The Columbus Blue Jackets entered Thursday hoping to find their offense. By the time the dust settled on a 2-1 overtime win for the Carolina Hurricanes, the Blue Jackets were still looking for answers.
A Decent Start
In a game where both teams struggled to take control for long stretches, the Blue Jackets drew first blood in the second period thanks to a perfect shot by Jack Johnson. He took a Scott Hartnell pass and picked the top corner on Cam Ward to give Columbus a 1-0 lead. It was a start. Maybe the Blue Jackets could take the momentum and deliver the knock out punch to both the Hurricanes and their point streak.
That knock out punch never came. It cost the Blue Jackets the game.
With the score 1-0 with under five minutes left in regulation, noted Blue Jacket killer Jeff Skinner centered the puck toward the net. The puck deflected off Seth Jones’ skate and beat Joonas Korpisalo to tie the game.
The Blue Jackets had opportunities to get a second and a third goal, only to have Ward keep the game 1-0. All it took was one unlucky bounce to lose the lead. It happened.
Still, the Blue Jackets got to overtime at least securing one point. This wasn’t their best effort, but they found a way to get a point. Now it was time to get that second point to keep pace with the Washington Capitals. Noah Hanifin made sure Columbus got just the one point.
Hanifin blasted a rebound from the high slot past Korpisalo to extend the Hurricanes’ point streak to 13 games. Give Carolina credit. They limited the Blue Jackets’ chances most of the game. Ward made key saves at key times. The Hurricanes kept pressing and got rewarded for it. Had the Blue Jackets had their offense of the early season, they’re not in the position where one unlucky goal costs them.
So now what?
Both coach John Tortorella and captain Nick Foligno expressed the same thing. Tortorella said that his top guys need to produce more and play better. Foligno said the onus is on him (and Wennberg and Saad) to do more than they have of late. “We have to find our offense.”, Foligno said.
"We played pretty well…just a lucky bounce. The games now are so tight…those are the differences." #CBJ pic.twitter.com/9Db0h3YsfU
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) March 31, 2017
The objective is clear. Now how do they carry out such a task? Tortorella had one simple answer to that on Thursday night.
“We have to keep our head down and keep working at it.”, Tortorella said.
So that’s what the Blue Jackets will do Friday night in Chicago and for the rest of the season after that. They’ll play their way through this, hoping to find permanent solutions to spark their ice-cold offense. They need to find something soon. Otherwise, a promising season could end way sooner than anyone would like.
If there is good news in all of this, it’s that the Blue Jackets can reverse this before the playoffs start. They must use these final six games to find their game. As it stands now, they trail the Capitals by four points for the President’s trophy and first overall. They do lead the Penguins by three points and have a stranglehold on the ROW tiebreaker.
Focus on Consistency, Not the President’s Trophy
It’s time the focus shifts away from the President’s trophy. Who cares about a President’s trophy if the team can’t consistently score? The Blue Jackets have more important things to worry about than finishing with the best record.
If they can make the most of these last six games offensively, that will give them a much-needed confidence boost. Getting their power play going will also give the team a much-needed boost. The Blue Jackets are just an abysmal 11 for their last 100 on the man advantage in their last 42 games.
Will the Blue Jackets find the offensive answers they’re looking for? That’s up to the top guys to decide. They must answer the call. Their season depends on it.