COLUMBUS, Ohio – Wading into a hockey game rarely gets you the result that you seek. But that’s exactly what the Blue Jackets did Tuesday evening as they dropped another game to push their record to 6-13-2.
The hesitation was visible among the players as they attempted to create chances. Indecisiveness with the puck and electing to pass instead of shooting it at the net bogged them down through two-thirds of the game against the Winnipeg Jets.
"We had chances," said Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards. "We hit a few posts, but those don’t count as goals. The big thing for me is that for two periods it looked like we played a tentative game."
Despite the tentativeness, there were some bright spots on the night. Defenseman Jordan Leopold, acquired less than two weeks ago via trade from St. Louis, netted his first goal as a Blue Jacket. With the team on the power play, there was some crisp passing between Leopold, David Savard and Artem Anisimov to setup his goal.
"It was the first goal for me in awhile," Leopold said. "I can’t tell you the last time I scored or the last time I was on the power play, to tell you the truth. It was nice to be able to see the net a little bit and get some shots where I had the potential to score."
But, as good as the feeling was to get that goal, the end result of losing 4-2 held no consolation for the team or for Leopold.
"Of course, we don’t live on moral victories. We live on getting two points. We had a five minute lapse and they got two goals in behind us. Very easily, the tide could have turned and we could have won the hockey game."
The pushback finally came in the third period as they showed the gumption to play the game their way. They got pucks deep, forechecked and created chances. And yet, with all of the "pings" heard as pucks rattled off the goalposts, one could not help but think of former Blue Jacket Kristian Huselius.
"In the third period, we came out and played and skated," said Richards. "We generated some positive energy in the building and created some momentum on the bench. You could feel it. It was a different feeling in the third period compared to the first two on the bench. The difference was that we came out, moved our legs and went after it."
The positive vibe was there, but the unselfishness between these players may have ultimately cost them the game. The old adage holds some truth, in that if you shoot the puck at the net, good things may happen.
Once again, Leopold has a fair assessment of what may be part of the issue surrounding the funk that the team is in the throes of.
"In the third period we had some opportunities. We had some odd-man rushes and some chances where we could have shot the puck, instead we passed," he said. "I don’t know if it’s gripping the sticks too tight or doing more thinking and worrying about your buddy more than just playing the game of hockey.
"Sometimes, you can’t think about it. You just have to play it. Like I said, that five-minute lapse was tough. But we came out in the third period and laid it on the line. We definitely had enough chances to tie-up the game. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it."
Although they are in a similar position, record and points-wise, compared to last year at this time, this season has a different "feel" to it. There is an uncertainty that is beginning to surround the team, notwithstanding the good periods and games they have had recently. But, there’s always a bottom line.
"We’ve got to get points," said Leopold. "If you look at where we are in the standings, it’s at the point where it’s almost embarrassing. We’ve got to find a way to move up the ladder."