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Another national embarrassment

Columbus loses 6-2 to Washington

Washington Capitals v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images

Tonight, the Columbus Blue Jackets were back on national cable TV. Last time, it was an abysmal 9-4 defeat to the Buffalo Sabres on TNT. This time, they faced the Washington Capitals on ESPN. Would it go any better?

uhhhh

First Period

The lines were shuffled again for Columbus, and I wasn’t sure what exactly Brad Larsen was doing. Breaking up Laine/Johnson/Gaudreau already? Sillinger and Marchenko way down on the “fourth” line?

Well, at least the top two lines looked pretty good in the first, largely controlling the flow of play and creating quality chances.

The first goal came from a classic “Johnny Gaudreau takes over” play. It started with a big Kent Johnson hit in center ice, and then Gaudreau gathered the loose puck. He skated deep, reset, and passed to Johnson, who shot it wide. Gaudreau and Emil Bemstrom went to the corner, and Bemstrom ended up kicking the puck to Gaudreau. 13 took it from there and scored.

In the first intermission, Gaudreau was named to the Metro Division All Star Team. A well-deserved honor!

Second Period

The Capitals tied it early with a shot in the slot from T.J. Oshie. I hate this goal because of the way Dylan Strome was gripping Erik Gudbranson’s left shoulder. That kept him from helping out on the play.

After a 4v4, Columbus got the first power play of the game after Evegeny Kuznetsov hooked Jack Roslovic. Not only did the Blue Jackets not record any shot attempts in the two minutes, they allowed three shot attempts against, on multiple short-handed rushes by the Caps. Ooooooooof.

Washington got the momentum after that, and took the lead after a BRUTAL Gus Nyquist turnover. In the first period, a number of Columbus attacks were ended by Gus sending a pass into the stick of an opponent. This turnover was so much worse. Then, to add insult to injury, Nyquist and Peeke defended Nicolas Aube-Kubel at half speed as he skated right up to the doorstep to score.

But not to worry, because you can count on Gavin Bayreuther to save the day!

Wait, what? /checks notes. Huh. No foolin’?

Things took a turn for the worst when the Caps scored possibly the dumbest goal I have ever seen, off of Martin Fehervary’s noggin

Less than two minutes later, the Caps got another one. This time Elvis was hurt by friendly fire, as he lost his stick in a collision with Mathieu Olivier. He couldn’t up from his sprawling position to stop a shot on the other side, and a bunch of blue sweaters were standing around NOT defending. Unacceptable defense, even compared to the already bad defense this season.

So for those keeping track, the Jackets were outscored 4-1 that period. At 5v5 they were out-attempted 11-24. It was really bad, and yet still only their second worst period on national TV this season!

Third Period

We had a glimmer of hope, as it looked like Bayreuther’s second goal of the season and of the game would cut the lead in half. Alas, Washington challenged for offsides and sure enough, there was a violation by mere fractions of an inch.

At 5v5, it was a more even period, but Washington extended the lead on a pair of power play goals. The first was the most frustrating. First, a Roslovic short-handed breakaway was stopped by a clear trip which went uncalled. Strome took a tight angle shot which Elvis blocked, but neither Peeke nor Nyquist could locate the rebound. Oshie did, and got his second of the night.

The other power play goal was by — who else? — Alex Ovechkin. That was the 809th of his career.

Final Thoughts

If you didn’t watch, it would be tempting to throw shade at Elvis Merzlikins, who was making his first start since December 13. He looked really good early on, with much greater control over his rebounds. Things went bad not because of him, but because his teammates were sloppy with the puck, and slow to get in position on defense. Natural Stat Trick shows 3.15 expected goals allowed in all situations, but it feels like it should be more than that. Feels like each Washington goal was scored on a very high danger opportunity.

Andrew Peeke got back in the lineup today and played on the first pair with Gavrikov. He played 22:01, second most on the team behind Gavrikov. They were also on ice for half of Washington’s goals. Whoops!

I have been hard on Gudbranson this year but he’s actually been a lot better lately. Not good, but better. I credit Tim Berni being his partner. Off-Road had the best CF% of defensemen tonight, and also laid a huge hit on Sonny Milano (but later in the game got leveled by Milano in front of the net)

The Gaudreau/Johnson/Bemstrom line was dominated possession-wise but were on ice for both Columbus goals. I’ll take it.

The best line by CF% and the only one with a positive expected goal percentage at 5v5? Foudy/Sillinger/Marchenko. The least used line at 5v5? You guessed it! Also Foudy/Sillinger/Marchenko.

Head-scratching lineups. Poor deployment. Complete confusion on defense. Falling apart in the second period every game, after the opponent makes intermission adjustments. These are all coaching failures. How can Brad Larsen survive two nationally televised debacles? Hell, even if you don’t want to pay him not to coach, and want him to coach the rest of the season, just do me a personal favor and announce now that he’ll be done at the end of the season. Give me some glimmer of hope that the powers that be understand that this coaching is woefully insufficient and we absolutely cannot entertain the idea of having this staff in place next season.

Up Next

A Saturday afternoon home game against the division-leading Carolina Hurricanes. I’m sure that will go great! Then, on Sunday afternoon, a rematch against these Capitals in Washington.