This season, The Hockey Writers will have a recurring “Three Takeaways” feature after every Columbus Blue Jackets matchup, meant to serve as postgame quick hits.
1) Lopsided Blue Jackets Losses
A rare occurrence this season: the Columbus Blue Jackets on the wrong side of lopsided losses. Even rarer? Forfeiting seven goals. The last time the Blue Jackets lost by more than three goals once all season (and three times by three goals) and that came against the Chicago Blackhawks in the team’s second night of the season.
The Blue Jackets will be the first to admit they have not been consistent this season, though they currently sit atop the Metropolitan Division standings. However, one thing that has been fairly consistent is not losing by a significant margin. That changed, though, when the Blue Jackets lost by a 7-2 margin to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.
“We haven’t been beat like that all year,” Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said, shaking his head. “And, we didn’t do too much to generate anything.”
Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert added, “to tell you the truth, the bench was dead all night.”
Not a good look for one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference to take a night off against one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League at the start of this season.
However, Foligno said it is not complacency, where teams like the Washington Capitals or Pittsburgh Penguins do not turn things on until March down the stretch.
“We’re not allowed to think like that with a coach like [John Tortorella],” Foligno said. “I don’t think it’s something in our mindset, thinking we’ve arrived or we’re sitting pretty. Look at the standings, we could be out of the playoffs in a week. I don’t think anyone is comfortable. [Losses like this] happen, but they better not happen very frequently.”
2) Forwards Continue Falling Short
Once again, the Blue Jackets forward corps has fallen behind expectations, only posting two goals against the Oilers on Tuesday. That group includes struggling forwards Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg.
Foligno provided insight on the matter after Tuesday’s lopsided loss.
“We’ve been through some things, but never this long,” Foligno said. “We’ve found ways to win with other lines doing some dirty work. I’m not going to just – pardon my language – s— on everybody because there have been some times where we have played well and we have had to play a team game in order to win. Guys offensively, they haven’t done things, but defensively they’ve really checked well and done things right.
“But offensively, the guys who are paid to do it and are expected to do it, need to find a way to do it,” Foligno said. “That’s part of your job and why you’re given the opportunities and relied upon in those situations. That’s the part that needs to get going.”
Foligno added that there is a sense of urgency at this point.
“We really need to get going,” Foligno said. “Let’s be honest, we aren’t going to be a good team with one line for very long. We have to find a way to generate and take it upon ourselves to stop talking about it and do it. Hopefully we can get some guys going after a really disappointing showing.”
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3) Oliver Bjorkstrand Trending Up
One of the bright spots after Tuesday was forward Oliver Bjorkstrand’s two-point night, which ties him for second place in the Blue Jackets’ scoring with Josh Anderson, who also has 18 points. Bjorkstrand’s six goals and 12 assists have helped put teams away in the past, and his teammates have taken notice.
Calvert is one of those guys, and plays alongside the winger often.
“I’ve played with him quite a bit this year and he’s a finisher,” Calvert said. “I think one thing he’s learning this year is showing up every night. Looking at his whole season, he’s creating a lot of chances when he’s out there. He needs to keep doing that for us, because he’s going to be a big part of it going down the stretch.”
Foligno also agreed that Bjorkstrand has grown as a player through the past year, but the team still expects more from him moving forward.
“He’s a dangerous player offensively,” Foligno said. “When he plays hard and commits to the defensive side, he gets himself into good scoring areas and has a lethal weapon in his shot to use. We need him to consistently be good on the other side of the puck and then he’ll get his opportunities offensively.”
With other forwards falling short of expectation, Bjorkstrand’s emergence has been a positive consistency for the inconsistent Blue Jackets.