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Down the rink: Columbus Blue Jackets recap – Week 6

Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) defends against Columbus Blue Jackets center Alexander Wennberg (10) in the third period during an NHL game between the Nashville Predators and the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Predators won 3-1. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

The Columbus Blue Jackets were a skate away from losing all four games in the sixth week of the NHL season. Lucky for them, that skate was on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky whose improbable save Saturday in Detroit denied the game-winning goal in overtime against the Red Wings.

On a 2-on-0 breakaway in 3-on-3 overtime, Detroit left wing Andreas Athanasiou passed across the goal to right wing Anthony Mantha, then Mantha back to Athanasiou, who had an open net for the game-winner. Bobrovsky slid across the crease to play the pass, so when the puck went back across the goal, Bobrovsky lifted his right skate and kept the puck from hitting the back of the net.

The game went into a shootout and Bobrovsky continued his dominance. The shootout took nine rounds to decide, until defenseman Jack Johnson delivered the game-winner. Bobrovsky made stop after stop to help the Jackets avoid extending their losing streak to five games.

After entering the week in first place of the Metropolitan Division, the Blue Jackets (10-7-1) losses to the New York Rangers, Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes trail the New Jersey Devils by three points in second place.

Here are some headlines from the fifth week of the Blue Jackets’ season.

Lack of identity manifesting into losses

In last week’s recap, this column said Columbus was winning without really playing to its full potential. After Columbus took a 2-0 lead Nov. 6 against the Rangers, it looked as if the Blue Jackets had turned the corner. But three power-play goals allowed in the third period erased that. Now there’s a larger problem. The lack of an identity is resulting in games in the loss column.

The Columbus penalty kill was ranked in the top 10 and had been a staple to the team’s early success. Nov. 6, against the Rangers, the penalty kill wasn’t there and it lost. The next two games, the offense was missing for the majority of the game and the defense continued to struggle outside of the top line of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski.

The abysmal power play continues to be an obstacle the Jackets can’t seem to overcome. They were 0-for-9 this week, and it remains one of head coach John Tortorella’s top priorities.

That power play…

There might be a good reason for the power-play struggles, but it’s difficult to pinpoint that reason. The first power-play line of Artemi Panarin, Nick Foligno, Cam Atkinson, Werenski and Jones is plenty talented enough to score any time it’s on the ice. The second line has scorers, too, with Boone Jenner, Alexander Wennberg, Josh Anderson, Ryan Murray and Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The forwards are undoubtedly the Jackets best scorers. But right now, Tortorella is trying to find a combination that works because the power play is simply awful with a capital “A.”

The Jackets have converted 5-of-52 chances this year, which is a league-worst 9.6 percent. The second-worst power-play percentage is four points above that — Carolina’s 13.2 percent. Maybe it’s passing too much or some chemistry issue. Either way, the Jackets need to solve it quick.

Panarin is back in the scoring column

Against the Rangers, Panarin notched his first goal since Oct. 13. Acquired via trade from Chicago in the offseason, the left winger received a puck from Werenski in the low slot and buried it past goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

He scored a highlight-reel goal Saturday against Detroit, receiving a cross-ice pass from Bjorkstrand and launched a one-timer in front of the net past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.

Injury report

  • Third-line left wing Matt Calvert was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 6. Calvert is expected to miss three to four weeks with an upper body injury.
  • Fourth-line center Lukas Sedlak is on injured reserve with ankle injury retroactive to Oct. 23.

Looking ahead

There are only two games this week for the Blue Jackets, but they are against two playoff-caliber opponents.Montreal Canadiens (5th Atlantic) play host to Columbus Tuesday night, then the Jackets return to Nationwide Arena for a rematch with the Rangers (6th Metropolitan), who sit just one point behind the Jackets as of Monday night. The Rangers are riding a six-game win streak.

Top performers

Artemi Panarin – two goals (3), two points (13), 12 shots

Oliver Bjorkstrand – one goal (5), one assist (6), two points (11), +1

Brandon Dubinsky – one goal (2), one assist (4), two points (6)

Seth Jones – one assist (9), one point (12), 11 shots

Goaltending:

Sergei Bobrovsky – 1-2-0 (9-4-1), 2.29 goals allowed average (2.24), 79 saves, .919 save percentage (.925)

Joonas Korpisalo – 0-1-0 (1-3-0), 2.04 goals allowed average (3.28), 26 saves, .928 save percentage (.896)

In the circle (faceoff record, faceoff win percentage, EV record, PP record, SH record)

Brandon Dubinsky – 39-35, 52.7, 31-28, 1-1, 7-6

Alexander Wennberg – 24-28, 46.2, 23-28, 0-0, 1-0

Nick Foligno – 14-19, 42.4, 9-16, 5-3, 0-0

Pierre-Luc Dubois – 10-15, 40.0, 10-15, 0-0, 0-0

Boone Jenner – 4-5, 44.4, 3-3, 1-1, 0-1

Overall: 500-588 (46.0 percent), ranked 30th

Special teams units:

Powerplay – 0-for-1 at New York Rangers; 0-for-4 vs. Nashville; 0-for-2 vs. Carolina; 0-for-2 at Detroit

Overall: 5-for-52 (9.6 percent), ranked 31st

Penalty kill – 2-for-5 at New York Rangers; 4-for-4 vs. Nashville; 1-for-1 vs. Carolina; 0-for-0 at Detroit

Overall: 37-for-46 (80.4 percent), ranked 16th

Up next:

11/14 – at Montreal (8-9-1)

11/17 – vs. New York Rangers (9-7-2)

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