The Columbus Blue Jackets completed their six-game homestand last night with a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
The Jackets were barely able to hold off the Devils last night, as they were constantly firing shots at Sergei Bobrovsky in the final two minutes of action to no avail.
While Columbus has noticeably stepped up their game defensively–giving up no more than one goal in regulation in four consecutive games–their offense seems to be unable to finish on a consistent basis.
The Jackets went 0-4 last night on the man advantage in a game where they surely could’ve used some breathing room against a Devils club who looked opportunistic in the neutral zone.
To make matters worse, Markus Hannikainen and Zach Werenski each hit a post and Cam Atkinson had a shot go off the crossbar.
While the situation and the result were completely different, it brought back memories of when the Jackets hit numerous posts in a Game 3 loss at Nationwide Arena to the Washington Capitals in double overtime in the first round of the playoffs last April.
The organization is going to have to make a decision of whether to roll the dice with Panarin and Bobrovsky this year, or, trade one (or both) for assets in the future.
If Columbus can continue to play well defensively like they have lately, plus finish on scoring opportunities on a more consistent basis, then it’ll be more difficult for the club to trade away their Russian stars. This would essentially set up a situation of going all in for the cup.
That is, if the team can show they’re capable of doing so.
Head Coach John Tortorella changed up his lines a little bit to start the game and it worked out. Columbus struck first when Pierre-Luc Dubois made a phenomenal dish to Nick Foligno, who tapped the puck past Mackenzie Blackwood at the 4:17 mark of the first period. It’s worth noting that Seth Jones also was credited with an assist on the goal.
It looked like the home team was about to pull away with this one, when when Cam Atkinson scored his 20th goal of the season on a penalty shot 75 seconds into the second period.
That wasn’t the case
The defense allowed the Devils to get a breakaway at the 10:39 mark of the 2nd period and Taylor Hall left no doubt, scoring his ninth goal of the season.
The days of simply being satisfied with a playoff berth are numbered for Columbus, who has yet to win a playoff series in their franchise’s history. While the Jackets finished off their homestand on a high note, they’ll need to play their best hockey ever for this season to be considered a success.
Columbus will head east this weekend, with a matinee game in Philadelphia against the Flyers coming up next on Saturday.