Blue Jackets have turned frustration into optimism
Following one of the worst starts in NHL history, the Columbus Blue Jackets may finally be on the cusp of finding their form.
The Blue Jackets and new coach John Tortorella try to continue turning things around with a third straight victory Friday night on the road against the Washington Capitals.
Columbus (2-8-0) is still tied for the fewest points in the league, but two straight wins following a miserable opening two weeks has turned frustration into optimism.
"Every team is going to go through ups and downs," veteran forward David Clarkson said. "We just went through ours early. It was one of the hardest things we ever went through. But it makes teams better. Hopefully, it makes us better."
The Jackets showed during Tuesday’s 3-1 win at New Jersey that they can prevail when not at their best. Despite a season-low 14 shots, they never let up the defensive intensity and were rewarded with three straight goals in the third period to improve to 2-1-0 on a four-game trip and since Tortorella replaced Todd Richards on the bench.
"Those are important games to win," Tortorella said. "We’ll be on the other side of it, where a team outplays you and you find a way to win. We’ll be on the other side of that sometime during the year, so we’ll take it and go from there.
"These are good things as we try to climb the steps."
Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves and looked solid after posting a 4.45 goals-against average and .852 save percentage in his first seven starts.
"His game has slowly come along here," Tortorella said.
Boone Jenner has scored half of his team-leading six goals in the last two contests.
"We just want to play the style we want to play," Jenner said. "You see that at times but obviously we can be better at it."
Washington (6-2-0) will look to be better after its five-game winning streak ended with Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh.
The Capitals had scored three or more goals in all but one of their first seven games and were coming off a 7-4 win at Edmonton, but they stalled after Evgeny Kuznetsov opened the scoring in the third period.
"I didn’t think we were real sharp," coach Barry Trotz told the team’s official website. "We always talk about playing fast, and we weren’t playing fast early."
Despite their coach’s analysis, the Capitals don’t seem too concerned.
"Our main thing is focusing on what’s made us successful and realize that this isn’t much of a step back," said Braden Holtby, who has a 1.61 GAA in his last five starts. "It’s a game we can learn from. Things didn’t quite go our way but we’ll have a better performance next game."
Kuznetsov, who enjoyed a five-point night against the Oilers, has four goals and six assists in the last four contests.
Teammate Alex Ovechkin has gone two straight without a goal after scoring once in each of his first five. He had a pair of two-goal games against the Blue Jackets last season.
Bobrovsky stopped 39 shots during a 3-2 overtime win at Washington on Dec. 11, then yielded nine goals while losing two straight home starts against the Capitals.