The past week has not been the best for the Blue Jackets. The embarrassment at home to Minnesota, the frustrating loss in OT to the Capitals, the back-to-back solid road efforts in Phoenix and San Jose…the list goes on. The latest in a string of futility was the shootout loss at home to the league-worst Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.
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Effort being a common denominator these days in the NHL, there was nothing common about the Blue Jackets' effort. Facing a goaltender with a sub-.900 save percentage in the minor leagues, they managed to pot two goals and only one in the shootout. Their shots were not of legitimate quality, nor was their normally exceptional forecheck up to par.
Pascal Leclaire, on the other hand, had to get into the game quickly. The Kings scored under a minute into the game, and after that, one had to wonder if the Blue Jackets would ever recover. Fortunately, they did for a brief stretch. Following their stretch of rebirth, they went right back into solitude.
It's a clear-cut need for the Blue Jackets: scoring. Coach Ken Hitchcock said as much during his post-game news conference Sunday night. The team works harder and harder every night, yet they arrive at two goals. Usually, when this team scores three goals, they're pretty tough to beat. Since the All-Star Break...
1/29 vs. PHX-- 2 goals
1/31 at NSH -- 2 goals
2/2 vs. MIN -- 1 goal
2/5 vs. WSH -- 3 goals
2/7 at PHX -- 2 goals
2/8 at SJ -- 1 goal
2/10 vs. LA -- 2 goals
They've won once since the All-Star break. 1-4-2, a very humbling pace. They will have to win at least 15 of their remaining 24 games to get to 91 points, which may not be enough to squeak into the playoffs in the Western Conference.
This team needs a goal scorer, and they need it quick. The anemic offense is placing a serious burden on the goaltenders and the defense. It has to be in the back of their minds -- one breakdown, and they will likely lose the game.
On a much more serious note, Blue Jackets radio play-by-play guy George Matthews has left the team to deal with family issues back home. The few times I've spoken to Matthews, he's been a great guy and more than happy to talk with me and teach me about the business. George, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. We hope for a safe and healthy return to the booth, we will sorely miss you in the coming weeks.
There's nothing like "return to sender...what a tender!" to take the sting away from a loss.
I will be on HockeyBuzz's "Fire the Cannon" podcast tomorrow night at 6 pm, one hour before the Blue Jackets face the Chicago Blackhawks. Email me questions, or call the show at (724) 444-7444, call ID #11419.
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