The Blue Jackets kicked off a busy week of hockey on Monday night at Nationwide, facing off against the New York Rangers. Unfortunately, the team came out flat and put up just 12 shots on goal through the first 40 minutes, eventually losing the game 3-1.
It was an odd game, to say the least. The Rangers were flying high, coming off of a 2-1 loss the night before against the Montreal Canadiens. But the Blue Jackets felt like they were in it early, with some good offensive zone time and a couple of really good looks on the power-play.
But as would be the case all night, their shots were just off target. They were missing chances high, wide, and on occasion just weren’t getting shots off. It’s not a formula for success. The Rangers would finally pounce in a 4 on 4 situation, with Mike Zibanejad scoring at the 12:39 mark of the first period:
As you can see, there is plenty of space for Zibanejad as he gets the puck in the neutral zone. Tim Berni is in pretty good position there, and he moves to close the gap, but his stick just misses the puck and Zibanejad is able to drag and snipe one past Elvis.
The odd thing for me here is, Tim Berni played just one more 2 second shift in the first period after this goal. It’s hard to fathom why he was benched, and if it’s because of this play I think someone has some questions to answer.
If we go back and watch it again, pay attention to every other Blue Jackets player on the ice here. Gustav Nyquist puts in a lazy forecheck, that directs Kaapo Kakko up the ice with time. Boone Jenner skates clean past him, then gives a half-hearted slash, takes no more strides and lets Kakko make the pass to Zibanejad.
Erik Gudbranson defends air, misses the pass, and then does nothing to backcheck. But it’s rookie Tim Berni – on the ice defending one of the best goal scorers in the game – who gets benched, while the veterans who all made lazy plays get off with zero repercussions. Does that make any sense to anyone?
The Rangers would add a power-play goal at the 19:02 mark, then get another to take a 3-0 lead 11:47 into the second period. The Jackets rallied in the third, with Andrew Peeke scoring on a terrific shot just 1:21 into the period; but it was too little, too late.
Their lackadaisical play spoiled a strong start from Elvis Merzlikins, who made several high quality saves to keep this game close. In reality, the way the teams played probably should have dictated a far worse outcome for the home team, they did not show much pushback until the game was essentially over.
The Jackets traveled to Nashville overnight and will take on the Predators today in a game rescheduled from November 26, due to flooding at Bridgestone Arena. It’s another tough back-to-back, with travel, so it will be interesting to see which version of the Blue Jackets we get this evening.