The Columbus Blue Jackets (7-6-0) and Anaheim Ducks (5-6-3) will face off tonight in the final game of the Jackets’ three-game west coast trip. The Ducks come into this one struggling, losers of seven straight games. It’s the CBJ, however, that are the big unknown here. Puck drop is scheduled for shortly after 9:00 PM ET.
The Blue Jackets have proved one thing so far this year: they’re consistently inconsistent. Through 13 games, their longest winning streak is two, their longest losing streak is two, and they’ve alternated wins and losses in each of their last four contests.
As the team set off for their three-game road trip to California, they were coming off an uninspiring 5-3 loss at home to the Detroit Red Wings. They followed that up with arguably their best performance of the season in San Jose. Everyone was saying the right thing after the game: it’s just one game, it’s an encouraging performance, this is how we need to play, we need to do this consistently, and so on.
And then Saturday happened.
Everything the team did well on Thursday in San Jose went out the window. The Jackets lost 4-1 to the now 4-8-1 Los Angeles Kings in a game that drives fans, coaches, and players mad. After 30 blocked shots Thursday, the CBJ had eight on Saturday. After a solid special teams performance on Thursday, the Jackets allowed only one of the four goals allowed at even strength on Saturday. And the list goes on.
So here’s what we know: the CBJ power play is bad (29th in PP%), they can still score goals when play the right way (top ten in scoring), they can play solid defensively when they want to (see Thursday’s game), and the goaltending is only as good as the players in front of them.
Through all of the ups and downs, however, the Jackets still sit at third place in the Metropolitan Division. It’s early, everyone is going through some early-season struggles. Good teams will turn the ship around and bad ones will sink to the bottom. It remains to be seen which direction this team will go, but considering the recent direction of the club under John Tortorella, fans have good reason to be optimistic they’ll get it together.
That power play, though.
CBJ fans are no stranger to bad power plays, but the performance of the team on the man advantage last night was downright shocking. Not only did they go scoreless in five opportunities, but they allowed two shorthanded goals in under a minute in one of those chances. Lack of success has been a disturbing trend for more than a year now, so something has to change. There are coaches and players making more money than most of us will ever get close to that are currently failing to make it work.
Typical game previews on this site focus on both teams ahead of CBJ matchups. This isn’t a typical pregame. It doesn’t matter who lines up across the ice. The Jackets can not only beat anybody, but they’ve proven they can lose to anybody. Fans never know which team will show up. More and more it’s looking like it’s not a lack of talent in the CBJ dressing room, it’s what’s going on between the ears of the 23 guys in that room. Tonight’s game could be a hard-fought 3-2 victory, it could be a 5-1 blowout win, or it could be a 4-0 shutout loss. We have no idea. Only way to find out is to tune in and wait and see.