Two games into their new season, the Columbus Blue Jackets appear to have a bit of an identity crisis.
After going through a scoreless first period Saturday night in Pittsburgh, the Blue Jackets allowed the Penguins to score five goals in the second period on route to a 7-2 win. This now is 12 consecutive losses at PPG Paints Arena for the Blue Jackets (0-9-3).
A Quick Recap
The night didn’t start out horribly though. That’s what makes this game perplexing on several levels.
Rookie Elvis Merzlikins made his long anticipated NHL debut. He got through the first period and looked ok. He confidently played the puck when given the chance. He made the saves he needed to. John Tortorella said as much during the postgame. It was a good start.
Then day turned into night in a hurry for him and the Blue Jackets.
Less than two minutes into the second, Patrik Hornqvist deflected a Jack Johnson shot to make it 1-0 Penguins. Ok no big deal, right?
Then defenseman Marcus Pettersson beat Merzlikins to make it 2-0. The puck did hit the netminder’s glove. That’s one he’d like to have back.
The Blue Jackets did respond with Zach Werenski’s first goal of the season. But exactly two minutes later, Jared McCann restored the two goal lead.
It all went downhill from there with no recovery.
The rest of the night from a Blue Jackets’ standpoint was a complete train wreck. There were penalties. There were odd-man rushes. All the things that happened were very uncharacteristic of the Blue Jackets and their identity.
If there’s one thing we can take away from this game, it’s that the Blue Jackets need to channel their inner Mufasa. If you’ve seen the Lion King (and who hasn’t?) you know exactly what I’m talking about.
But in case you lived under a rock and somehow haven’t seen this Disney classic, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.
Simba ran away after his father Mufasa was killed by Scar. Simba of course didn’t realize that Scar did the act. He thought calling the herd was the thing that killed him. While yes that was part of the reason, Scar pushed Mufasa off the cliff and into the herd.
You crying yet?
Anyways, Simba ran away out of fear. Ultimately, he had a choice to make. While living with Timon and Pumbaa, Nala found him. The pride land was in trouble. Does he stay in his surrounding or does he go home?
Then there was the iconic scene where Rafiki showed Simba his father Mufasa was still alive. “Look harder.”
“Remember who you are.” That is the classic line Mufasa told Simba before he went back and restored his place as king.
If there’s one thing the Columbus Blue Jackets need to do right now, they need to remember who they are. Through two games in 2019-20, it seems they have forgotten.
Zach Werenski admitted the team got away from what they like to do Saturday night.
“The first period there, there wasn’t too many chances,” Werenski said. “I think we were playing pretty good for the most part. Then they got two goals. We tried playing catch up. I think we opened ourselves up. That’s the kind of game THEY like to play. They capitalized on their chances. And it got ugly pretty quick there.”
“I think we were trying to be too offensive. We weren’t playing team defense. We weren’t staying above the puck. All the things WE talk about, we kind of shied away from. It was an unfortunate game for that.”
In a nutshell, Werenski confirmed the team got away from what they do and what makes them successful. Captain Nick Foligno added his thoughts to the situation as well.
“We’re doing so many good things throughout the game that are negated by some poor decisions because we don’t want to do the necessary thing at that moment. Sometimes it’s not the prettiest thing. Its not the easiest thing. But it’s the right thing to do. We’re not doing it consistently enough. We cannot get caught up in the track meet they want to get into.”
Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, they did get caught up in the momentum swings of the game and they fell right into the hands of the Penguins. On this night, the Blue Jackets forgot who they were and it cost them. Now they have to face questions heading into Monday’s game at home against red-hot Buffalo. Can the Blue Jackets rediscover who they are and right this ship before it gets out of hand?
We know how the Lion King story ends? Once Simba realized who he was, he won. The Blue Jackets need to channel their inner Mufasa and rediscover who they are. When they play their style and stick with it, they’re successful. When they don’t, they lose their first two games by a combined 11-3 score.
The onus is on each player in that locker room to remember who they are. Seth Jones needs to remember he’s a top defenseman. Same with Ryan Murray. Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois need to remember they’re really good players. The same can be said for every Blue Jacket.
“We’re a (expletive) good team,” Dubois said postgame. “But it’s just a matter of believing in it, you know?”
That will be put to the test right away. They know they can be good. But can they put these first two behind them and start on the winning path? The answer to this depends on getting back to basics.
Remember who you are Blue Jackets. This is about you and nobody else.
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.