Blue Jackets’ Offense Fails Them in Pittsburgh

The Columbus Blue Jackets proved an age-old adage in the game of hockey on Thursday night. You don’t win games when you score zero goals.

Despite a better effort in many areas of the game, the Blue Jackets failed to beat Matt Murray on any of their 25 shots and lost a 3-0 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Who would have thought a team with good offensive talent like the Blue Jackets would lose their offense at the most critical time, even after adding two 20-goal scorers to the mix?

It’s really insane, at least Matt Duchene admitted as much after the game.

“We can’t score. I mean that’s it, that’s it. That’s all that’s missing. It’s absolutely insane.”

That basically summed up the Blue Jackets’ night. While they had some chances to score, they didn’t have enough quality chances. And when there were opportunities to shoot, there wasn’t enough shots fired at Murray. After the first period, the Penguins locked it down and held the Blue Jackets to just 15 shots in the final 40 minutes. That’s not nearly enough especially in a game of this magnitude.

Blue Jackets center Matt Duchene
Matt Duchene says it’s really insane that the Blue Jackets can’t score right now. (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Trying to Draw Positives

The Blue Jackets did improve from the New Jersey game. They were in the game for the most part. The 2-0 goal hurt. If they can get to the room down just 1-0, who knows what happens? But this isn’t about ifs.

On the good side, Joonas Korpisalo kept them in the game. He made several keys saves including on Evgeni Malkin after he and Sidney Crosby got a break. Nope, goaltending on this night was not the issue.

The overall effort was better, but does put into perspective how bad Tuesday night was. The Blue Jackets played as though the Penguins weren’t in their head. It never felt like they were completely out of it like they were in previous meetings.

Their penalty kill shined, especially in the third period. With Nick Foligno in the box, Boone Jenner high-sticked Crosby. He got a double minor out of it. The Blue Jackets killed both penalties and got some momentum from it. But again, no goals scored will ruin any moral victories.

John Tortorella summed it up postgame. He acknowledged they had some good moments in the game, but they’re in need of something good to happen. Whether it’s a goal or some other momentum changing play, the Blue Jackets need something to break right.

YouTube player

Where Do They Go From Here?

The Blue Jackets do get another crack at the Penguins Saturday night at Nationwide Arena. At this point, their main focus is to find ways to utilize their offense. How do they do that when they haven’t had anything to hang their hat on?

First, they need to get more pucks on net. Tortorella said the Penguins blocked 24 shots on the night. That’s partially the Penguins locking it down and partially the Blue Jackets not getting the best looks. They have to find a way to not only shoot more, but to get more pucks through.

Tortorella took Zach Werenski off the first power play unit and cited his lack of shooting the puck as the reason. It was Seth Jones who took the point on that third period power play.

When Jones and Werenski are clicking, so is the offense. But both haven’t been themselves. The Blue Jackets have been an easier team to defend as a result. So they have to find their games as quickly as possible. They are critical to the overall success of the team.

Seth Jones Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets have to get both Seth Jones and Zach Werenski going down the stretch. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Lastly they can’t panic. The Blue Jackets still have 15 games left in the regular season and are still within range. One loss doesn’t eliminate them from the playoffs, but inconsistent offense will expedite that process. They must stick with it and remain patient even with time running out.

This kind of game can breed some confidence. But it’s what they do with it moving forward. The Blue Jackets can split with the Penguins with a win on Saturday. They’re more than capable of doing it. They just have to find their missing offense, somehow, some way. In their last seven periods and a five-minute overtime, they have just one goal scored. It came in the first minute on Tuesday. That won’t cut it.

So onward we go. The Blue Jackets return home in desperate need of a win. If they hope to get that win, your best players have to lead the way. Artemi Panarin. Cam Atkinson. Pierre-Luc Dubois. The list goes on and on. The time is now for them to rise up and rescue this before a real disaster strikes. It’s time for them to payoff the trust Jarmo Kekalainen gave at the deadline. Their playoff lives depend on it.