Sure, it’s not a run that will make the Blackhawks look over their collective shoulders, but the Columbus Blue Jackets have finally been able to put together a point streak over the past couple of weeks. With its shootout win over the Edmonton Oilers at home Tuesday, Columbus has now earned points in four consecutive games, a season high. It also marked the first time the team has registered back-to-back wins.
There have been a number of reasons the Blue Jackets have turned an exasperating string of close regulation losses into games in which they’ve at least come away with something for their solid efforts. One of the most significant contributions to the team’s recent run of success was the play of the Prospal-Letestu-Dorsett line. It was Letestu who scored the game-winning shootout goal against Edmonton, an exclamation point on a super stretch for the center.
In the team’s three-game stretch through the OT win against Colorado Sunday, Letestu had assists in all of the games (four helpers total), Prospal had a pair of goals and an assist, and Dorsett had one and one. Prior to that stretch, Letestu’s game seemed to drift a bit when he mustered just an assist in six games. He says it was an easy fit with the energetic Prospal and Dorsett.
“Recently, getting back with Vinny (Prospal) and Dorse (Derek Dorsett), with the emotional level those guys attach to the games, it’s tough not to be on their level. So, recently it’s been good; the production’s been coming, and as a line I think we’re pretty happy.”
With the return of Derek Brassard from injury and an early game misconduct to Matt Calvert Tuesday, the Blue Jackets had to shuffle the lines. But Letestu kept his assist streak going, picking up a secondary helper on Prospal’s third goal in the last three games. Part of the fun for the Blue Jackets centerman has been seeing more of the Prospal legendary goal celebrations, which have been known to generate enough energy to power mid-sized cities.
“That’s what Vinny’s about,” said Letestu. “He’s an emotional guy; he’s always in the game. And the fact that he celebrates them all like his last I think shows the great deal of respect he has for the game. I’ve learned a tremendous amount the last two years playing with him, and he’s a joy to be around at the rink.”
The biggest joy of all for hockey players, of course, comes from winning. Letestu thinks the team is building on the kind of foundation that teams in the NHL need to become consistent winners.
“That’s what we’ve been working for, something to build off of, and I think we have that,” said the native of Saskatoon. “Our work ethic is there; I think the way we approach the game emotionally is there. So now it’s the X’s and O’s; that’s the stuff coaches can teach, stuff that guys can catch onto. But when the work ethic and the battle level are not there, that stuff doesn’t matter. So at least we have that base right now, and the rest of the game’s gonna come.”
For a player like Letestu, who went undrafted and says every new season means the challenge to prove himself again at the NHL level, he’s been impressed with the young callups from the AHL – players like Tim Erixon, (and more recently) Cody Goloubef, Nick Drazenovic, and Dalton Prout – who have contributed to the Blue Jackets trend upward.
“I think they’re being prepared well down in Springfield,” he said. “They’ve come in for the most part and been really poised. They seem to be getting better every game with the reps they’re getting, and it shows in their confidence. They’re just as big a part of this as anybody in the last little stretch here. They’ve stepped in, chewed up some minutes, and given us some quality hockey.”
Quality hockey. Building on a firm foundation, that’s what the Blue Jackets have been playing for some time now. And right at the center of the turnaround is Mark Letestu, proving himself yet again.