This is one of those weekends where you're glad it's over and can turn the page to the next week...and quickly.
The Blue Jackets didn't have their best in the two-game home-and-home series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which concluded tonight with a 3-0 loss at Nationwide Arena. It was an energetic game to start, a rocking building and a fantastic atmosphere, and something that the Jackets would have loved to have capitalized on. But the same old problem reared its ugly head - they just couldn't cash in.
Jeff Zatkoff was making his third NHL start and wasn't tested nearly enough. Many of his saves were routine and he never appeared out of control, and he was aided by some serious shot-blocking by the guys in front of him. At the other end, McElhinney did a fine job between the pipes for the Blue Jackets but he didn't receive much help.
McElhinney gave up a point-blank goal to Deryk Engelland (on a delayed penalty), an own-goal off the stick of Blake Comeau, and that was it. Brandon Dubinsky, who was visibly upset and frustrated post-game, was pretty blunt (and accurate, mind you) that the own goal doesn't really matter because the Blue Jackets didn't score a goal.
Much like they did after a four-game skid earlier in the season, the Blue Jackets have to pick themselves up and re-group before they begin a three home game week that starts Tuesday night against Ottawa.
Here are some random thoughts, notes and observations...
- A big reason why the Penguins had so much success in front of Zatkoff was due to their defensive zone play; they make quick exits and don't spend a lot of time in their own zone, making it physically taxing for the opposition to get one chance, and then get on their horse to back check. They do that to a lot of teams and you can see it wear teams down.
- In his first game since Oct. 19, Nikitin played fairly well. He logged just 12:19, though, which is low for a top-four guy like he's been in the past for the Jackets. He was one of three Columbus defensemen (Tyutin, Prout the others) to avoid a minus rating tonight.
- The Penguins owned the face-off battle this weekend, winning over 50 percent on Friday night and 55 percent tonight in Columbus. Sidney Crosby led the charge, winning 15-of-22 draws (68 percent) and Dubinsky went 8-for-16 for the Blue Jackets.
- Derek MacKenzie leads the Jackets with 37 hits on the season. While that's one of the mysteriously-kept stats in hockey (what's a hit, really?), it speaks to the physical presence he brings every single night. The fourth line might not play a lot of minutes, but those guys are a hard-hitting bunch that always finishes its checks.
- The Jackets are 5-8-3 all-time against the Penguins, but on a larger scale, are 24-13-5 in their last 42 games (equate to just over a half-season). Columbus dropped to 3-2-3 all-time against Pittsburgh at Nationwide Arena.
- Off day for the Blue Jackets on Sunday. Enjoy it, rest up, and we'll see you right back here on Monday when practice resumes at 10:30 a.m.
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