Blue Jackets Need to Improve on Details Late in Games

The Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night by a score of 3-2. It was a nice game played by the Blue Jackets, but the Stars have only won one game this season. A strong performance at home was expected for the Blue Jackets.

Dallas scored their second goal of that game with five seconds left in the third period. In a way, it was harmless and the Blue Jackets already had a win in the bag. However, during the final few minutes of the game, I couldn’t help but think about how it’d be good for them to finish with a 3-1 victory.

This line of thinking is influenced by two factors. First, the Blue Jackets have one of the youngest rosters in the NHL. Second, in the game against the Buffalo Sabres, they gave up an equalizer late in the game that felt imminent.

The season is still too young to call the Blue Jackets a bad team late in games. Then again, it’s something that would be a great area to focus on at this point. With the talent on the roster, there will be more opportunities to work on this during in-game situations.

Coaches in every sport that exist preach playing the game all the way up until the end. I doubt that the Blue Jackets were taking it easy in the final minutes of the matchup against the Stars, but they shouldn’t have let that goal in.

Break the Habit While You Can

As previously mentioned, it’s still too early to panic about the Blue Jackets giving up a few late goals as a whole. This isn’t something they want to make a pattern, though. For a team with a significant amount of youth, they need to start focusing on late-game situations more often.

Columbus Blue Jackets Zach Werenski
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

It goes back to all of the little things a coach will say in practices about finishing sprints, drills, etc., all the way through. The upcoming schedule will be a great opportunity for head coach John Tortorella to challenge the team to finish strong. The Blue Jackets are already a team that has obstacles to face in other areas, such as inexperience, and making it even harder on themselves wouldn’t be ideal.

In defense of goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, the rest of the team wasn’t necessarily making the aforementioned situations any easier. The Sabres’ late goal came on the power play and the Stars’ goal was off of an odd bounce. The fact that both of those goals felt forthcoming, though, isn’t very comforting.

As the team gains experience throughout the season, they should consider a few things. Avoiding penalties late in games is a must. Additionally, don’t settle for icings and lack of creativity in the third period. There should be more sense of structure late in games, and an empty netter every so often would be nice too.

Korpisalo Could Use the Confidence Boost

Korpisalo was visibly frustrated after the Stars’ second goal. There are probably a couple of reasons why, but he likely really wanted to only give up one goal. It doesn’t change how well he played, but building a level of confidence is important for him right now.

His saves on Jamie Benn and Denis Gurianov stick out as key moments from that game. No one can take those away, but it would’ve been nice if Sonny Milano’s highlight-reel goal didn’t have to be a game-winner.

Columbus Blue Jackets Joonas Korpisalo
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Korpisalo has looked like a solid goaltender so far this season. He’s given up an average of 2.60 goals per game as a starter. It would be great for Korpisalo to have a one-goal, or shutout, performance on his record.

I think that would be huge for Korpisalo’s confidence, and for the team altogether. Playing in the last few minutes with the lead is something the entire current Blue Jackets roster hasn’t done in the NHL very often. The leadership group of players such as Nick Foligno and Seth Jones will be significant in pushing the team forward in late-game situations.