The Columbus Blue Jackets, somewhat surprisingly given the weather and winter storm striking the Midwest, traveled to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Blackhawks before the holiday break.
The cellar dwellers from each conference took the ice in the midst of a tank battle – Chicago came in dead last with 18 points and a .290 points percentage, while Columbus came in 30th with 22 points and a .344 points percentage.
But: today is a holiday. A Festivus for the rest of us. And in the spirit of the day (no tinsel, it’s distracting), we will be airing our grievances.
Here’s what happened.
First grievance: the Blue Jackets inability to keep the puck out of their own net
The Blue Jackets came into tonight’s matchup 31st in goals allowed per game in the league, one of two teams to allow over 4 goals per outing (4.03). The Jackets defense capitulated early, allowing too many easy chances for the Blackhawks before Patrick Kane scored the opener. It continued a common theme for the Union Blue – the Jackets are terrible in their own zone, and behind the team’s horrible defensive zone play, no goaltender can succeed.
Minutes later, Max Domi made it 2-0 as Erik Gudbranson made a god awful turnover in his own zone and Kane found Domi all alone in front of Tarasov. It’s the kind of play that John Tortorella would have nailed a player to the bench for – I don’t generally condone his methods, but there is no excuse for what Gudbranson did.
Elvis has been bad this year. Korpisalo and Tarasov haven’t been much better. But the defense play of the defensemen and forwards in front of the crease have given absolutely zero support to their struggling netminders. Brad Larsen, in the preseason, talked about a revamped defensive system from last year’s group that allowed a franchise record in goals. He touted it as the way the team would improve. Nope. Hasn’t happend. Instead, this year’s team is even worse.
It’s fair to ask: what in the world would you say we’re doing here? The coaching staff can’t adjust and fix this, and the front office though this was good enough before injuries. It’s fair to ask questions and expect consequences for the two worst defensive performances in franchise history.
This defense is inexcusable. Someone must answer for it.
Second grievance: uninspired play
Look, it’s a lost season. We all know that. Tonight was the last game before the holiday break, against a fellow cellar dweller. Even still, this is horrible:
Blackhawks and Blue Jackets have made it to the first TV timeout — more than 6 minutes in — without any shots on goal for either team. It’s a tank-off tonight.
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) December 24, 2022
This is a level of dull no paying fan deserves to endure. Two ostensibly professional organizations should be able to combine to muster a shot on goal in six minutes by accident, and yet, nothing. I am no fan of tanking, but as long as the NHL rules encourage it, I understand why it will happen. But fans who pay money to see these games deserve at least a modicum of effort from professionals paid seven figures to play a game.
At this point in the year, the team can’t even exit the zone correctly. There’s only 49 games to go though; how much worse can it get?
Third grievance: the reliance on the fourth line, a fourth line that has been absolutely terrible
On a personal level, I’m sure Sean Kuraly, Eric Robinson, and Mathieu Olivier are nice guys,
On the ice, they are an abjectly terrible hockey line that doesn’t deserve the usage they earn. Among lines that have played 150 minutes TOI this year, they represent the 7th worst xGF% this season. Yet they continue to be a crutch for an overmatched and overwhelmed coaching staff.
Fourth grievance: this team is lost, with absolutely no direction, and it’s not getting better
The Blue Jackets played the worst team in the NHL tonight. At one point, shots favored Chicago 21-7 as the Jackets had a 6 minute streak with no shots on goal followed by a separate 10 minute stretch without a shot on goal.
How are fans even supposed to care about these games the rest of the way? Cheap hits don’t matter – those frequently harm the team more than help. Talented youngsters don’t get deserved ice time – as noted, bad veterans who have “earned it” play more frequently.
Fifth grievance: the Jackets had a minute + of a 5 on 3 and couldn’t score, the power play remains near the league worst
The Jackets had the 31st ranked penalty in the league heading into this game and burned multiple chances tonight to take advantage. Super glad the team hired the terrible power play coach to be the head coach and absolutely nothing has changed with Larsen in charge. Maybe next year fans can ask for a little accountability, as a treat.
Columbus Blue Jackets 2 Chicago Blackhawks 5
The Blue Jackets are mercifully off for the holiday break so they can’t leave any more coal in your stockings. They return on Tuesday, 12/27, playing host to the Buffalo Sabres in Nationwide Arena. Faceoff is set for 7:30 PM.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all who read this blog and follow this team. We love and appreciate all y’all.