The Columbus Blue Jackets currently sit at 3-5, reeling after a loss to a struggling Arizona Coyotes team. Numerous issues are present within the team, including lackluster play between the pipes and a porous effort in the defensive zone.
Still, the glaring issue involves special teams, and it is not the penalty kill. The Blue Jackets are 0-20 on the power play through eight games. The unit was 0-5 in the game against the Coyotes alone. This inefficiency showcases an inability for the team to take advantage of favorable situations.
This is officially the time to panic and restructure for Columbus. The addition of Patrik Laine should be helpful, but one player will not be able to fix the issues. The setup of the power play has been bland and pretty easy to defend, which is surprising given the creativity seen from the team in other aspects of the game.
For players like Johnny Gaudreau, Gustav Nyquist and Kent Johnson, the power play should be complementary to their play styles. The former two have also had success in this aspect of their games in the past, combining for 79 goals and 167 assists.
The issue is in execution, not in the talent level. The other weaknesses of the team were somewhat expected — this was not.
Blue Jackets’ Inefficiency Later in Games
Of the 20 power-play opportunities, 17 have come in the second period or later (0-10 in second, 0-7 in third). In these periods, they have been outscored by opponents 19-27. These deficits could be greatly decreased by an effective power play.
The strange thing is, the team has scored a majority of its goals in the latter two periods. The offense has been consistently finding success during this time, yet still can’t score with a man advantage. This serves as further proof that the personnel is not the issue, but why are the Blue Jackets running into these issues?
One reason could be the line combinations themselves. Nyquist and Gaudreau seem like they should complement each other, but perhaps they have too similar play styles and should be split up more often. The Blue Jackets have also put Jack Roslovic with Gaudreau and Jakub Voracek; maybe that combination will play better together.
However, the easiest fix may be to keep lines together on the power play, at least temporarily. The 5-on-5 lines are putting the puck in the net, so keeping these units together could potentially be a recipe for success. It would also help ease Laine back into his role as a winger and allow him to build further chemistry with Gaudreau and Boone Jenner.
Fewer Opportunities For Blue Jackets
What is also important to address is that Columbus is in the bottom 10 in the league in power-play opportunities. The team is tied for 23rd in the league in this metric, but notably have played more games than any other team that also have 20 opportunities.
This means that the team is not drawing enough penalties, and the unit is not getting the proper game reps it needs to be successful. This is not really a great excuse, as the Blue Jackets are the only team that has not scored a power-play goal in the 2022-23 season, but it at least provides some validity to the idea that more chances will lead to more goals.
Overall, the Blue Jackets are in a dark place when it comes to the power-play unit, but the light at the end of the tunnel should be near. A slump is not necessarily the scary outcome, a trend is. If the Blue Jackets continue to have an extremely low power-play percentage for a significant period of time, it will have a catastrophic impact on wins and losses. Special teams is an aspect of the game that turns winning teams into struggling teams, and the latter category is where Columbus currently stands.
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Jack is a Columbus Blue Jackets writer at THW and will provide NCAA coverage as well. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and Ithaca College. He enjoys covering Hockey, Baseball, Football, Golf, Tennis and many other sports.