No one should know better than the Columbus Blue Jackets how detrimental a slow start of any kind can be to one’s playoff aspirations. That’s why everyone at all levels of the Columbus franchise were publicly preaching the importance of coming out the gate with a sense of purpose. Well, once the gate opened up, the New Jersey Devils came flying out. The Jackets, on the other hand, might as well have had their own seats in the Prudential Center‘s stands.
The Jackets gave up three goals within the first 8:54 of play — all three coming within a span of two minutes and 45 seconds. Sergei Bobrovsky certainly didn’t look as sharp as he did in the 2014 Winter Olympics, but there was plenty of blame to go around. Columbus looked atrociously listless throughout much of the contest. Giving up a final score of 5-2 against a New Jersey team that struggles mightily to score is not hallmark of a playoff bound team. The lone bright spot for Columbus was the return of and goal by Marian Gaborik.
One has to wonder how much of the Team Russia funk Bobrovsky and fellow Jackets Artem Anisimov, Nikita Nikitin and Fedor Tyutin brought back to Columbus with them. Tyutin is on IR for one or two weeks due to an ankle injury sustained in Sochi, depriving Columbus of its most steady, consistent blue liner. Bobrovsky looked out of sorts. Nikitan had a so-so game, but Anisimov found a way on to the goal sheet. These four jumped out of one massive pressure cooker and right into the NHL playoff one.
How fast Tyutin can heal up and how the group of four respond after a profoundly disappointing showing in their home country will go a long way in determining if Columbus is worthy of a playoff shot at Stanley silver.