After a promising start in which the Blue Jackets earned three of a possible four points after two games, Columbus stumbled badly on a two-game road trip through Phoenix and Colorado dropping a 5 – 1 decision to the Coyotes and a 4 – 0 shutout loss at the hands of the Avalanche. They followed that up with a narrow 3 – 2 loss to the still unbeaten Chicago Blackhawks in the Jackets return home to Columbus.
Mason made his season debut in Phoenix and scuffled allowing five goals on 42 shots against. His performance did little to assuage the doubts about whether Columbus can rely on him for solid play in goal. Fedor Tyutin tallied the Jackets lone goal and briefly gave the team the lead in the second period before Steve Sullivan and the Coyotes took control.
Sullivan would record a hat trick for the Coyotes, netting his first three goals of the season. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who is making me severely regret not drafting him in my two fantasy hockey drafts this year, potted the Coyotes other two goals. It’s easy to see why so many in the industry love Ekman-Larsson and have suggested that Phoenix could be motivated to move Keith Yandle should someone offer a talented young pivot for him. Ekman-Larsson is damn good and the Coyotes have more blueline talent on the rise in their organization.
The Jackets were somewhat better in their contest with Colorado, at least if shots on goal are any indicator. Columbus outshot Colorado 33 – 28 but Semyon Varlamov was outstanding in pitching the shutout. Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky had his worst game of his brief Columbus career allowing all four goals.
It had to be a relief to be back home again but not so much given the Jackets were slated to host the undefeated Chicago Blackhawks. The Jackets were game and Mason had a strong performance in goal though it wouldn’t be enough as Columbus dropped their 4th straight game.
Mason stopped just 21 of 24 shots against but did make some nice saves along the way. He flashed some of the skills that earned him the Calder trophy as the league’s top rookie a few years ago. It was a step in the right direction for Mason and the Blue Jackets but a loss is still a loss and a regulation loss equals zero points in the standings.
Overall the Jackets finished this three-game swing winless, earning no points and were outscored 12 – 3. Right now nothing seems to be going their way as they’ve struggled in all phases of the game; defensively, offensively, and on the PP. To make matters worse it looks like they may be without the services of one of their better offensive players, Cam Atkinson, for a time due to injury.
Atkinson was placed on IR with what is being called a “lower body injury,” originally suffered during training camp. Evidently, what was once considered minor is not improving and is now troublesome enough to land Atkinson on IR. Head coach Todd Richards suggested Atkinson could miss a week or two.
Up Next This Week:
The Jackets host the Dallas Stars Monday night at Nationwide Arena before boarding a plane to Minnesota for a Tuesday tilt with the Wild. Thursday, it’s back home for a date with the red hot St. Louis Blues, who have won four of five to open the year. Columbus closes the week with a rematch against Detroit.
The Stars are 2 – 2 – 1, currently 6th in the Western Conference and 3rd in the Pacific Division.
Goals For – 11 (2.20 per game)
Goals Against – 12 (2.40 per game)
PP Efficiency – 18.8% (17th in the NHL
PK Efficiency – 77.3% (21st in the NHL)
Whitney – 5 points
Jagr – 4 points
Ryder, Eriksson and Eakin – 3 points each
Lehtonen – 2.24 GAA, 0.944 Save %
Nilstorp – 2.70 GAA, 0.918 Save %
Jamie Benn is signed, sealed and could be delivered come Monday should he get his work visa completed according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. Benn, who had been a RFA, agreed to a five-year, $26.25MM deal to remain in Dallas. The deal carries a cap hit of $5.25MM annually and is a good deal for both parties.
For the Stars to contend for a playoff spot they need Benn in the lineup and contributing. His $5.25MM cap hit is in line with what fellow snipers Evander Kane, John Tavares and James Neal all got as RFA’s.rn rnGoaltender Cristopher Nilstorp tweaked his groin and the Stars called up Richard Bachman (no, not Stephen King’s alter ego) from the minors. Bachman could get the nod in net Monday.