There’s an expectation to be a great team, and tonight, we only did that for two periods…That’s not who we are.
Team Captain Nick Foligno had that to say, after the Columbus Blue Jackets lost 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night. The Jackets trailed 3-0 less than 22 minutes into the game.
The Penguins came into Nationwide Arena losing seven of their previous 11 games and were down a couple defensemen for a good chunk of the game. However, it was Pittsburgh who took advantage, putting more of their scoring chances into the back of the net past Sergei Bobrovsky.
Foligno talked about the Penguins afterwards, saying:
This is a quick-strike team, they don’t need many chances to score.
Trailing 3-2 in the third period, Foligno failed to score when a shot hit the post, Riley Nash (barely) wasn’t able to put the puck into a wide-open net with the puck being poked away from his stick, and, last but certainly not least, the Jackets were inexplicably unable to score with a 3-on-0 opportunity in front of Matt Murray (with an errant pass of the stick of Cam Atkinson).
The Pittsburgh Penguins have thoroughly dominated the Blue Jackets in recent history, and last night was an unfriendly reminder.
While the beginning and end of the game was rough for the CBJ home crowd to watch, it was evident that Columbus was the better team for a good 30-minute portion of the action in the middle.
After going down 3-0, newcomer Ryan Dzingel got his first assist as a member of the Jackets on goal scored by Oliver Bjorkstrand. It’s quite likely that Bjorkstrand’s production will go up after the recent trade deadline, as he played with both Pierre-Luc Dubois and Matt Duchene at center on his line during the game.
Speaking of Duchene, Torts put Duchene with Dzingel and Bjorkstrand for a while after the top line wasn’t forechecking enough while they were on the ice. Nothing is eminent, but it wouldn’t be a total shock if PLD went back to the top line and Duchene stuck with Bjorkstrand and Dzingel. Both Dzingel and Duchene played together a lot while they were teammates in Ottawa. One could also argue that the change could help spark the play of Artemi Panarin, who had a rating of minus- 3 with over 21 minutes of ice time in the loss.
Torts understands that his team needs to find it’s identity and play the right way for them to take the next step:
It’s not like we’re gonna be able to skill our way into the playoffs.
While the final score from last night and seeing Columbus is now on the outside looking in is plenty of reason to put Jackets fans in a somber mood, there has been one area of consistency that should excite the fanbase since Duchene was acquired.
In the past three games the Blue Jackets have been perfect on the penalty kill and have scored power-play goals in two of the three aforementioned games. As a matter of fact, Atkinson has all three special-teams goals for the club in that time. He had a shorthanded goal against Ottawa on Friday night and a power-play goal in both the matchup against San Jose and Pittsburgh. Special teams, once considered a major detriment to the club earlier this season, appears (at the moment) to now be a strength.
Columbus also dominated in the hits department last night, with 24 compared to only 11 for the Pens. Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky led the way with four hits apiece.
The CBJ will face the Penguins twice next week, but they need to focus on the next game for now. The Philadelphia Flyers will make their way to Nationwide Arena for a matchup on Thursday night.