Blue Jackets are still a work in progress
The expectations are high, for players and fans alike. And, this was a game they could have won.
Alas, "brick-by-brick" doesn't translate into an overnight turnaround of how a team plays. To some, that "new car smell" has worn off. Five games into an 82 game season, Columbus sits at 2-3-0. It's hardly time, nor a bigger enough sample size, to write off the club for this season.
The Blue Jackets came into Tuesday night's game versus Detroit with the 4th best penalty kill in the NHL and the 11th best power play. The team has shown that gone are the days when they gave up after an early opposition goal. As head coach Todd Richards said, "Ultimately, it comes down to the players." Tuesday evening, in "South Detroit" (wherever that is… Windsor, Ontario, I think…), Columbus grabbed the tempo of the game in the first. Although not rewarded with a "W", they played by far, their most complete game of the young season.
Their offense is still very much a work in progress, garnering only 12 goals in the first 5 games. As my colleague, Dan Kamal, said on the post-game show (I'm paraphrasing here), "down low is where the majority of goals are scored". Down and dirty, sacrificing the body, is the name of the game when you want to win.
Forward Marian Gaborik, battling the flu, summed it up after the game. "We generated a lot of shots and had some chances. We just have to drive the net more and try to create some traffic in front of (the) goal. We have big bodies. We just have to manage to get in front of the goalie. (But) we played a solid game."
Blue Jackets head coach echoed these words from Gaborik. "We can do a better job of getting to the net. It makes it difficult on goalies. We have to get to that area and be hungry."
The club had to overcome adversity if they wanted to win this game, and they came up just short. With forwards Nick Foligno (personal reasons) and Matt Calvert (surgery) out of the lineup, they had to find a way. Ryan Craig (Captain of the CBJ affiliate Springfield Falcons) dressed for the game and slotted in on the fourth line. Marian Gaborik played in spite of the flu. All needed to step up and "score by committee" as they did last year.
Forward Ryan Craig, a veteran of 190+ games in the NHL, is no stranger to responding to adversity. "We're a team. You can see how guys play for each other here (Columbus) and are trying to take the next step. We're taking steps in the right direction but, we need results. I think the guys that are here expect results." Sage man that he is, he knows what the mood is within the confines of the Columbus dressing room.
On the forward side, the top line of Marian Gaborik, Cam Atkinson and Brandon Dubinsky continue to gel at an alarmingly fast pace. Atkinson had 1 goal, 6 shots on goal and 18:00 TOI. Defensively, rookie Ryan Murray doesn't really look like a rookie on the ice anymore. He's learning from the mistakes that he made earlier and making sounds plays with the puck.
Columbus head coach Todd Richards after the game see's the good and the bad. "I think we deserved a better fate. The guys worked extremely hard… a lot of good things in this game versus a really good team. As a coach, it's disappointing, because you want your guys to get rewarded for their hard work."
"The first period, I thought we carried the play. I thought we outplayed them. They might have had better chances in the 2nd (period), but the 3rd I would say was fairly even. If we can play like that every night, we're going to win a lot more than we're going to lose."
Columbus is on their way. They're building the foundation of a successful franchise. The thing to remember is this… they will not win every game they play in an 82 game season. It is most definitely a marathon, not a sprint.
• Forward Nick Foligno returned to Columbus for personal reasons, after arriving in Detroit with Marian Gaborik on Tuesday.
• Forward Matt Calvert, suffering a lower-body injury in Buffalo last Thursday in the Blue Jackets 4-1 win over the Sabres, underwent successful surgery this morning in Philadelphia, PA. The rehabilitation looks to sideline him for six weeks. Look for him to return, barring complications, in late November.