And You Thought Goaltending Would Be the Jackets’ Achilles Heel
After Sergey Bobrovsky left Columbus this past summer for the sunnier scenery of South Florida, concerns grew considerably on the netminder capabilities of the 2019-2020 season for the Blue Jackets. Former backup Joonas Korpisalo would ultimately become the #1 and rookie Elvis Merzlikins would come over from the Swiss league without any exposure to the North American Minor Leagues.
While Merzlikins has yet to win a NHL game, he has taken his team into OT. Korpisalo, meanwhile, has actually been pretty consistent, though his outbursts have been somewhat of a distraction; that’s another conversation entirely. The Finnish goalie has impressed at times in his efforts between the pipes. So why, with goaltending being the highest concern on the team heading into the season, are the Columbus Blue Jackets struggling so much?
In an interesting turn of events, scoring has become the greatest weakness of the team thus far. Personally, if the team scored four goals in a game, I might just fall out of my chair. The problem is the big guns have all been silent. Cam Atkinson finished last season with over 40 goals. Right now he’s accumulated an anemic three goals in 19 games. Captain Nick Foligno is even worse with one goal in two less outings. Seth Jones is struggling, as are Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Gustav Nyquist…the list goes on.
Columbus is one of the youngest teams in the league and I’ve seen a few headlines thus far this season where some of the newer Jackets netting their first NHL goals. While that’s great news, the problem is the scoring is being reserved to those less experienced guys. These are players who may not break single digits on the year until they get more acclimated to the NHL level of play.
It’s easier said than done for the team to not overthink this and let plays move more organically. Instead of trying to force the puck somewhere it’s not going to go, the team needs to relax. Yes, that is really casual of me to say sitting behind a computer when I don’t have to lace up my skates against the defending Stanley Cup champs. Nevertheless, it is the reality pointed out by head coach John Tortorella.
While the rest of the Metropolitan Division does not have to worry about the Blue Jackets making waves this season, one has to wonder how long this anemic scoring situation can continue. Even before this season’s inability to put the puck in the net, there have been three season’s of one of the league’s worst power plays in Columbus.
At what point does the GM step in and say he’s seen enough?
Time will tell.