Columbus Blue Jackets Struggle to Overcome Two-Goal Deficit Against Arizona Coyotes
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Blue Jackets faced a critical moment in the final minutes of the third period as they fought to overcome a two-goal deficit against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday. However, the surprise came from the players who were absent during the team’s final push.
Laine and Gaudreau Benched as Blue Jackets Fall
Patrik Laine and Johnny Gaudreau, who have struggled offensively alongside linemate Yegor Chinakhov, were on the ice when the Coyotes scored their second goal in a 28-second span of the third period, extending their lead to 3-1. Laine didn’t play for the final 9 minutes and 53 seconds of the game, while Gaudreau was benched for the final 6 minutes and 15 seconds. This decision left 432 career goals watching from the bench as the Blue Jackets fell to a disappointing 1-7-4 in their last 12 games.
Blue Jackets coach Pascal Vincent instead relied heavily on rookie Adam Fantilli’s line, featuring wingers Dmitri Voronkov and Kirill Marchenko, during the crucial moments of the game.
“I coach a team,” Vincent explained. “I don’t coach individuals. Those guys were performing, so they were given the opportunity to play. That’s been our approach all year.”
When asked if the opposite was true for Gaudreau and Laine, Vincent responded with a clever remark, “Asking that question is answering that question.”
Struggling Stars and Playoff Aspirations
While the Blue Jackets were not widely considered playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference this season, General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen has maintained that it is the team’s goal. Vincent echoed this sentiment after a disappointing 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh earlier in the week.
However, the team’s current position at the bottom of the conference standings, reminiscent of their finish last season, is both surprising and concerning. The Blue Jackets’ fortunes are unlikely to change until Gaudreau, Laine, and other key players break out of their early-season slumps.