RALEIGH, N.C. — Assistant coach Brad Larsen can get as technical as you want in dissecting the struggles of the Blue Jackets’ power play.
But Thursday, Larsen began a discussion of a unit that entered Thursday night's game against the Carolina Hurricanes 13 of 99 over the past 41 games with five simple words.
“Take a breath, relax, execute,” said Larsen, who runs the power play.
“It’s not us much as what other teams are doing — they were pre-scouting us before (the slump) ... But the mind is a powerful thing. You see when your top guys are a little unsure of the plays, you can tell they are not as crisp. Instead of a pass that sits (on a stick), now it’s bobbling. It’s not that their skills have diminished or they can’t make the plays.”
The Blue Jackets owned the NHL’s top power play for more than half the season, but its decline can be traced to early January. With the playoffs two week away, Larsen and the players are searching for answers.
Several players said the repeated failures — they were 0 of 12 in the previous seven games — had siphoned confidence. The club managed a 5-1-1 record in that stretch despite scoring 2.14 goals per game.
Players and coaches identified several key facets that must improve on the power play, including puck retrieval, more shots on net and cleaner entries into the attacking zone.
“I think the entries are the most important thing,” coach John Tortorella said. “That was one of our biggest strengths when it was going well in the first half of the year. We entered (the zone), we were clean, we were in control and we set up right away. We weren’t chasing our tail, trying to grab a puck off an entry. You expend a lot of energy that way.”
Overall, the power play ranks ninth at 20.6 percent.
Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the previous two games. He replaced Scott Harrington, who had played two solid games. ... Winger Oliver Bjorkstrand missed his fourth consecutive game with an undisclosed injury.