Blue Jackets come out on top of preseason slugfest with Penguins

Tuesday's preseason game between the Blue Jackets and Penguins turned into an aggressive affair early on.

Russell LaBounty/Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sport

Columbus, OH — It wasn’t quite a game of "Angry Birds" in the Arch City, but the chirping started early and steadily progressed, culminating with a bit of a donnybrook in the third period. When the dust settled after the final horn, the Blue Jackets took their preseason record to 3-0 with a 2-0 win on the visiting Penguins.

There were battles within the battles, as players on both teams were fighting not only each other, but fighting for a roster spot come opening night. There were established players that renewed a thinly-veiled hatred for each other.

Center Michael Chaput was one of those players going about the business of reminding the Blue Jackets that he’s one of the guys fighting for a spot, too. 1-1-2 (+2) on the night, Chaput had 15:12 of ice-time spread over 20 shifts.

"The coaches, when they were in Carolina (Sunday) talked about Chaput’s game", said head coach Todd Richards. "He came up last year and was good for us. He’s a guy that’s kind of flown under the radar, but you watch him play tonight, he put himself right on the map."

The edge that this game displayed was no surprise to defenseman Jack Johnson, considering the crest on the front of their opponents’ sweaters. "I think it was a combination of that and the personnel that were on the ice."

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Although the preseason scores don’t count for anything other than pride, the players want to win every game. And they especially want to beat the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last April.

"Yes, it is only preseason", said Johnson. "I can remember when the (Detroit) Lions went undefeated in the preseason and then went 0-16. The biggest goal at the end of the day is to be healthy and ready to go for game one. It may be a cliche thing to say, but it’s always nice to win."

Part of what is allowing the Blue Jackets to get to a 3-0 record is the fact that they’ve signed and drafted players who fit the mold of "Blue Jackets hockey." Whether that’s a Michael Chaput, an Alex Wennberg, Scott Hartnell or a Brian Gibbons, they all have a part to their game that is inherently union blue in nature.

"Whether it’s through the draft, through the minors or free agent signings," said center Brandon Dubinsky, "We’ve gone after guys that can skate and guys that can play both sides of the puck hard. Also, guys that can fore-check hard and play hard, fast games in general."

"We’re a team that wants to play fast and play hard. We want to out-work teams and grind them down. That’s the way we’re going to win games. We don’t have the firepower to win shootout-type games 7-6, so it certainly helps when management brings those types of guys in."

Dubinsky is one of the ‘bricks’, as evidenced by the way he plays the game, in that he almost epitomizes what "Blue Jackets hockey" is. But, as he’ll be quick to remind you, he’s just one part of a team-first pack mentality.

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"When you look at the good teams around the league," he continued, "the Bostons’, the Pittsburghs’, Detroits’… those types of teams, while they have high-end skill and some of the best players in the game, they play a relentless style. They attack, they play fast and they play hard."

"You saw it tonight with Pittsburgh. They didn’t have many ‘name’ guys in the lineup, but they worked their ass off. They came at us hard and made it difficult for us at times. So, we’re trying to forge the same type of identity that those teams have."

Forging that identity is a work in progress for Columbus. They have gained respect around the league through their work ethic and relentless play. Brandon Dubinsky summed up exactly what the Blue Jackets are striving to do and be.

"When you have those types of players, whether they’re pushing for a spot or they’re on the team and trying to get better, it makes for great competition. It makes everyone around them on the team and within the organization better."