Blue Jackets prove it's not necessarily an Alberta thing

November 21, 2013

After the head-scratching, confounding, and brutal 7-0 pummeling his team suffered at the hands of the 6-15-2 Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night , Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards accused his team of not knowing who they are or who they want to be.

Since this is the NHL, and there's really no time for a trek through Europe to confront an apparent collective identity crisis, the Blue Jackets did something much more preferable: They rediscovered their identity on a wintry night in Alberta - just three hours from the scene of the crime in Edmonton - and defeated the Calgary Flames in OT.

Make no mistake, this was not the sharp, precise, complete effort they put forth in Ottawa Sunday afternoon to start this trip. But on its second game in two nights and sixth in the last nine, the team played vintage Blue Jackets hockey. If Calgary coach Bob Hartley had decided to channel a little Denny Green in his post-game, he surely would have said, "They were who we thought they were."

Who the Blue Jackets were in the win over the Flames, and who they are (or should be all the time) is a team that comes out hard, wins battles, gets to pucks and maintains possession, and keeps things tight. That's what they did in Calgary, and Richards said he saw it on the first shift. They were a disciplined group from the first face-off, moving their feet constantly and taking exactly zero penalties.

Sure, they needed to come out that way Wednesday. There was little choice after the embarrassment in Edmonton, a game Nick Foligno called "disgusting." The Blue Jackets needed to find themselves, and they did. Now this five-game odyssey through Canada has a chance to be a very special trip for the Blue Jackets. As long as they don't lose themselves again.

This reunion of the Foligno-Johansen-Umberger line has been intriguing. Used mostly as a shutdown group last season, the trio is showing signs it can be a major factor offensively. With their collective skill and size, they're more than a handful for any opponent to deal with when they're cycling well and driving to the net. The line has now totaled 16 goals, and Wednesday night they averaged just under 20 minutes of ice time each, with Foligno tallying the most TOI of any forward.

I think the MacKenzie-Letestu-Comeau line is still cycling in the Flames end of the ice. Hope they get to Vancouver in time.

To call the save by Reto Berra on Jack Johnson in the first period in Calgary a "bicycle kick" I'm not sure does it enough justice. It was more like a combination of a bicycle kick, break dancing, and yoga gone wild. One thing is for sure: It will absolutely be in the running for top save of the year. Yes, there have been some eye-popping saves already, and the season is just barely a quarter of the way done.

But check it out if you haven't seen it already. The late, great Gene Hart would have called it a "six-bell save." And he used to judge them on a scale of five.