The last thing a team should do when facing the speedy, skilled Chicago Blackhawks is play flatfooted. Unfortunately for citizens of Central Ohio, that is precisely what the Columbus Blue Jackets did. The Blue Jackets’ listless performance coupled with the Blackhawks’ nearly perfect game decided the outcome before the contest was even halfway through the second period.
There are a lot of lessons for the Jackets to learn from this 6-1 slaughter. For starters, the Blackhawks are solidly Stanley Cup contenders as well as the defending champs. The Blue Jackets has come a long way from their days as cellar-dwellers, but they’re a playoff bubble team at this point. Even if they qualify for the playoffs, the disparity in tonight’s score shows that Jackets certainly aren’t true contenders just yet.
There’s plenty to be optimistic about in the near future, but a Cup banner being raised at Nationwide Arena isn’t one of them.
One of the biggest problems this year from Columbus is that they’ve been allergic to their own success. Going into the third period with two or three goal leads have seemed like anything but safe bets. Far too often, the Jackets play too passively, giving hope to teams that should have been dead to rights. The Blackhawks played a full, aggressive 60-minute game, extinguishing whatever comeback the Jackets may have been able to muster. Columbus would be wise to take note of this.
The bright side is that they don’t face another Chicago-caliber team for a while. They scraped together a three-game winning streak just prior to tonight’s debacle, placing themselves firmly into the playoff mix. There next game is on Mar. 8 against another former Central Division rival, Nashville Predators.
It’s the home stretch, and the Jackets can’t afford another deflating performance like tonight. Every point earned or lost in the standings is absolutely crucial from here on out.