Each weekday this season, BlueJackets.com will post CBJ Today, a look at news, notes, analysis and fun stuff from around the Blue Jackets world. It's everything you need to know if you're a fan going into the day.
The Daily Buzz
Tuesday is gameday No. 24 for the Blue Jackets this year, and this should be a fun one. Columbus welcomes Detroit to Nationwide Arena for the first time this year, and there should be some energy in the building as the downtown venue will reopen to fans for the first time since March 1 of last year as well. In other news, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen -- subject of a bevy of interview requests amid the team's recent losing skid -- will address the media ahead of morning skate at 10:20 a.m. before head caoch John Tortorella and players.
If it hasn't been one thing, it's been another for the Blue Jackets this year.
Defensive breakdowns -- some in their own zone, others on the rush -- bedeviled the team through the first 20 games. From game 11 to game 20, the Jackets gave up 42 goals in that 10-game stretch, concluding with the 6-5 loss in a shootout to Chicago last Tuesday.
Since then, the Jackets have played three games and given up seven goals, so there has been some improvement in the defensive zone. But the new issue is offense as after scoring 36 goals in that aforementioned 10-game span, the CBJ has just two in the last three games.
So, what happened?
Well one thing we wrote about in the preview for Sunday's game is just a lack of confidence in finishing plays. Watching the CBJ right now can sort of feel like a 60-minute game of hot potato, with some guys trying to get rid of the puck as quickly as possible and others trying so hard to make plays that they're going the other direction (think of Boone Jenner's failed outlet pass that led to the Preds' first goal, or Cam Atkinson not getting off a shot on a 2-on-1 later in the game).
As Seth Jones said after the 3-1 loss in Nashville on Sunday, some guys are just gripping their sticks too tight.
"It's not effort, it's just a confidence," Tortorella said after Saturday's contest, a 2-1 loss to Nashville. "We just have to piggyback on one another on making a few plays, then a few more, and getting some flow within our game."
So how do you get that confidence back? It's not a magic switch, but rather just stacking good performances on top of one another. As mistakes build, confidence goes down, but it can go the other way, too; a few good plays can start turning things the other way.
Getting back to some fundamentals when it comes to goal scoring can help, too, Jones said.
"I think we can be a little better on the rush, I think, trough the neutral zone, just making those five-, 10-foot passes to each other," the All-Star defenseman said. "Coming over and supporting the puck, stopping up (and) looking for late guys, things like that. Get some more bodies in front. There's a lot of little things you can do to score more goals that every team really talks about in this league, so it comes down to the little things for us."
One Last Welcome
We've said it in this space plenty of times over the past few weeks, and the players and coaches have said it too.
Welcome back to Nationwide Arena.
The magic number tonight is 1,953 fans, or 10 percent of capacity, who have been approved to attend tonight's game by the Ohio Department of Health. Recent announcements by the state could up that number to closer to 25 percent at some point -- that is still to be determined -- but it sort of feels like 1,953 fans tonight will sound like a full house of 19,000 compared to what we've seen thus far.
I'm not going to lie, while a lot of game day has remained the same this year, the lack of buzz in the building has made for a different feel during games. Tortorella said he's noticed it most after the national anthem; instead of feeling the energy in the building ahead of opening faceoff, instead teams have been greeted by an eerie silence other than the pumped in noise. For me, it's been when the Jackets score a goal -- even with the cannon going off, that wall of noise and emotion that takes place when the team scores has been missing.
So tonight will be welcome for so many, both fans and team members alike. And remember, if you are coming to the game and have any questions about parking, the mandatory health check-in, COVID protocols and more, checking out yesterday's CBJ Today, BlueJacketes.com/WelcomeBack and the Nationwide Arena website. Odds are, your question will be answered there.
It won't quite be the same, but the cannon will still go off for goals, the chili chant will follow the third goal, and we hope a little Airwolf action will happen after the final horn.