Blue Jackets playing to identity yields positive results

Mar 12, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) receives congratulations from right wing Corey Tropp (26) after the game against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Columbus won 3-1. 

Thursday night’s tilt in the Motor City served to remind many of the Blue Jackets faithful of what was expected back in October when the season unfolded.

There was offensive production from Scott Hartnell (game-winning goal) and Cam Atkinson (first goal in 13 games). There was the obligatory first NHL fight for Kevin Connauton. And there was defensive accountability with the guys clearing the lanes in front of the crease, allowing Sergei Bobrovsky to see everything.

"As a group," said bench boss Todd Richards of Bobrovsky after the game, "when we play better in front of him, he can see pucks. We cleanup rebounds and those types of things and we e defended hard in certain areas. If you allow him to see the puck, there aren’t too many shots that he’s going to miss."

Bobrovsky was making some spectacular post-to-post saves and shutting the door on Detroit after allowing just the one goal in the first period. He made 41 saves on the night, having allowed only one goal in the last five-plus periods of play. It’s his third victory in his third straight start. In that stretch, he’s posted a .938 save percentage and a 1.95 goals against average.

They were playing their game for the full 60 minutes, with an aggressive forecheck and crisp transitions through the neutral zone. The only downside, and it has to be viewed as such, were the penalties they took. Better discipline is needed to ensure they continue to play the game the right way.

"Other than taking penalties," Richards said, "guys battled, guys competed, fought hard, got big saves from our goalie, scored a big power play goal and then our penalty kill comes up big. That’s Blue Jacket hockey to me."

Cliche or not, they played to their identity against one of the team’s traditional foes. From limiting the Red Wings secondary scoring chances to making it hard for Detroit to transition through the neutral zone, the Blue Jackets came from behind to win their second consecutive game.

"The last couple of games," defenseman Kevin Connauton said, "we’ve been able to shake it off, get back in the game and come up with the win. I think our penalty killers did a great job outworking their power play and were focused on getting clears all the way down the ice."

Connauton was credited with three hits and two blocked shots on the night. Plus, he dropped the gloves with Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader midway through the game and battled to a split decision in his first NHL fight.

"It was just kind of a situation where (Abdelkader) and Tropp got caught up on the wall. I went over and he gave me a little shot and I gave him one back. It happens. It is what it is and I got the first one out of the way. Now I can say I have at least one."

With the remainder of the season being played for pride, it is also a test of whether they can play to their identity down the stretch. It’s also an evaluation period for everyone on the team, youth and veteran alike.

They play host to the Edmonton Oilers Friday night for their third game in four days. The Oilers are also playing the second game of back-to-backs after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday 6-4. Replicating the effort and consistency, minus the penalties, will be the order of the day for the Blue Jackets.

Game time for the Blue Jackets versus the Edmonton Oilers is 7:00 p.m. with the FOX Sports Ohio pregame show "Blue Jackets LIVE" kicking off at 6:30 p.m.