Blue Jackets starting to play the right way

“I

think we’re building something here. It kind of reminds me of our team

last year. We finally found out what’s working for us, and we’re

playing our game and playing to our strengths.”

That

was Columbus winger Matt Calvert talking about his team’s play the past

three games, two shutout wins, followed by the tough one-goal loss in

Pittsburgh Tuesday night.

One of the signs for

Calvert is the team’s cycling, which he says has been strong the past

three games, and adds it’s just a matter of putting it in the back of

the net. That’s exactly what Calvert did after a beautiful feed from

Mark Letestu, for the only goal in the 2-1 loss to the

Penguins.

But that loss aside, the Blue Jackets

have been a force the past three games, and they’ve been a team that was

clearly not outworked and was clearly tough to face. That was the

mantra last season during the run of success, but the team hasn’t been

able to find that game as consistently this year.

Has

it clicked, finally? Three games certainly don’t comprise a broad

enough brush stroke to say the Blue Jackets are poised for another run, but the

games against the Lightning, Wild, and Penguins could be a strong

indicator of better days to come. And winger Blake Comeau says playing

the “right way” comes down to the team’s defensive zone

first.

“I think it’s when we’re playing good,

structured hockey in our defensive zone we come out of the zone in

waves of three with the defensemen jumping in late, and we create

opportunities that way,” Comeau said. “I think when we’re playing well, we’re getting

the puck in deep and forechecking well.

“I think

most importantly it’s when we’re not cheating for offense,” he

continued. “We’re a team that’s comfortable winning 2-1, 1-0. And when

we play the right way, we’re going to get our chances as we showed when

we won 6-0 in Toronto and 4-0 here against Minnesota.  We have some

good skill on this team, but first and foremost we have to compete and

play a hard-checking game.”

One thing that was

obvious in the win over Minnesota compared to the loss to the Penguins

was the number of quality shots and rebound opportunities Columbus had

against the Wild versus the scarcity of chances in Pittsburgh.  Comeau

says it comes down to effort and support.

“A big

key for us is that we’re supporting each other, playing with speed

through the neutral zone,” he explained.  “And when we get the puck on

the forecheck, we need to get it up to our defense, and they’ve been

doing a really good job getting shots on net. And we need guys around

the net and in front of the net for those second and third whacks, which

obviously is something that we need to be better at, as

well.”

According to Cam Atkinson, the problem

getting quality shots through and generating more rebound chances in

Pittsburgh was an issue with positioning, not

effort.

“I think one thing that we needed to do

better is obviously we’ve got to get to the front of the net, but we’ve

got to get in front of the goalie,” he said. “We were getting to the

net, but weren’t getting to the top of the paint; it seems like we’re

getting to the sides of the net.  So, we have to get more scrums going

and get pucks through.”

No doubt, the game in

Pittsburgh was a bit of a step back from the impressive wins over Tampa

Bay and Minnesota. But in all three games, this Blue Jackets team

showed the characteristics of the team that came within a tiebreaker of

the playoffs last year. And Comeau says the team has figured out what

it needs to do to continue playing this brand of

hockey.

“It doesn’t matter if we’re playing at

home or a different building or what team we’re playing or what style

they’re playing. It’s more about what we’re doing,” he mentioned. “We have to play a consistent game. Hopefully

we realize in this room that when we’ve gotten away from it, we haven’t

been very successful, and when we’ve played the way we need to play,

we’ve won games. Hopefully we can keep going with that mindset and

string some wins together.”