Heading into this weekend, the Blue Jackets hoped to make the most out of back-to-back games against the Red Wings. Especially with a tough slate coming up.
Instead, the Blue Jackets got the absolute least out of their games against the Red Wings. Calvin Pickard won back-to-back games, including Detroit’s 4-1 win on Sunday.
Absolutely brutal for Columbus, who aren’t even settling for getting to overtime lately.
Poor efforts doom Blue Jackets vs. Red Wings
Two key goals came down to close calls.
First, the Red Wings believed the Blue Jackets should have been called for icing on Jack Roslovic‘s 1-1 goal late in the second period:
The next big break swung the other way. Michael Rasmussen scored, but Columbus challenged. John Tortorella was likely relieved that the Red Wings didn’t add another goal on the resulting delay of game penalty, but the 2-1 Detroit tally stood.
To be fair, two empty-net goals by the Red Wings make that 4-1 score look a lot worse for the Blue Jackets.
But let’s face it; Columbus laid two duds vs. Detroit. In both games, the Red Wings comfortably out-shot the Blue Jackets. This wasn’t about Calvin Pickard coming back to the NHL red-hot. He didn’t have to do a ton.
And, really, Elvis Merzlikins actually gave Columbus some hope, especially on these tough saves versus Darren Helm:
ELVIS! 😳#CBJ pic.twitter.com/HjKIOX0Q8f
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) March 28, 2021
Now, the Blue Jackets didn’t necessarily need to dominate against the Red Wings — they merely needed to put together wins. In defeat, you’d at least expect some passion, and maybe one of those instances where a goalie just robs you.
Instead, the Blue Jackets looked flat. When they look back at this season, they might really regret this pointless weekend.
Then again, the trials ahead might remove any thought that they were playoff material, at all. (Of course, the Blue Jackets tend to defy expectations under John Tortorella, especially when people count them out. So maybe they needed a bigger challenge? Careful what you wish for …)
Schedule only gets tougher for CBJ
To put things mildly, the degree of difficulty spikes for the Blue Jackets going forward.
Over the next six games, the Blue Jackets face the Lightning four times and the Panthers twice. Seizing on these recent opportunities was key, because April presents a very challenging slate:
- Five games vs. the Lightning in April, plus the Blue Jackets close out March with one other game against Tampa Bay. (So six more games vs. the Lightning, as the Blue Jackets aren’t slated to face the Bolts in May.)
- The Blue Jackets face the Panthers four times in April (and for the rest of the season). All four of those games will be in Florida.
- Rounding out April, the Blue Jackets face the Blackhawks twice, Stars twice, and Red Wings once.
That … doesn’t sound easy.
While the Lightning and Panthers try to solidify themselves in the Central pecking order, the Stars and Blackhawks figure to be desperate for points. It all spotlights how important it was for the Blue Jackets to make the most of on-paper layup games against the Red Wings.
(Chris Berman will note: “That’s why they play the game.)
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.