Before heading into their first matchup with the Detroit Red Wings last week, the Columbus Blue Jackets were on a five-game winning streak. The Jackets played stellar hockey and with a win over Detroit at home, the Jackets would be in first place in the Western Conference at the end of November.
However, the Jackets came up short against the Red Wings and lost 2-1. This would start a downward spiral for the Jackets as they have only gotten one point in their last five games, all losses, with two of those losses being blowouts to Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
There have been so many apparent issues in each game for the Jackets that they look nothing like the team that recorded the best start in Columbus Blue Jackets history.
On their five-game winning streak, Rick Nash was on fire. He scored seven goals in those five games and seemed to find the puck in every situation. However, in the last five games, Nash has tried to do too much. Several times he has tried to use fancy moves to get around defenders when he should have passed to his other linesman.
Don't get me wrong, those are the moves that have made Rick Nash famous—just ask the Phoenix Coyotes. But Nash cannot do everything himself. There are four other guys on the ice with him that he can pass it to.
His other two forwards, Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek, have been able to take the load off of Nash in games where Columbus plays good hockey. Brassard has shown so far this year that he can be a goal-scorer as well as dish the puck. Jakub Voracek is a fast, young player and the Jackets are 9-0 when Voracek records a point.
Rick Nash is, and will continue to be, the Blue Jackets' best player, but hockey is not an individual sport. I am not saying that Rick Nash should not take as many shots, but he has to learn to pass the puck more so that the Jackets can set up the forecheck and get some decent shots.
In the Jackets' last two games, they have struggled to get shots on net. Against Buffalo, who was coming off a weeklong break, the Sabres came out firing and got out to a quick lead. The Blue Jackets went on two early power plays, but did not record many shots at all. On one of those power plays, the Blue Jackets recorded zero shots and struggled to keep the puck in the Sabres zone.
You cannot expect to be a good team on the power play if you do not take shots. The Blue Jackets are way too hesitant on the power play, as they continue to pass the puck from point to point, around the net, but take no shots. It shouldn't matter where the shots are coming from, just take the shot. If you have players crowding the net, any shot could lead to a juicy rebound.
During the Penguins-Blue Jackets telecast, after the Penguins had extended their lead to 5-1, the Penguins commentators said that the Blue Jackets did not have enough drivers. What they meant by that was the Jackets did not have enough players that stepped up when the team needed them, able to lead the team to victory.
Players would rather pass the puck away to someone else than take the shot and try and put some points on the board. This is why the Blue Jackets power play is ranked 28th in the league. If you pass the puck more than you should, the other team will usually find a way to get the puck away and clear it, killing precious time off the power play.
As of now, the only driver I have seen is wearing the "C" on his jersey. The reason Nash feels that he needs to do it all is because no one else on the team seems to want to step up and help him out. In order to decrease Rick Nash's workload, players like RJ Umberger, Antoine Vermette and Jakub Voracek are going to have to step up if the Jackets want to see any more success this season.
Throughout this five-game losing streak, the Blue Jackets have taken too many stupid penalties. Each time, the opposing team has taken advantage of it. In Saturday's game against the Penguins, the Pens scored on their first three power plays. Those power plays were given to the Pens because the Jackets committed penalties that were not needed.
In the Jackets' last two games, the opposing team has scored six power-play goals. That is way too many power-play goals in the span of two games. The Jackets have to stop committing unnecessary penalties if they hope to be any kind of contender in a conference where if you aren't playing your game, you could go from third to out of contention in a blink of an eye.
The question throughout the year is whether or not young goaltender Steve Mason would bounce back from his unsuccessful sophomore season. He has yet to find his groove as he continues to struggle this year.
Mason has had a stretch here and there where he has played well and given the Jackets a chance to win. However, there have been too many games where Mason has let by several goals. In the game against Pittsburgh, the Penguins scored their first three goals the same way: through Mason's legs. If Mason does not learn to close up the 5 hole, opposing players are going to continue to have a field day.
In the beginning of the year, backup Mathieu Garon was looking to have his best year to date. Before the Blue Jackets five-game losing streak, Garon had gone 6-1 with a 0.937 save percentage, one of the best in the league.
However, Garon looks to be leveling off, allowing five goals in the onslaught put on against Buffalo and not looking much better against Pittsburgh. Yes, it is only two games, but Garon's play is a complete 180 from his first seven starts.
Whoever is in net, he needs to get into a groove or the Blue Jackets five-game losing streak will continue to grow.