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Game #80: Blue Jackets no-show again under the national spotlight

The Columbus Blue Jackets barely showed up tonight, which means I have a recap I don’t want to write, and you probably don’t want to read.

It was a nationally televised game and it was a packed house at Nationwide Arena for the home finale. If you’ve watched enough of this team this season, you know how it usually goes when either of those things happen.

The Jackets could have clinched a playoff spot with a win and a Montreal loss. Instead, the Canadiens won and the Jackets got no points. Carolina won too, which leapfrogs them past Columbus. Fortunately we remain ahead of the Habs for the final wild card spot thanks to the ROW tiebreaker. Winning the remaining games against the Rangers and Senators will still guarantee a playoff berth. But now there’s less room for error.

Speaking of errors, I guess I need to talk about tonight’s game. This looked like a gassed team. Perhaps they were fatigued from playing the third game in four nights, and fourth in six. Perhaps the emotions of a five game win streak and a close playoff race caught up to them. At least they have a day off to rest tomorrow, and a day to practice Thursday before playing in New York on Friday.

Boston is a very good team, and although we took three out of four points against them in two meetings in March, they have been a better team than the Jackets all season. They checked well and their sticks always seemed to get in the way of passes and shots. The Bruins blocked SEVENTEEN shot attempts.

Torts did make things harder on himself than he needed to. Starting with the opening faceoff, he matched up the fourth line against Boston’s great top line. This was ill-advised. Not because that top line had a great night (they didn’t), but because it meant too much ice time was given to a slow line that poses little offensive threat.

Riley Nash led all Jackets forwards in ice time in the first period. Nash finished as the second most used forward at even strength for the Jackets. The Jenner line which has been playing so well were used the least. How does that make any sense? Especially when you’re playing most of the game from behind. You need guys who can score, and that line has been doing just that throughout the win streak. Guess which Jackets line had the best CF% of the night?  The Jenner line!

Torts way overthought this one. He’s playing four dimensional chess on a goddamn Candyland board.

I guess if you’ve read this far you want to know about the goals. Here’s the short and sweet:

  • The first goal was fluky as hell. The puck went up high, landed on top of the net, then fell behind Bob’s back before he had any idea where it was. Luckily the Jackets responded with some intensity after that, but couldn’t sustain.
  • Late in the first, Matt Duchene made a valiant attempt to clear the puck, but it was intercepted and Markus Nutivaara couldn’t get his stick down in time. Bob again could do nothing, as Nuti blocked his vision. It was a theme all night that the Jackets couldn’t clear the puck from the defensive zone. Then when they did get offensive zone time, they couldn’t sustain.
  • The third goal was a combination of the first two: it took some weird bounces, and it was the result of a failure to clear. Both Zach Werenski and Seth Jones got their sticks on the puck in front of the net but couldn’t get it away from danger.
  • The fourth goal was a breakaway. Normally I’d say Bob should have stopped it, but it just wasn’t that kind of night. Torts showed mercy and pulled him at this point.
  • The fifth goal happened in the first minute of the third, before I even got back to my seat after meeting with some Cannon members. You can’t make me go back and see what happened.
  • The good news is the Jackets finally woke up a little bit, with a couple of power play goals (!!!)
  • First up was Oliver Bjorkstrand, which extended his goal scoring streak to six games.
  • Later, on a four minute double minor, the Jackets of course couldn’t score until the final minute, but nonetheless they did score thanks to a nice feed from Artemi Panarin to Matt Duchene.
  • The Bruins stopped any chance of a comeback with a sixth goal. The picture that goes with this post shows how that one happened./

The message from players and Torts in the locker room after the game was about putting this game completely behind them and getting ready for the next one. Let’s hope they do.