The Blue Jackets were less than stellar in the desert
Three days in the desert can play tricks with your psyche. Your mind starts to wander along with the tumbleweed of the American Southwest as it rolls through ghost towns aimlessly. What you thought was an oasis is merely an endless expanse of arid land, stretching as far as the eye can see.
Having arrived in Glendale on January 1, the Blue Jackets had three days with which to hone their prowess as they embarked on a four-game road trip. Unfortunately, someone forgot to pack their identity in one of the trunks before it was loaded on the plane.
After a successful run of twelve games in thirty-one days in which they racked up a record of 10-1-1, the wheels fell of the bus almost as soon as it started rolling. They lost 6-3 on Saturday to the Arizona Coyotes, and it wasn’t even that close.
"We lost battles," said a frustrated Todd Richards. "The desperation and urgency just wasn’t high enough."
The Coyotes were coming off a 6-0 shellacking at the hands of the Dallas Stars on Wednesday. They had a chip on their shoulder and desperation to their game when the puck dropped. On the other hand, the Blue Jackets had defensive breakdowns and turnovers plaguing their every step. It was as if you were watching the team that played in mid-November take the ice.
"The reason we were winning hockey games was based on the battle and compete levels. (Saturday) it wasn’t at the level that it needed to be to go out and win a hockey game."
Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t look as sharp and precise as he had last month when he was named the NHL’s third star for December. At 5:03 in the third period, he was pulled in favor of Curtis McElhinney after the Coyotes scored their sixth goal of the night. But this loss cannot be laid solely at the feet of Bobrovsky.
The Blue Jackets had trouble all night gaining possession of the puck and clearing their defensive zone. Notwithstanding the late third period goal from Ryan Johansen, the forwards couldn’t find the back of the net against Arizona. The first two Columbus goals were scored by defensemen Fedor Tyutin and James Wisniewski.
"We didn’t stick to our game plan for a majority of the game," Jack Skille said, "and we paid for it."
With the Coyotes aggressive and desperate play, any turnover seemed to result in a swarm of Arizona players crossing the blue line with the Blue Jackets trying desperately to catch up. This resulted in increased confidence for the Coyotes, and they stepped on the gas in the waning moments of the second period.
"I think it was breakdowns, defensively, all over the ice," said Skille of why Arizona was able to capitalize.
Brandon Dubinsky left the game after the 45th minute and did not return. Todd Richards said that he suffered an injury but expects him to play on Sunday. Scott Hartnell was tossed from the game after receiving a game misconduct at 14:31 of the third period. And while the Blue Jackets were credited with 53 hits, the old adage of ‘if you’re hitting someone, that means you don’t have the puck’ carries some weight in the possession department.
The Blue Jackets have the chance to forget about this pasting, as they play the Colorado Avalanche Sunday night at 8 p.m. Having another game the next night allows them to focus on the task at hand and not dwell on this bad loss. The road trip can still be a success, with three games remaining, if they want it bad enough.