3 Takeaways from the Blue Jackets’ 6-2 Loss to the Flames

The Columbus Blue Jackets were on a high heading into their match against the Calgary Flames on Feb. 15, riding a three-game win streak (on the road, to boot) and having just peeked above a .500 winning percentage for the first time in months. However, the Flames were on a bit of a high of their own. A six-game winning streak led them to fire the starting pistol on this year’s trade deadline and acquire Tyler Toffoli from the Montreal Canadiens. They were also ready to make a mark.

These teams had only played each other once this season, with the Flames thumping the Blue Jackets 6-0. This latest affair started poorly for the Jackets, got a little better, then fell down a few flights of stairs. A final score of 6-2 looks bad, and this one definitely wasn’t a good one for Columbus.

Patrik Laine Columbus Blue Jackets
Patrik Laine extended his point streak to seven games in this tough loss.
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Maybe the only blessing is that Blue Jackets stallion Patrik Laine, who has been red hot as of late, extended his scoring streak to seven games, adding a primary assist on the team’s first goal. It’s time for a post-mortem, with some takeaways from this one, and don’t worry, it’s not all bad. Just most of it isn’t great.

Little Mistakes Cost Blue Jackets

An own goal. An errant pass. A lax defensive effort. A shorthanded goal. Those are all things that led to the six goals against Columbus in this contest and will continue to keep them out of games against teams in the Flames’ weight class.

“They’re a powerhouse team […] We can’t have anybody not onboard in that game. Not one to stay with them for 60 [minutes],” head coach Brad Larsen told the media after the game. “They’re rolling pretty good, so your margin for error is very small.”

Larsen seemed particularly perturbed by the “turnover” – assumed to be Jack Roslovic’s turnover to the tic-tac-toe goal by the Flames’ first line. He brought it up several times, and the play was one of the team’s more glaring mistakes on the night. Even more glaring than Andrew Peeke’s own goal, which Larsen said was laughed off and dismissed as bad puck luck. That turnover might be the punch in Roslovic’s ticket out of Ohio.

Related: Blue Jackets’ Recent Efforts Simply Not Good Enough

The goals against the Blue Jackets were mainly self-inflicted, other than Tyler Toffoli’s first as a Flame, which will be in the highlight reels for a while. The rest of the goals were caused by pouncing on Blue Jacket mistakes and making them pay. Against many teams, those mistakes won’t make or break a game, but if Columbus wants to become a true Stanley Cup contender, they will need to eliminate those from their game.

Adam Boqvist is as Advertised

When the Blue Jackets traded for Adam Boqvist, he was advertised as an offensive virtuoso, but one who will leave you wanting more in the defensive end. This game showcased his ability at both ends. Boqvist scored his ninth of the season – which is good enough for fifth among NHL rearguards.

Adam Boqvist Columbus Blue Jackets
Adam Boqvist, Columbus Blue Jackets (Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images)

He has now more than doubled his career-high in goals, which was four through 41 games in his rookie campaign.

“My game, I think, is getting a little bit better overall,” Boqvist told the media after the loss. “I know I can score goals, but it hasn’t really clicked earlier. I scored a few goals in London, in the [Ontario Hockey League]. It’s always nice to score goals and get the team on the board, so I’m going to try to put the puck in the net whenever I can.”

Boqvist is similar to Alexei Kovalev. His posture is always relaxed, and he never looks like he’s working hard out there, but when Boqvist gets the puck, he’s explosive. A quick first pass, a silky smooth deke around a fore-checker, a shot on goal: he’s dangerous. But then there’s the other side, which we saw on Adam Ruzicka’s goal. Boqvist makes a sloppy attempt at a poke check – and after missing – he stopped skating on the back-check and watched Ruzicka make the game 5-1.

Yes, both sides of Boqvist were shown in this one, but it’s also important to remember is that the Swede is only 21 years old. Being a little irresponsible in the defensive zone at 21? Kind of expected. Being top-five in defensive goal scoring at 21? Not so much. The future is bright, but he’s just got a little ripening to do.

Blue Jackets Have Some Maturing to Do

The team’s problems are like a piece of unripened fruit. Things may taste a little bitter now, but only time will make it sweeter. They’ve got some maturing to do. We touched on Boqvist a little, but let’s look at some other symptoms of this problem.

This team rebounds quickly or not at all. All of their goals came directly in response to a Flames goal. Boqvist’s to make the game 2-1 was 1:20 after the Elias Lindholm goal. Defenseman Zach Werenski’s goal was 1:29 after Ruzicka’s 5-1 goal. And after each of those goals, they seemed to shut right down again. Instead of building on the momentum from a goal scored, they reverted back to square one.

Zach Werenski Columbus Blue Jackets
Zach Werenski scored for the Columbus Blue Jackets in Tuesday’s loss.
(Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Once a game really gets away from them, it’s gone. This team has been plagued with consistency and intensity issues. That’s why 14 of their 23 wins on the season have been come-from-behind.

“It’s a really good hockey team,” Werenski told the media. “I thought for the first half of the game we were right there with them and then kind of lost ourselves a little bit. We know we can play with them. We know we can play with the best teams in the league – it’s just doing it for a full 60.”

Either they don’t start strong and finish with gusto, or they start strong and finish like the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs, or their intensity shifts like the EKG of a patient with major heart arrhythmia. You never know what Blue Jackets team you’re going to get on a night-to-night basis, and while that is one of the reasons to turn on the game, it can also be one of the reasons to turn it off.

The best team’s in the world are skilled and can play well for 60 minutes, 82 games a season. Mostly that consistency comes with age, experience, and good leadership. The skill is there, now they’ve just got to grow into that consistency piece.

Moving Forward

After a loss of this magnitude, there are many takeaways, but something important to remember is that ‘one game does not a season make.’ Following this one, the Flames are 11-1-2 in their first 14 games against teams in the Metropolitan division. They’re now on a seven-game winning streak at the top of the Pacific Division. This is a tough team to play against and an even tougher one to beat.

“We hung around. We were managing the game as best as we could and then a turnover that we can’t have against their top line and then our power play, you know you get a chance to bring it to 3-2 – hopefully – and then we give one up,” said Larsen. “That really took the wind out of our sails going into the third, and that was it.”

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