It was announced that Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tytuin was activated off injured reserve today. The Jackets have played well since the Olympic break, but Tyutin’s injury, combined with that of Ryan Murray and Nikita Nikitin‘s, has definitely left a void in their defensive zone.
Last night’s 4-3 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks is testament to this. Columbus went into the third period with a 2-1 lead, but San Jose quickly grabbed a 3-2 edge. If it wasn’t for last-minute heroics by James Wisniewski and his perfectly-placed slapper, the Jackets would have lost in regulation instead of the shootout. No one can possibly say whether the Sharks would have ever tied it up or taken the lead if Columbus’ most steady defenseman was on the ice, but Tyuitn’s absence certainly didn’t aid the Jackets’ cause.
The loss against the Sharks is a microcosm of the Blue Jackets’ Achilles heel this season — an inability to close out games. They have a Vezina-caliber goalie between the pipes in Sergei Bobrovsky and an offense solidly in the top-10 in NHL scoring that also plays a defensively-sound game. What’s killing them is the blowing of leads, often resulting from a lack of poise from Columbus’ blue liners. Even two-goal leads in the final period feel fleeting. The Blue Jackets are one of the youngest teams in the league, and this youth — though promising and mostly performing well — has rarely put together a full 60-minute performance.
A veteran defenseman like Tyutin lacing up the skates goes a long way in correcting this. He’s an integral part of Columbus’s success and current playoff position right now. Granted, the Blue Jackets have gone 5-2-1 (not including a postponed game in the mix) since Sochi, all accomplished without the assistance of Tyutin. It’s certainly a positive to have a young team climbing up the standings ladder when you’re missing your arguably most important skater, but the Jackets know they can ascertain much greater things when their defensive leader is in play, including not snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.