Let’s say we had a team coming off a five-game losing streak. Let’s say they started the season strong, played a handful of good games, and seemed to be pulling something together, even if the consistency of that momentum waxed and waned. Let’s say this team had a bad roadtrip but got themselves together back home. Let’s say they lost back-to-back to, oh, how about the Penguins, and then fell to the Senators, and then to the Rangers.
And when we say “fell,” we don’t mean a little trip. There’s a difference between a loss and a loss, and these were of the latter variety.
Though it’s tempting to point fingers at the long IR and absent players, as we saw in Saturday’s game, CBJ can play–and play well–without their full lineup. Every team has injuries, and every team figures out a way to rally around them.
It’s easy to call a single win a “slump-buster,” particularly when a team is coming off a losing streak. And the thing is, it’s entirely possible that the Blue Jackets will use the push of their 5-2 victory against the New York Islanders on Saturday night to get their game together. We’ve seen moments from CBJ that proved they were capable of being a real threat in the Metropolitan division–but flashes do not a competitor make. The first period of the Islanders game, we saw the same problems we’ve been seeing in the Blue Jackets’ game: a lack of shooting (they were outshot 9-2) and too much tossing the puck around without any apparent plan in mind.
On the one hand, there’s a lot of value in a passing game; but the point of passing is to open up the ice for a shot, and if that isn’t happening, you’re just running down the clock. That came back to bite the Blue Jackets when Frans Nielsen scored a wrister in the last 35 seconds of the period, leaving it 1-1 thanks to an early goal from Dubinsky.
We’ve heard a lot about the Blue Jackets’ Terrible Second Period (TM), but the truth is that the second period isn’t the illness, it’s a symptom. Inconsistency loses games, and what we tend to see out of Columbus isn’t inconsistency on a per-game basis, but a per-period basis.
Whatever it was that CBJ talked about during the intermission of the Islanders’ game had a positive effect, though; the Blue Jackets came out onto the ice ready to stop playing catch and start putting up points. This time, they knocked off 14 shots on goal and scored once more, thanks again to the Johansen and Dubinsky combo, though they couldn’t manage to hold the lead after a steal from Thomas Hickey at 13:30 into the period.
There is no magic in the second period. When the Blue Jackets play poorly during the second 20 minutes, it’s because they’ve been showing up to play three separate 20-minute games, not a single 60-minute effort. Once they figure out how to string those together into a uniform endeavor, we’ll see a turnaround on the ice (and on the scoreboard).
As for Bob, much has been made of his not-quite-Vezina performance this season. But it’s easy to give up on a goalie early in the season; it’s easy to blame a goalie for a team’s mistakes. This isn’t the 2012-2013: there’s time in the season for Bob to find his game and settle into it. We’ve seen what he’s capable of, and it’s absurd to call an entire season based on a few less-than-stellar performances.
Oh! And shout out to Cam Atkinson, who finally got a goal last night after a too long scoring hiatus. Welcome back, buddy.