The search continues.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are still looking for consistent line combinations that will stick. Monday’s 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes showed that this team still has a ways to go but not much time to figure things out. They have just 23 games to try to find something, anything that will give them a fighting chance at making their fifth straight postseason.
The Big Issue
Going into Thursday’s game against the Hurricanes, the Blue Jackets face a dilemma. Their most consistent line going is their fourth line. Eric Robinson, Ryan MacInnis and Stefan Matteau have played well and been noticeable since John Tortorella put them together. They bring much needed energy while showing they can generate some chances. Did you notice this line started the third period on Monday?
While that is great for them, it is a sign of where the rest of the team is. Although they’ve played better of late especially being able to win twice in Raleigh, Tortorella brought out the line blender to start that third period Monday. This far into the season not being able to tell what your top-nine is doesn’t bode well.
Max Domi found himself back at center. Patrik Laine is not getting the scoring chances he’s used to getting while still trying to figure other parts of the game out. Oliver Bjorkstrand finds himself on what seems like a different line every game. To his credit, he’s producing. Now others need to follow that lead.
The question is, what are the Blue Jackets doing to do about this? They have to find consistency and their stars have to lead the way. They can’t have games like Monday when they weren’t able to check like they normally do. No matter what the lines look like, players have to play with pride and leave it all out on the ice. Many players didn’t do that Monday and it cost them.
Where Does It Go From Here?
This is a great question. Tortorella had the money quote on Wednesday when we asked him if he was warming up to the idea of giving Domi another chance at center.
“I don’t know what I’m warmed up to after the last game,” Tortorella said. This says it all about where things stand with the lines.
It clearly indicates that Tortorella himself is still looking for answers. So do not be surprised if you see one set of lines start the game and then see them jumbled again if things aren’t working out.
Can they find someone to play with Laine? With Bjorkstrand? These are outstanding scoring wingers who do not have the benefit of playing with a long-time center. Will Domi get another chance to play center since he’s been better of late?
This is the theme. There are many, many questions but to date this season, there have been few answers. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. If the Blue Jackets play like they did in Raleigh more consistently, these last 23 games become super interesting. If they play like they did Monday then they need to sell. Knowing which team will show up is the ultimate wildcard.
So for now, watch the specific line combinations and if there is any chemistry to be had. As the games get tighter and fewer, Tortorella cannot afford to wait to things to happen. Their season is on the line. That could lead to changes coming more quickly.
The days of looking for silver linings are over for now. The battle is on. No matter who Tortorella puts together, the players must find a way to make it work while developing chemistry and consistency. It starts with the leaders and goes on down the lineup.
Consistency. If the Blue Jackets hope to make these playoffs, they need to find it in a hurry.
- After Thursday, the Blue Jackets play 12 of their next 16 games on the road. Most of those games are against the Florida teams.
- Tortorella admitted he thought his team may have gotten “bored” Monday. When you play the same team several times in a row, that tendency could creep into their game. But as Tortorella said, “we have no right to be bored.” They have to find a way to bring the energy needed without losing interest.
- Stay tuned for news regarding defenseman Mikko Lehtonen soon. Once he arrives, don’t be surprised if he gets into games. With the trade deadline looming, he can easily fill in a spot should someone be traded (David Savard, Michael Del Zotto etc.)
- Daniil Tarasov is coming to North America to join the Monsters. This only further cements one of Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins will be traded as the goalie room will be crowded. Tarasov is considered the future in net for the Blue Jackets and he’s drawn some comparisons to Andrei Vasilevskiy in certain areas. There’s hype. We’ll see where things go.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.