Game four for the Blue Jackets in Nationwide Arena didn’t go as planned for many fans. Many fans were disappointed by what seemed to be the Jackets worst effort so far in these playoffs. Bad discipline coupled with many blown opportunities lead to the 4-1 defeat, the first loss by any team by more than one goal this series. Good news is, this is the first rough game of the playoffs for them, there are still two chances left, and you can be assured many things will be remedied come tonight.
From the very start of the game the Jackets just seemed out of sync. The play in the defensive zone seemed off within the first few minutes of the game. They just seemed unable to get pucks out of the defensive zone and struggled with puck control. Even Seth Jones, who has been solid this postseason, seemed to struggle with puck handling. The CBJ gave up two quick goals, got out of sync, and never recovered, showing exactly why you don’t want to play from behind. The biggest downfall however, was the Jackets inability to capitalize on opportunities and lack of discipline. The Jackets did score one “goal,” even though NBC Sports made it very clear it didn’t count, we will say it did. However, that first period goal would be the only goal the CBJ were able to score on the night.
So what lead to the lack of rhythm on the Jackets offense? The lack of discipline is the biggest factor. It is hard to get your offense on track when your penalty kill is on the ice for twelve minutes, over half of a period. That’s right, the Jackets committed six penalties, and some people may say some of those penalties were bad calls, but still, don’t make it a close call for officials, especially with the violent history within this series (Brad Marchand). The penalty kill struggled compared to how they have played so far giving up two goals on six power plays, doubling the amount of two given up so far on the campaign. This is a slippery slope for them, you can’t give up six power plays and allow them to score on more than one of them.
The lack of rhythm definitely showed throughout the game for the CBJ offense as they failed to convert on nearly every decent chance they were given. To be fair, Tuukka Rask was near unbeatable at times. As a matter of fact, let’s give credit where it is due, Rask was out of his mind good on Thursday, saving 39 of the 40 shots he faced. However, the few times the Jackets had him beat, they failed to convert. For example, Dubois had him beat once, and rung one off the post. Another example is when Bjorkstrand had him beat on a wrap around attempt and it rolled off his stick. The Jackets scoring chances didn’t just stop there however as they had many more chances to score that elusive goal. They drew four penalties themselves, including one penalty shot, and failed to convert on both the power plays and penalty shot. Even though the Jackets did struggle at times on the PK, overall they did do a good job. They had six shorthanded attempts, and failed to score every single one, 0-6. On many rushes, the Jackets either didn’t get a good shot off or overpassed the puck, an old enemy from earlier in the season. Opportunities like these are extremely rare in the playoffs and if you want to win the Cup, you have to to capitalize and if the Jackets want to make it to the third round and to a possible Stanley Cup, they have to score on these chances.
The Jackets offensive woes didn’t stop just at blown opportunities. The Jackets failed to sustain much, if any, continuous zone pressure in the offensive zone. Some of this problem is the play of Rask and him not giving rebounds or second chance opportunities. However, the biggest culprit was how horrible the CBJ were on face-offs. The Jackets were 41%, 27-66, on the night compared to the Bruins 59%, or 39-66. It seemed once Rask made a save, he gloved it, and then there was a face-off, but the Jackets lost nearly every offensive zone face-off it seemed. Losing the face-offs, the Jackets gave Boston control of the puck, they were unable to sustain control of the puck and mount an offensive zone attack. Even if the CBJ gained control of the puck, they just seemed off, puck control and passing seemed to be problems which was unusual considering how they played this postseason. They have to be better on face-offs and puck control if they expect to advance any farther into this postseason.
Now that I have harped on the negatives, let’s focus on the positives, and there are quite a few. The Jackets beat Boston in a few important statistics. The Jackets outhit the Bruins and blocked more shots. The Jackets had 30 hits to Boston’s 25 and blocked 15 shots to Boston’s 13. Another positive was Bob. Bobrovsky, although he gave up four goals, was excellent. He faced 46 shots on goal and made 42 saves, making a .913 save percentage, which is impressive considering he was continuously sieged by the Bruins and left out to dry at times by his defense, so only four goals is just short of a miracle. There was one difference in Bob, he was unable to glove the puck and gave up more second chance opportunities than usual, but still overall, Bobrovsky was a major positive. Good news is, all the problems are easy problems to fix, and you can guarantee Tortorella and the Jackets and will be better and have these issues fixed. Lastly, let’s discuss the fans throughout this run, they have been amazing! Nationwide Arena had a record crowd on Saturday of over 19,400, I expect there to possibly be an even larger crowd for Monday’s game, and a similar sized crowd for the watch party on Saturday. Now for my prediction, I think the Jackets will fix a majority of the issues from Thursday and will play a much better game. Jackets take a 3-2 series lead tonight in Boston, 4-2