The Blue Jackets play host to the Nashville Predators tonight, looking to build off of their first win of the season. There’s just one problem: the Blue Jackets hold a 30-66-1 record all-time against Nashville. The Preds always seem to give the Blue Jackets fits, will that change anytime soon?
The teams played in the same division for many years, and I can honestly say I don’t remember a single signature win over Nashville. They always seem to have the our number, and the games usually aren’t even close.
For many years, it was the likes of David Legwand, Scott Walker, Martin Erat and Kimmo Timonen. Then came the Shea Weber and Ryan Suter years. Now it’s the Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg show. They’ve always had great goaltending; be it Tomas Vokoun, Pekka Rinne, or whoever else they found in the depths of the draft. Now it’s Juuse Saros patrolling the crease. They have an identity in Nashville, and it’s built around great goaltending and defense – and some sneaky scorers. It’s always been that way.
Barry Trotz, one of the best coaches in hockey, honed his craft there for years – and likely has a lot to do with this team’s established identity. They haven’t always been great, but they’re consistently good and have always been able to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot.
This team is so consistently good, that since drafting Ryan Suter 7th overall in 2003, they’ve had just two picks inside the top-10 of the NHL draft: Colin Wilson (#7 overall) in 2008, and Seth Jones (#4 overall) in 2013. Their most recent high pick was in 2020, where they took goaltender Yaroslav Askarov 11th overall. A team with a history of finding quality European goaltenders taking a super prospect in the first round? Seems fitting.
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We all know well and fine about the Blue Jackets’ struggles to ice solid teams over the years. They have long struggled to find scoring talent, and when they have, these players rarely stick around. The Predators quietly retain really good players, while the Blue Jackets simply have not.
If you look at it from this perspective, it’s pretty evident why this series is so lopsided. Inconsistent teams who struggle to score, against stingy defensive teams who find offense throughout their lineup … it all adds up to one of the worst head to head records the Blue Jackets have. You might say Nashville is our kryptonite, though I think this team is exactly what we should aspire to be.
They draft and develop extremely well. They make a few impactful free agent signings or trades here and there. They haven’t had a run of success quite like the Tampa Bay Lightning have in recent years, but they’re always there. They always fly under the radar, surprise a lot of people, and have even had some long playoff runs. That’s how you build and maintain a team in a smaller market.
We hope the tides are turning as the roster in Columbus improves. But as far as the game tonight goes, it’s a tough task. Nashville is rolling out plenty of familiar faces, led by Saros, Josi, Forsberg – and former Jackets Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. They have a big, skilled team that can skate and score goals in bunches.
The Blue Jackets will have to hold onto whatever magic they had in the final 45 minutes Tuesday night if they’re going to win a second game in a row. If history is any indicator, this one could let us down.