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) Overtime Success
Three-on-three hockey is not something the Columbus Blue Jackets routinely practice. However, in the first five games of the season, they have won two games in extra time.
Each time, the Blue Jackets arrived at overtime in a different way: the first being a game they should have won in regulation against the Carolina Hurricanes; and the second was a tough battle where they overcame two different two-goal deficits against the Minnesota Wild. Still, they were able to close out the opposition on the road and collect two points twice.
The extra ice afforded by the 3-on-3 format has been great for the Blue Jackets forwards who earned the trust of head coach John Tortorella to play in overtime. Rookie Sonny Milano’s speed and stickhandling were rewarded in Carolina despite that he was gassed at the end of his shift. Alexander Wennberg, though he scored on a strange sequence of events, scored nonetheless after applying pressure in the offensive zone. The open ice has allowed the Jackets to be more creative and highlight their individual skills.
Saturday’s overtime win over the Wild moved the Blue Jackets to a 4-1-0 record, which would have been a much different 2-1-2 if they had dropped the Wild game and their overtime win against the Hurricanes.
#CBJ with eight out of 10 points (4-1-0) in the 1st five games of a campaign for 2nd time in club history (2009-10).
— CBJ Public Relations (@BlueJacketsPR) October 15, 2017
Though the Blue Jackets do not want to give up extra points, especially in key divisional games, overtime and shootout wins could make or break them when it comes to a playoff spot at the end of the season.
2) Power Outage
The Blue Jackets were expected to have one of the most lethal power-play units in the league this season with Artemi Panarin added into the fold.
Despite their quick success in the first game of the season against the New York Islanders, the Blue Jackets’ power play has not clicked since. They are now an abysmal 0-for-11 in their last four games, which is not ideal for a team that scored 42 power play goals last season.
Special teams success plays a critical role through the course of a full season. So far, it looks like teams are able to easily read the Blue Jackets’ power play plan. The four-forwards-and-one-defenseman strategy is well-known at this point, as other teams begin to test the theory themselves. Opponents are prepared for Panarin’s one-timer and have had no trouble stopping the Blue Jackets’ zone entries.
The Jackets only had one shot on goal total through three power plays on Saturday night against the Wild. They need to get more shots on the goaltender to wear him down and finally break through on the man advantage.
Forward Cam Atkinson said that the team needs to settle down and stick to simple plays on the power play. “We need to shoot more; that’s when we break down the [other team’s] penalty kill,” Atkinson said on the Fox Sports Ohio post-game broadcast. “We need to keep it simple. We are overdoing it right now.”
3) Second Period Strength
The middle frame has been the Blue Jackets’ strongest statistically through the early part of the season. Six of the 17 goals they have scored have been in the second period. They have also had 64 shots on goal in the second stanza of their first five games—nearly 13 shots on goal per game.
Saturday night against the Wild, the Blue Jackets could have fallen flat and the game could have been out of reach by the midway point. Instead, they stuck with it and found a way to get the win and the all-important two points. While it is important to start and finish games strong, the second period often makes or breaks final game results. It will be critical for the Blue Jackets to not let their play dip or settle in too much in the middle minutes.