Blue Jackets’ Frustration Clearly Boiling Over

Whatever traction was gained by playing the Carolina Hurricanes tough is now gone. Losing two games to the Detroit Red Wings the way the Columbus Blue Jackets did will do that.

After a 3-1 loss on Saturday and a 4-1 loss on Sunday, the Blue Jackets had the worst-case scenario play out in front of them. They allowed the Red Wings to control long stretches of play without an answer. And even when there were chances to score, the Blue Jackets couldn’t finish.

Frustration Abounds

To say this team is frustrated is a major understatement. From head coach John Tortorella on down, the frustration was palpable. Their season is on the line and they’re not getting the results they need.

“I’m not going to do the team any good by going up and down, as far as what went wrong. A ton went wrong, I’ll give you that,” Tortorella said. There’s no sense in asking me those type of questions.”

What exactly went wrong? Players weren’t making the necessary plays.

“You want your guys playing at their best. We didn’t make a play. We didn’t make a play, it was a struggle for the past six periods.”

Still, going into the third period, it was a 1-1 game where the Blue Jackets were in the thick of the hunt and had a chance for two points. Then Michael Rasmussen scored a goal after Michael Del Zotto fanned on his attempt to play the puck. The puck went in and then there was some contact with Elvis Merzlikins.

The Blue Jackets elected to challenge the play. The call on the ice stood and the Red Wings never looked back.

I asked Tortorella if he got any kind of an explanation as to why the call stood.

“We just got the (crap) kicked out of us and you’re talking about a goaltender interference,” a frustrated Tortorella said. “I challenged it. We didn’t get the challenge.”

John Tortorella Columbus Blue Jackets
John Tortorella admitted the team played awful Sunday and they’re already looking ahead to Tampa Bay. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Had the call been overturned, we’re back to 1-1 and anyone’s game. The Blue Jackets were able to kill the resulting minor off but couldn’t generate much offense the rest of the way.

The Red Wings finished Sunday with a 29-17 advantage in shots on goal. The Blue Jackets mustered just three, eight and six shots in the three periods. Offensively the team looks lost. Their top players are not leading the way we’re used to seeing them lead.

Has the Team Quit?

It makes you wonder if some players have given up on the season given the circumstances. Don’t tell that to Seth Jones though.

“We can’t go into some games hoping to win. We have to be the aggressor in all these games, whether we win or lose. We’re not going to go out without a fight, I can tell you that,” Jones said.

“We’re not going to listen to outside noise. We never have and we’re not going to start now. There is absolutely no quit in this team and that’s up to each individual. We’re still going to fight every single time we’re on the ice…we’re obviously not quitting on the season.”

But then when Jones was asked where the source of the problem lies, he admitted he wasn’t sure.

Seth Jones Columbus Blue Jackets
Seth Jones says the team will fight to the end with no quit. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The issue here is not effort for the most part. Players appear to be giving what they have. The issue starts with a lack of center depth. But then the mental part of the game seems to be a huge issue. Tortorella admitted Saturday it’s not an X’s and O’s thing. He also said he’s liked what he’s seen from some players and is very worried about what’s he’s seen from others.

The Blue Jackets are trying but they are not finding results. This is leading to frustration for everyone involved. They now go to Florida to face the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers their next four games. They have to some how put this past weekend behind them and start fresh. Can they find a way to find something, anything to get them going?

We’ll see. But for now, frustration is clearly boiling over with the season slipping away. This week can either be a huge springboard or the final nail in their season. If they play this week like they did against the Red Wings, they better start looking at next season and beyond.

Side Dishes

  • On a positive note, Jack Roslovic made a nice play on the Blue Jackets’ only goal of the game. He hit his man into the boards behind the net and then raced to the front to tip Oliver Bjorkstrand’s shot home. This tied the game at one and gave some life to the team. It turned out to be the only goal of the game Sunday for them.
  • Detroit’s Calvin Pickard played both sets of the back-to-back and allowed two goals total in winning his first two games since 2018.
  • Give the Red Wings some credit for these results. They are a fast team and much improved defensively from previous seasons. Elvis Merzlikins said the Red Wings were fast postgame Sunday. They could have a spoiler role as the season winds down.
  • Speaking of Merzlikins, he made some interesting comments Sunday about his desire to be a number-one goalie. He said he’s felt “useless” thus far given injuries and illnesses he’s encountered. The Blue Jackets will eventually have to choose a goalie to keep. Clearly both Merlikins and Joonas Korpisalo want to be a number-one.
  • Both Patrik Laine and Max Domi each played under 15 minutes Sunday. You just have to wonder what they’re thinking about everything and what their futures might hold down the road. Both have had their struggles with the Blue Jackets.