In their 5-3 loss to Vancouver on Tuesday night, the Blue Jackets gave up as many third period goals (three) than they had in their first seven games under John Tortorella.
Their late-game collapse befuddled the coach, who didn’t really know what to say about their response to Cam Atkinson’s go-ahead shorthanded goal in the third period. The prevailing thought in today’s NHL is that the three-goal plateau is the magic number, but the Blue Jackets needed at least five to have a chance last night – which puts a lot of pressure on everyone.
So, in an effort to dust themselves off and forget about it (while also, in a way, remembering it…if that makes sense?), they were back to work yesterday at Nationwide Arena in a 37-minute practice filled with battle drills, net-front defending and a lot of vocal instruction.
Their next test looms tomorrow in Pittsburgh against the Penguins, their first meeting of the season with their rivals from down I-70 – and they know that a repeat of Tuesday’s third period (or, at least, that ill-fated seven minute stretch) isn’t acceptable.
John Tortorella gathered his players at center ice this morning before adjourning their pre-game skate, leaving them with one last reminder: “let’s be ready to go tonight.”
It’s the one thing the Blue Jackets feel they have the most control over and what can help them get out of an 0-5 slump on home ice. They have bent, broken and caved at times in their own building, quite uncharacteristic of a team that was brimming with confidence – particularly at Nationwide Arena – late last season.
Against a fast and determined Vancouver Canucks team, getting out to a quality start (and avoiding one like they had last weekend against the Winnipeg Jets) is of utmost importance.
The Canucks, who wrap up a three-game trip tonight in Columbus, will give No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller the night off. Jacob Markstrom, called up yesterday from the Utica Comets (AHL), gets the start in goal for Vancouver.
In both of their victories in California (San Jose and Los Angeles), the Blue Jackets did two things particularly well in the eyes of John Tortorella: they started the game on time, and they made it a difficult game for their opponents.
As part of his quest to make the Blue Jackets a harder team to play against – we hear that refrain quite often these days, but it holds true – Tortorella is constantly reinforcing the details of the game that help them reach that level. It comes down to arriving first at loose pucks, making smart plays in tight areas and exiting the defensive zone with confidence, which bleeds into other parts of their game.
That’s all well and good on the road, where the Blue Jackets have steadied themselves and won four of seven games since Tortorella took over two weeks ago. But the real concern (as we’ve discussed before in this space) is their home record, which sits at 0-5 entering Tuesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, Tortorella’s most recent employer.
One might think that this game has some added juice for Tortorella, but he wasn’t biting after practice on Monday. The game, regardless of the opponent, is worth two points and that’s what he wants most.
John Tortorella didn’t hold back when he was asked if he learned anything about his team from the recently completed California trip.
“I’m sure you guys did, too, honestly say, ‘oh crap, we’re going to California after that game against Winnipeg,’ right?” he said. “I thought we answered very well. I don’t think we gave in. We were a little inconsistent, but we played.”
The Blue Jackets have swept the three-game swing through San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles only once in franchise history, and they had a chance on Friday night against a Ducks team that’s starting to wake up after a disastrous start.
Columbus was in the game but couldn’t finish opportunities – particularly on the power play – and dropped a 4-2 decision, sending them back home with a yes-we-will-absolutely-take-it record of 2-1-0 on the trip.
Since John Tortorella was named head coach of the Blue Jackets on Oct. 21, he has known only one starting goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky.
Tortorella gave Bobrovsky a chance to play through his struggles and re-establish his game with seven consecutive starts beginning Oct. 22 in Minnesota and carrying through last night's win at STAPLES Center -- and in the last two starts, Bobrovsky has done some of his finest work, making 41 saves in San Jose and 31 in Los Angeles.
Tonight, Bobrovsky will get a well-deserved night off.
Curtis McElhinney makes his third start of the season and first since Oct. 20 against the New York Islanders at Nationwide Arena, when he gave the Blue Jackets a fighting chance to win despite a lackluster effort in front of him.
First thing's first: it is ridiculously late, and I'm tired, so please pardon any typos and nonsensical ramblings.
**There shouldn't be any typos because part of my job is self-editing, but I trust you'll have my back.
After another solid, gritty performance, the Blue Jackets have back-to-back wins to start the California swing. This time, it was a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings (one of the hottest teams in the NHL) at STAPLES Center, a building the Blue Jackets hadn't won in since Jan. 7, 2012, when Scott Arniel was the head coach.
I wrote this in my post-game story tonight, but one of the things John Tortorella has said repeatedly since taking over is that this team needs to bear down and do things together. One of his core beliefs is the team concept, doing things as a five-man unit, and against a hard, physical team like the Kings, you're going to need that type of effort.
Facing a big, physical team like the Los Angeles Kings, it appears as though John Tortorella wants to get one of his big, physical players back in the mix.
Dalton Prout did not play in Tuesday's 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks, one of the team's most complete performances of the young season.
The matchup is a significant part of it, and Tortorella is banking on Prout's size and strength down low to be an asset in terms of the Blue Jackets winning the puck battles -- an element that Tortorella has repeatedly singled out as a key area of improvement for his team.
We'll have full pre-game comments from Tortorella coming in a bit, but here's how the Blue Jackets are expected to align tonight at STAPLES Center (10:30 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio/97.1 FM)...
Good afternoon, friends. Hope "California Week" is treating you well so far.
It's certainly been good to the Blue Jackets early on, picking up a 5-2 win in a tough building on Tuesday night. There was plenty to be encouraged by, starting with a stellar performance from Sergei Bobrovsky (41 saves, including a couple of wowzers) and extending all the way through the lineup. What we saw last night is the type of game John Tortorella expects from his team every single night, so it was definitely a building block.
As the season goes on, I'll drop in here from time to time and offer my thoughts and observations. If you agree, tell me, and if you don't, don't.
I'm kidding. Tweet me (@RobMixer) and tell me I'm wrong. I'm used to it.
Here's what I liked about and learned from the Blue Jackets' win in San Jose...
It certainly looks as though the Blue Jackets must deal with another injury to one of their forwards.
Already without Alexander Wennberg on the first leg of this three-game swing through California, there's a possibility they could be down another. David Clarkson left Tuesday's 5-2 win at SAP Center in San Jose in the third period after an awkward collision with Sharks center Joe Thornton.
Clarkson was back-checking and tracking Thornton up the ice when they got tangled up at the Columbus blue line. Clarkson fell to the ice and spun toward the boards, and was in visible discomfort as he skated back to the bench.
A few minutes later, he headed down the tunnel to the Blue Jackets dressing room and did not return.