Following the Blue Jackets’ 5-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, left winger R.J. Umberger was already looking ahead to Tuesday’s game against the St. Louis Blues.
“We really want to come out and get a win against St. Louis,” Umberger said. “That’s a team we love to beat.”
Defeating the Blues will be no small task for the Blue Jackets.
Following a 3-0 victory against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday, St. Louis has 75 points, good for third place in the National Hockey League standings and second place behind the Detroit Red Wings in the Central Division of the Western Conference.
The Blues have been, arguably, one of the best teams all season since former Blue Jackets’ coach Ken Hitchcock took over in early November.
Under Hitchcock, the Blues have gone 21-5-6.
The Blues’ have compiled their record behind the prowess of the goaltending tandem of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak.
Halak is tied for the NHL lead in shutouts with six and Elliot is close behind with five.
It could be argued that Hitchcock’s defense-first system is responsible for the stellar goaltending that the Blues’ have seen this season, but the fact remains that the Blue Jackets could have a hard time scoring in Tuesday’s game.
On the other end of this goaltending spectrum is Blue Jackets’ goalie Steve Mason, who looks like he will be getting his third straight start, with the Blue Jackets’ other goalie, Curtis Sanford, out indefinitely with a back ailment.
Mason has long been the brunt of criticism this season, and has done nothing with his play to put his critics to rest.
Interim coach Todd Richards said he was happy with Mason’s effort after Sunday’s game against the Ducks, despite the fact that Mason gave up five goals.
“I thought he gave us a chance,” Richards said following the game. “There’s only certain things he can control.”
Mason will be key to giving the Blue Jackets’ a chance on Tuesday. If he can’t keep the score close, the Blues’ defensive system might prove to be too much for the Blue Jackets’ offense.
Another key to the game will be the Jackets’ power play. It is the one point of consistency that the Blue Jackets’ seem to have found.
Following the game against the Ducks’ in which the Blue Jackets recorded two power-play tallies, they now have seven power-play goals in their last five games.
Richards credited the success of his team’s power play to their ability to hold on to the puck.
“We’re able to retain possession of the puck,” he said. “We’re scoring in a lot of different ways.”
Blue Jackets’ defenseman James Wisniewski said after Sunday’s game that it was time for the team to look “deep down.”
The game against the Blues will prove whether the team takes this message to heart.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Nationwide Arena.