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Jackets can’t handle the heat, lose 5-2

The Blue Jackets drop their home opener against the Lightning after another poor defensive performance.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Opening night, Johnny Hockey’s first game in Columbus as a Blue Jacket, and the team’s first big test without Laine. There was no lack of storylines going into this home opener against the Lightning. Could the Jackets put together a better 60 minute performance? Or would the woes from game one carry over? Let’s take a look at what happened.

1st Period

The excitement left over from the early fanfare in Nationwide did not wane as the Jackets got on the board early. Jenner and Danforth were hard on the forecheck and caused the Lightning to cough up the puck. Danforth swiped the puck towards the crease from behind the net and Johnny Hockey bounced a puck off of Hedman for his first goal as a Blue Jacket.

CBJ Goal 1-0: Gaudreau (Danforth, Jenner) 2:21

Tarasov continued his strong and steady play in net as the Lightning pushed back. He made a nice glove save on Kucherov right before the first television timeout.

The Jackets went to the penalty kill at the halfway point — Sillinger for interference. Robinson had the best opportunity during the Lightning power play as the Jackets did a great job of keeping the opposition from getting set up.

Unfortunately the Jackets would immediately go back to the kill when Danforth committed holding in the neutral zone. The Lightning would capitalize this time as Perry was able to deflect the puck in front of the net.

TBL Goal 1-1: Perry (Namestnikov, Sergachev) 14:08

Bad went to worse when the Lightning got a lucky bounce. A soft shot towards the net went off of Boqvist’s skate and past Tarasov.

TBL Goal 2-1: Stamkos (Killorn, Fleury) 15:21

Moments later, Nyquist decided he didn’t like playing from behind. He got one past Vasilevskiy on the rush off a very nice no-look stretch pass from Kent Johnson. Exhibit number one as to why KJ deserves to be in the lineup every night.

CBJ Goal 2-2: Nyquist (Johnson, Gudbranson) 15:55

Not to be outdone, the Lightning gave the Jackets another under two minute goal against. Colton skated into the slot uncontested and sniped one past Tarasov. Someone should have gotten a body or stick on him.

TBL Goal 3-2: Colton (Perry, Hedman) 18:55

The first period was a war between the eye test and fancy stats. The eye test says that the Jackets were able to play with pace and match the Lightning. The fancy stats show that the Lightning dominated 5v5 possession with a 19-9 unblocked shot attempt advantage and a 7-1 high danger chance advantage. Either way, a lucky bounce for the Lightning was the difference on the period.

2nd Period

The Jackets had to endure significant zone time by the Lightning early in the period. The white jerseys were able to pin in multiple lines and get several shots on net.

A Columbus defenseman again scored a goal for the wrong team. Foote swatted at a puck and it was headed wide until it bounced off of Bean’s skate and into the net.

TBL Goal 4-2: Foote (Colton, Namestnikov) 7:45

Moments later, Sergachev crosschecked Gaudreau and gave the Jackets their first power play of the game. The first unit had some zone time and a few decent chances, but nothing to show for it. The second unit managed a few shots as well — Johnson was a welcome addition for that unit. Definitely an improvement over game one.

The two teams went back and forth for a while until the Jackets were given another power play with less than two minutes left in the period. 20 seconds into the power play their advantage got extended to a 5 on 3. Unfortunately, the Jackets were unable to capitalize.

Sending Danforth and Jenner out during a 5 on 3 advantage is a total headscratcher. With that much open ice, your most skilled players should be out there. A lack of puck movement and a whiff on an open net by Danforth kept the Jackets from making it a one goal game.

Through two periods, the Lightning held the 5v5 shot attempt advantage 41-18. Not ideal.

3rd Period

The Lightning were all over the Jackets in the first eight minutes and they capped it off with a goal by Stamkos off a deflection. His second of the night.

TBL Goal 5-2: Stamkos (Sergachev, Killorn) 7:57

Another power play and another missed opportunity. The second unit looked better than the first with Johnson giving a Voracek a nice feed for a chance. Nothing for six on the season so far.

Not much else happened. Jackets dropped their home opener 5-2.

Final Thoughts

Another stinker from the Blue Jackets tonight. That may sound harsh, but Tampa dominated and handled the game after they managed to make it 3-2. They managed 64 5v5 shot attempts versus the Jackets’ 26. The 5v5 xGF was 2.9-0.86 in favor of the Lightning.

The Jackets’ defense struggled mightily for most of the night. Bean and Boqvist both scored own goals off of their skates and the Lightning managed to pin the Jackets in their own zone for long periods of time. Gudbranson was the worst player on the ice. The Lightning held a 22-3 even strength unblocked shot advantage with him on the ice. Through two games, that same total is 57-12 in favor of the bad guys.

There are good players on this team, but the coaching staff is deploying them in odd ways. Yes, the Gaudreau line scored a goal, but there were many times where that line was held down by the lack of high end skill in Jenner and Danforth. There were multiple times where Jenner or Danforth either turned the puck over in the offensive zone or couldn’t handle a pass sent to them by Gaudreau. Johnson, who had a phenomenal primary assist, only played 9:42 of even strength hockey. Sillinger only 9:37.

This team feels like a raft heading down river without any paddles. The defense looks no better than last year and is seriously struggling with getting the puck out of the zone, the forwards can’t possess the puck at even strength, and the power play doesn’t look like much of a threat. With five of their next 7 games against playoffs teams, this season can get out of hand very quickly. Two games is a small sample size, but things don’t look very good so far.

Up Next

The Blue Jackets have a quick turnaround as they head to St. Louis to take on the Blues Saturday night at 8:00PM ET.