The woes continued for the Blue Jackets in New York last night as they dropped their seventh game in a row, losing a 2-1 decision to the Islanders. The team boasts just a 3-10-0 record in the month of December, and seems to be trending in the wrong direction competitively.
It would be easy to blame last night’s loss on the team’s injury situation, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. The Islanders themselves are missing several key players from their usual roster, including one of the top defenders in the entire league in Adam Pelech.
Also Gone are scorers Kyle Palmeiri and Oliver Wahlstrom. Veteran goaltender Semyon Varlamov, banger Cal Clutterbuck … in fact, when you look at the lineups last night, the Jackets really should have stood a puncher’s chance against these guys. Only they didn’t come out punching.
The Jackets mustered just 14 shots on goal through the first two periods, and I can’t recall a single one of them being of any danger. They were marginally more dangerous in the third, but still only put 7 pucks on Ilya Sorokin, eventually spoiling his shutout with just 21 seconds left in the game. It was too little, too late.
This loss extends a current losing streak to the Islanders to six games – the last time the Jackets defeated them was in overtime, October 21 of last year. To find their last regulation win over the Islanders, you have to go back more than three years to 12/23/19. In fact, they’ve beaten this team just four times in their last 16 matchups, dating back to 2017. Is it possible that this has become their new Nashville Predators in terms of opponents?
Last night’s game surely looked like a road trip to Nashville from circa 2007-or-so. The Jackets had zero energy, little fight, and were sloppy with the puck pretty much all night. They defended way too often, and when they finally turned the puck up ice, were too gassed to generate any offense in the Isles’ zone.
The lone positive last night was goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, who valiantly kept the team in the game with 34 saves (IMO, deserving of a star of the game honor (thanks NY media)). The defense as a whole wasn’t as bad as they’ve been, but there were still way too many quality chances against, which hurts this team’s chances of doing anything positive.
Mixing it up…
The line shuffling continued and it continues to slow this team’s development. Inexplicably, Kent Johnson was replaced on the top line with Jack Roslovic, which makes so little sense that it’s beyond comprehension. Johnson and Johnny Gaudreau have had terrific chemistry all year, while Roslovic has found himself a healthy scratch due to his careless play.
When you look at the two in numbers comparison, it makes this decision even more baffling. Both have played 31 games this year. Roslovic has 5 goals and 18 points while averaging 16:38 per game. Johnson, 8 goals and 16 points, while averaging 13:47 per game … a full 3 minutes less per game, for nearly identical overall production.
Their plus/minus numbers are -5 and -6 … in fact, the only stat which Jack excels at is in the faceoff department, but the team as a whole won just 39% of their faceoffs last night anyway. Wouldn’t it make more sense to at least keep Gaudreau and Johnson together for their offensive instincts, especially when the other winger on that line was newcomer Emil Bemstrom? It seems better to have chemistry with 2/3 of the line, rather than throwing together an entirely new look when the team is well rested.
If you watched the game, this decision was stubborn and baffling to the “eye test” also. Roslovic likes to have the puck on his stick to make moves and gain the middle of the ice. Gaudreau likes to have the puck on his stick to create from the outside and pass into the middle. The two did not work together last night because both of them wanted the puck on their stick at the same time.
While it does make sense to try new things when the team is struggling, keeping this trio together for the full game last night is head scratching. There was no offense with this team, and through 40 minutes they should have done something, anything, to try to get some kind of offensive zone time.
When Liam Foudy and Carson Meyer were your most dangerous forwards, you know the team is having an off night. No offense to either of those guys, but they have combined for just one career NHL goal. We can’t have them leading our attack on any given night.
Almost comically, this fourth line, with Cole Sillinger as their center – which was actually the team’s best line statistically – played just 9 minutes together at 5-on-5. As we can say far too often this year: this loss seems like it’s on the coaching staff.
The Jackets are back at it tomorrow at 1:00, hosting the Chicago Blackhawks in what will be a battle for the worst record in the NHL. They can lose this game and will still be 31st overall, but would have the same number of points as the Hawks, just with one more win. In the end, we may look back at this as an extremely meaningful game. One of these teams may very well land Connor Bedard.