If you play the game of hockey, you’re familiar with stops and starts. It’s a great conditioning drill, maybe not a lot of fun, but it’ll get the aerobic level up in a hurry. It’s the favored drill for rehabbing players who have no issues with their legs, healthy scratches, and coaches maybe a bit upset with their team’s last performance.
But starts and stops aren’t good as a style of play. Unfortunately for the Columbus Blue Jackets, it was that way for a while in the first few weeks of the season. The starts would be solid, but if the opposition scored first, the team pulled back. It didn’t stop completely, but the energy and commitment weren’t quite where they needed to stay.
Derek Dorsett, one of the heart and soul players of the Blue Jackets, admits it’s hard to play from behind, but that doesn’t mean his team has to change anything if it gives up the first goal.
“Anytime you’re chasing from behind, it’s going to be harder on the guys,” he acknowledged. “When you’re chasing from behind, you’re pushing, pushing, pushing, and it wears you down, makes you more tired. We have to make sure we get off to good starts, and whatever happens, happens, but we’ve got to stick with it. We have to make sure we’re ready from the puck drop and don’t get behind, then decide to start playing, because that’s what’s been happening to us. And it seems once we get behind we get desperate, then we start playing hard. We just have to be desperate right from the start.
“We can’t wait until something happens before we react,” Dorsett added. “We have to make other teams react off of us. We can’t worry about what they’re going to do or if they score first. We have to just worry about our games and make sure that we’re consistent with it for 60 minutes. That’s part of being a professional.”
Heading into this week’s games, the Blue Jackets had scored the first goal only twice in nine games so far this season, but Dorsett said it shouldn’t matter. According to the winger, it all comes down to being committed to staying within a framework of intensity and the team’s systems.
“Scoring some early goals would be huge. But we’ve just got to stick to our systems and playing the right way,” he said. “When you play the right way, eventually you’ll get rewarded. You’ll get a few, and you just have to hold onto those leads and go from there.”
Against Detroit Saturday night the Blue Jackets did exactly that. Despite falling behind 1-0 to the Red Wings, the Blue Jackets stuck with their systems and came roaring back. There was no drop off in play when Detroit took the lead. On the contrary, it was Columbus that gradually took control of the game. Buoyed by the stellar work of Steve Mason in net, the Blue Jackets reeled off four straight goals, consistently getting pucks deep and establishing a strong net presence in the process. All game long the Blue Jackets paid the price to generate offense, and Dorsett says that’s how his team has to play all the time.
“That’s one area where we have to be better; we have to want to score all the time,” he noted. “We have to be driving the net hard and getting pucks deep. When we get pucks deep and start working the other team’s D, we create a lot of chances. We just have to make sure we’re doing the right things to get that opportunity to get pucks to the net and get those opportunities. We have to win those battles in the dirty areas; if we do that on a consistent basis, those goals will come.”