Blue Jackets Blown Over in Windy City

Rob MixerContributor IMarch 31, 2008

On a night when the Blue Jackets had every opportunity to drive a dagger into the Chicago Blackhawks' playoff hopes, they merely folded like a lawn chair.

With leads of 3-1, 3-2 and 4-3 in the second half of the game, the Blue Jackets continued to take lazy penalties and put the Blackhawks' red-hot power play unit back on the job. They scored three power play goals on the night, and had their way with the Columbus penalty killers.

The Blue Jackets would do well to find a transition game like Chicago's, one that constantly sets the opposition back on their heels. Guys such as Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and James Wisniewski make defensive-zone liabilities disappear quickly. In today's Western Conference-style game of tight checking and low scoring, speed from the back end comes at a premium.

Coach Ken Hitchcock's game plan simply doesn't jive well with the Blackhawks. A team as quick as Chicago creates their scoring chances in the neutral zone, and a relatively slow-footed group like Columbus, who relies on turnovers between the blue lines and finished checks, can't catch up to the Blackhawks to knock them off the puck.

When the Blue Jackets score at least three goals, they're a pretty tough bunch to beat. Tonight, they were guilty of several careless turnovers and odd-man rushes that allowed Chicago to take control and play at their tempo, leaving Columbus in the exhaust trail.

Patrick Kane scored the only goal in the skills competition after Yannic Perreault tied the game with just over six minutes left to earn a 5-4 win.

The overtime loss gives Columbus 80 points on the season, and realistically, that's right about where they belong. They don't possess enough talent or offense to consistently win, and arriving at 2 goals every other night begs of disappointment. Management has the pressure this summer, and they will need to acquire at least two proven scorers (including a top center) to make the Blue Jackets' top six a legitimate group of forwards.

Full credit to the Blackhawks tonight. Hockey is back in the Windy City, and having over 20,000 packed into the United Cavern tonight provided a neat atmosphere. It's nice to see a team feed off the crowd and use their energy to keep plugging, even after playing the night before.

 Other notes:

--Derek MacKenzie continues to earn regular shifts and increased ice time. His goal gave the Blue Jackets a 4-3 early in the final period.

--The Blue Jackets, contrary to what many experts may think, do not need to go into a full-blown youth movement. They have a good mixture of solid veterans (Michael Peca, Fredrik Modin) and young stars in Rick Nash, Nikolai Zherdev and Jakub Voracek in the wings. They just need a couple of goal scorers to boost them to the next level.

--Gilbert Brule had a quiet two-assist night.

--Fredrik Norrena isn't making a strong case for himself with increased playing time in the absence of Pascal Leclaire. The two goals he allowed against Nashville on Friday were poor, and bad positioning cost him the first and third goals tonight. I'm quite surprised that Dan LaCosta hasn't gotten the call yet.

--Nikolai Zherdev's nifty goal put the Blue Jackets up 3-1, and it was his first goal in eight games. Welcome back to the party.

--Andrew Murray's six-figure salary looks better every game. He brings the same game every night and is positionally strong along the walls.

--Rostislav Klesla has been the Blue Jackets' best defenseman since the trading deadline.