Make no mistake about it, the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ win over the Florida Panthers will look just fine in the points column of the standings, but there was a lot about this performance to cause worry. Last Thursday’s outing against a the New Jersey Devils left a lot to be desired on all fronts of the game. The Jackets’ forwards seemed to right the ship, dominating play and doing the lion’s share of the scoring. The same can’t be said of the blue liners and the overall play in the defensive zone.
The Blue Jackets didn’t surrender many scoring chances, especially early on, only allowing nine SOG in the first 31:30 of the game. The problem is when the beleaguered Panthers did gain the offensive zone, a disinterested, flatfooted Jackets’ defensive core turned mediocre scoring opportunities into prime ones, leading to three goals that gave Florida’s feisty felines hope, confidence and an extra spring in their step. The Panthers have a lot of young, promising talent, but they’re an inferior team the Jackets should have soundly put away by the end of the first period and not relied on a great individual effort by Artem Anisimov to save the day, potting what proved to be the game-winner.
Columbus will surely take solace in having scored three power-play goals, one shorthanded and two empty-netters, rendering a final score of 6-3. It’s always nice to pad stats and the scoreboard. This is especially true after the Jackets’ power play in recent games seemed to be surrendering more shorthanded goals than they were garnering desired tallies. The six goals scored will keep the Jackets in unfamiliar territory: they’re top 10 in the league in goals scored. Generating offense and points has historically been their worst deficiency — and that’s saying something. Fans are surely enjoying this new-found offensive output and righting the power-play ship.
That doesn’t erase the concerns from the defensive zone. Poor defensive play stranded Sergei Bobrovsky and needlessly jeopardized two crucial points in the standings. Fedor Tyutin‘s ankle injury suffered in Sochi is looming larger and larger. His return can’t possibly come soon enough. The Jackets have an impressive core of defensive prospects, but they’re far from a polished, finished products. With the March 5 trade deadline just on the horizon, don’t be surprised if GM Jarmo Kekäläinen trades a first-round draft pick and a high-end prospect to bring in another calming, veteran blue line presence to help Columbus achieve a successful playoff push.