put together a complete 60 minutes of hockey.
The two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning come to town on Tuesday night. Uh oh.