The not-so-friendly confines for the Blue Jackets
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards has always stressed that their starts to games need to be better. But what do you do when the game-winning goal is scored against you just 2:24 into the first frame and on a 5-on-3 power play?
"Really the first two minutes, first three minutes of the game," said Richards, "to me that was it. When I come out of the first period, I really thought we were the better team. We were down 3-0."
It was a game where they did many things right, but were unable to tickle the twine. It marked the debut of left wing Rene Bourque, who finished the night with four shots on goal in 14:21 of ice-time. He parked himself in the dirty areas around the crease, but went unrewarded for his effort.
"We skated," Richards said. "We had good energy, generated some chances in the offensive zone. We’re down 3-0. It was three plays and now you’re chasing the game, really chasing the game. You’ve dug yourself a big hole."
The team seemed more perplexed by the fact that they lost this game. Yes, there was disappointment in their body language and tone. But the disbelief was also evident on the faces as you looked around the dressing room.
"I thought we outplayed them in the majority of the first period," said defenseman Jack Johnson. "It really doesn’t matter if you outplay them if they outscore you. We took a couple of penalties and gave them a five-on-three. That’s tough. Plus they scored on a breakaway."
No matter what the Blue Jackets might think, they were beat pretty handily by a Colorado Avalanche team that trails them in the "man games lost due to injury department" by only 62 games going into Saturday night’s tilt.
"Truthfully, the five-on-three turned out to be the difference because we couldn’t score a goal," Johnson said. "So, they only needed one."
Being undisciplined at times has been a hallmark of this team that they would rather forget. That 5-on-3 not only put them behind the 8-ball, it forced them into trying to overextend themselves to try and get back into the game.
"It wasn’t due to a lack of trying to score. We had quite a few shots on goal (44) and had some chances. It wasn’t like they shut us down, we just couldn’t score. You have to give credit to their goalie. Whenever a goalie gets a shutout, he’s doing something right."
Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov was outstanding in net, shutting down all 44 attempts by the Blue Jackets to find the back of the net. Giving credit where it is due, Varlamov earned the victory in Columbus.
The loss means that the Blue Jackets have won only 12 games within the friendly confines of Nationwide Arena this season. This puts them on equal footing with the Buffalo Sabres. And really, the only way that they want to be mentioned in the same breath with Buffalo this year is if they win the draft lottery and are picking higher than the Sabres are.
"It’s probably the worst way to lose, to get shutout," Johnson said of this most recent loss. "You didn’t give yourself a chance and you didn’t give your goaltender a chance. That’s probably the most frustrating way to lose."
The Blue Jackets are off Sunday and return to the ice on Monday for practice before flying to Raleigh, NC for a game on Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes.