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ANALYSIS: Blue Jackets looking for confidence on offense

Columbus feels goal scoring will come, but swagger has to come first

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

As John Tortorella has said, a coach simply can't open up a player's head, hit a button and deliver a jolt of confidence. 

It's likely frustrating but it's also the challenge that makes coaching fun as well. Unfortunately for Tortorella, though, he's had to get into that challenge quite a bit this season. 

As the Blue Jackets scuffle to score goals -- the team is 30th in the 31-team NHL with 2.35 goals per game right now -- the main thing the team has been missing is confidence, the longtime head coach has said.  

"This is one of the most amazing things in our league," Tortorella said. "You have these stud players, great people and everything is going well for them, but they end up losing their confidence one way or another sometimes. It's the most amazing thing in our game is the mental state of these good-looking, stud guys that are at their top of their game, and they're afraid to make a play right now. 

"It happens. We just have to help them work on it." 

To the head coach, the goal-scoring woes aren't a matter of scheme. They aren't even a matter of personnel, as he sees players like Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones, Josh Anderson and Oliver Bjorkstrand fighting to put pucks in the net. 

It's a matter of execution, and in the midst of it, it's that crisis of confidence that has left the team looking for answers. 

"It's a grind for sure, especially when it drags on for a while," Bjorkstrand said of the team's battle to get the confidence back. "It definitely helps when you start scoring one or two. It just gives you this extra confidence. When you get that chance, it's a feeling that you have to believe it goes in, and when you start thinking that way, it tends to go in a little more." 

Tortorella said the word confidence is generally overused, yet working on his team's mentality has become his biggest focus. That's one reason that before Thursday's game in Arizona, the coaching staff put together a video that was just a continuous loop of the team scoring goals. It was about reinforcing that the team does have the talent to get the job done.  

"I said at the beginning of the year, the most important thing for this team when we go through some bumps -- and we're going to go through bumps -- is to make sure you have to have some swagger," Tortorella said. "You have to keep the swagger in your game. When you keep swagger in your game, you're playing with speed, and right now when you lose confidence, you don't feel good, your legs stop moving too. We're just trying to help find the way." 

So far, it hasn't been through a lack of shot attempts. The Blue Jackets have 33.6 shots on goal per game, good for seventh in the league. But the shooting percentage of 7.0 sits at the very bottom of the league. 

Right now, according to Natural Stat Trick, the team is 16th in the league in expected goals for at 5-on-5 with 30.23. The actual mark of 28 isn't too far below that, and a bigger drain has been a power play that has scored on 8 of 59 chances. A league average power play (19.28 percent) would have between three and four more goals this season. 

Considering the Blue Jackets have played 11 one-goal games, tied for most in the NHL, through 17 contests and lost five of them, you can see where five more goals -- the two at even strength and three provided by a league-average power play -- would help the record.  

The good news is that things like shooting percentage generally tend to even out, but the bad news is there's no guarantee of when it will happen. In the meantime, that battle for confidence will continue. 

Korpisalo solid: Things will continue to be a learning process for goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, but the Blue Jackets have seemed pleased with how he's played over the first month of being the No. 1 goaltender. 

The numbers haven't been outstanding -- he sits 6-7-1 with a 3.13 goals-against average and .895 save percentage. His goals saved above average mark of minus-5.35 is also not anything to write home about. 

But as you look through the season, he's started to show the consistency needed to be a starting goaltender in the NHL. He's made a number of outstanding stops in recent weeks, and at times he's been let down by a defense that has had a couple of rough games.  

"I think as a team, we can keep improving on getting more points, including me, giving up one goal less in net," he said. "We could be doing better, but I think I've been enjoying it for sure. It's real nice to get to play games and get the flow. You can have fun out there and not be thinking about playing one game in the next three weeks. It's been a blast." 

If there's one area the team would like to see him improve, it's in marshaling his frustration after giving up goals. Korpisalo has in two games -- Oct. 28 vs. Philadelphia and Saturday in Colorado -- smashed his stick against the crossbar after ceding goals in the third period of those losses. 

Head coach John Tortorella said after the Philadelphia game that display of emotion can't happen, and its recurrence Saturday means Korpisalo will sit on Tuesday as Elvis Merzlikins returns. 

Korpisalo said he understands that he needs to have a better handle on his emotions and said he's only mad at himself when he gives up goals, not his teammates around him. 

'You want to play with emotion," he said. "I think it's a good thing, but you just have to control it a little bit. But you know, it's part of the job." 

Tortorella said over the weekend that he feels comfortable with Korpisalo as the No. 1 goalie and is happy with how the 25-year-old Finn has progressed.  

"We feel Korpi deserves to be playing," he said. "He's our No. 1 goalie right now." 

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