Jenner, Murray provide CBJ building blocks for now, future

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 19: James Wisniewski #21, Brandon Dubinsky #17, Ryan Murray #27 and Cam Atkinson #13, all of the Columbus Blue Jackets, celebrate with Matt Calvert #11 who scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Two of the First Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.  

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Pittsburgh — When forward Boone Jenner and defenseman Ryan Murray made the Blue Jackets out of training camp as rookies, there were expectations of both of them. Then again, there were expectations of the whole club, as they are the youngest team in the NHL.

Jenner, drafted 37th overall in 2011 by the Blue Jackets, was a physical presence all over the ice with his junior club, the Oshawa Generals. His game has progressed to the point where he can frustrate bigger, more experienced players on a regular basis. He plays the role of the gritty, power forward, and he plays it well.

"Boone has continually impressed," said head coach Todd Richards, "and gotten better and better. For a young guy, I’ve watched him all year battle and compete against big, strong NHL players and they struggled to play against him, to contain him."

Murray, drafted second overall in 2012 by Columbus, played his junior hockey with Everett Silvertips and showed a situational awareness that was years beyond his peers. Even after surgery sidelined him last year, he came into camp and showed that he could play at this level and that he belonged in the NHL.

"Ryan came in from day one," Richards said, "and showed poise that we weren’t expecting. At least, I wasn’t expecting to see in his game. His game has continually gotten better. He’s improved all year and worked hard at his game. It’s a credit to his teammates, who help him out. And, it’s a credit to (assistant coach) Craig Hartsberg who has worked with him.

"But, he does not play like a rookie. When he went down with that injury (March 3 vs Toronto), it left us with a bit of a hole. We’re talking about a really young kid here. Obviously, it says a lot about he’s valued on this team. Again, his poise as played the first game of his career (April 16) of these playoffs, I thought he did a very good job."

Blue Jackets beat Penguins 4-3 in double OT

The series between the Blue Jackets and the Penguins now moves back to Columbus for Game Three and the thought of them being "rookies" has fallen away. Jenner and Murray have played with poise and maturity beyond their years. They have played like they’ve been here before and that the cumulative effect of playing a long season has positive effects.

"I think that once we had the whole regular season under our belt," said Jenner, "coming into our first playoff game was pretty exciting. We’re both pretty composed and calm guys. Obviously, we were nervous. I think everyone was."

Murray is no different, with the exception of flashing a Nathan Horton-esque smile after the 4-3 victory in Game Two. Even after going down to five defensemen early in the game, his game didn’t change.

"The guys kept battling and Bob made some huge, huge saves for us at key times," Murray said. "We never said ‘die’ and there was never a moment that we felt like we were out of it."

Murray had 30:23 of ice time in Game Two and didn’t look the worse for it after the game. Any player would have been tired, and Murray was no exception.

"Sometimes," he said, "you just have to go out there tired. You’ll get a shift off if somebody’s less tired. And sometimes you have to go out there tired and just deal with it and battle through it. But once overtime hit, it was just pure adrenaline. I felt completely normal. I didn’t feel like I played a single minute in the game."

Ah, to be that young again, eh? The future is now and it is very bright for Columbus. Of that, you can be sure. Although they are in the playoffs right now, even Richards is looking forward to just a few years from this moment.

"I’m excited for the Blue Jackets future," said Richards, "What it will be like in a couple of years, when these guys get more experience, get more comfortable and they grow and get stronger. They are going to be two tremendous players for this organization."

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