COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s not about the score, coach Pascal Vincent said. Really, it’s not about wins or losses right now for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
But what Vincent witnessed from the bench in Monday’s 5-3 loss in Dallas was enough to infuriate the first-year coach, and he dropped ominous signs about what the next couple of days might hold for the Blue Jackets before they play again on Thursday.
“It’s not about the final score,” Vincent said. “We have more (to offer) than this. I’m talking about the effort. A lot of guys worked hard, but we can’t afford to have a few guys not working hard enough.
“That’s not gonna fly. That’s not gonna fly now, that’s not gonna fly after Christmas, that’s not gonna fly ever. We need 20 guys to play hard and take care of the details of the game.”
The Blue Jackets fell behind 3-2 at 2:49 of the third period but had a massive chance to tie it just a minute later. Captain Boone Jenner had the puck alone in front of Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger, but Oettinger stretched his 6-foot-6 frame to make a glove save off Jenner’s backhand.
Soon after, the Blue Jackets’ play seemed to sag. The Stars pulled away later in the period on goals by Evgenii Dadonov and Wyatt Johnston (empty net).
“We know it’s hard to win in the NHL,” Vincent said. “You have to be consistent and stick to the plan, stick to the details. They aren’t flashy. They don’t show up on highlights. But those details matter at the end of the day.
“It’s not as bad as we think it is, but it’s not good enough. We’ll address the situation with the team and with the individuals concerned.”
Vincent has made the Blue Jackets’ competitive spirit and willingness to compete for pucks and in the hard areas of the ice his chief coaching concern early in his tenure, It’s more important to establish that, he has said, that a perfect system of play.
He has used some of the time-tested coach’s tricks — healthy scratches, limited ice time, hard practices, etc. — to compel his young roster to crank up their competitive standards. Mostly it has seemed to work, but the Blue Jackets have now lost four straight (0-2-2).
Kirill Marchenko, who had 21 goals in only 59 games as a rookie last season, was a healthy scratch for the second straight game on Monday. Another bright prospect, Kent Johnson, has been a healthy scratch twice already this season.
One gets the sense that a new-look lineup will be in place by Thursday when the Blue Jackets host Tampa Bay in Nationwide Arena. Before then, the Blue Jackets will have two days to practice, which Vincent will use to hammer home his points of concern.
“I know we’re young,” Vincent said. “I know we’re going to make mistakes. And I know they care and want to do well. But tonight is not good enough, so we’re going to address it.”
The Blue Jackets goals were scored by Damon Severson, Sean Kuraly and rookie Dmitri Voronkov. It was Voronkov’s first NHL goal in his third NHL game, and it marked Severson’s first goal with Columbus since joining them in a trade over the summer.
On to the next one, but not before we give some stick taps to Dmitri for netting his first career @NHL goal.
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) October 31, 2023
Voronkov scored at 4:37 of the first period with a lumberjack’s touch on a centering pass at net-front from Cole Sillinger, making it 1-1. Severson then made it 2-1 later in the first by finishing a Fantilli set-up pass from the left circle.
The Blue Jackets responded well to the Stars taking a lead just 27 seconds into the game. And they rose up briefly after Matt Duchene’s goal gave Dallas a 3-2 lead early in the third. But there were too many dips, mostly in the second and third periods.
“A little too loose,” Kuraly said. “We didn’t stick to our style, our systems enough. It’s hard to win games in this league, and I don’t think we did quite enough hard things to win today. We’re going to have to be better.”
By the end of Monday’s game, Vincent had scrambled his forward lines, moving center Adam Fantilli up to play with wingers Emil Bemstrom and Johnny Gaudreau. Strange as this might sound — because Fantilli is a 19-year-old rookie — he may be tasked with the job of getting Gaudreau going.
The Blue Jackets’ big-ticket free agent signing two summers ago, is off to the slowest start of his career. Nine games into the season, Gaudreau is still looking for his first goal. He’s also been limited to four assists, two of those in the second game of the season.
Gaudreau and Patrik Laine are expected to be the Blue Jackets’ top weapons, but Laine missed his fifth straight game on Monday after suffering a concussion on a hit by Calgary’s Rasmus Andersson on Oct. 20. Laine is said to be improving, but Vincent said he was “week to week” on Sunday.
(Photo: Jerome Miron / USA Today)