The Columbus Blue Jackets started hot after the All-Star break, winning seven of nine to kick off the second-half campaign. However, the team seems to have hit a skid since being shut out by Carolina on February 25, a disappointing 4-0 loss.
Since the loss to the Hurricanes, the Blue Jackets have only won one out of their last four, and the win came against a less-than-stellar New Jersey team. Columbus scored four goals in that game, but the defense gave up three to a struggling Devils offense.
The three losses since February 25 have come at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, and Boston Bruins. Again, all above-average teams, but Columbus lost those games by a combined three goals.
The game against Pittsburgh caused some controversy, as Sydney Crosby scored with less than three minutes remaining to secure the 3-2 win for the Penguins. Many Columbus fans believed Crosby should have been called for goaltender interference, as did Head Coach Brad Larsen, who challenged the goal. Larsen’s challenge was not successful, prompting the league to release a statement with an explanation for the good goal. This explanation differed from the one given by the on-ice referees, which resulted in unhappy CBJ fans.
The second loss came to the Los Angeles Kings at home on March 4, a 4-3 loss in overtime. As mentioned in a previous article from our friends at Puck Prose, Columbus faced a difficult test against the Kings, not only because of their speed but also because the Blue Jackets struggled against West Coast teams. That struggle proved to still be a concern, as the Kings’ Victor Arvidsson completed a hat trick – scoring the game-winning goal with only a minute remaining in overtime.
And finally, the third loss came only two days ago, Saturday the 5th, a 5-4 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins. This game wasn’t an average Eastern Conference matchup – it was the night of Rick Nash’s iconic #61 being retired. The game also marked the first time former Columbus Captain Nick Foligno returned to Nationwide Arena, his home for almost a decade. Foligno took the opening face-off against current CBJ Captain Boone Jenner, with Rick Nash dropping the ceremonial puck. The Blue Jackets scored the game-tying goal with only three seconds remaining in regulation, as Jakub Voracek launched a slap shot towards the net from open ice. David Pastrnak of the Bruins then scored the game-winning goal in a shootout.
The Blue Jackets clearly can play at a high level and compete with high-powered teams, but the ability to close out games has been a struggle as of late. Both Jake Bean and Joonas Korpisalo are returning for Columbus this evening as they take on Toronto, the depth will heavily benefit Columbus, whose bench has been depleted due to injuries lately.
The Columbus Blue Jackets face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Nationwide Arena. Puck drop is at 7 PM.