Blue Jackets showing resiliency in winning streak
As everyone was celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States, the Blue Jackets were mired in the midst of their second losing streak of the season. Two weeks later, they are finding ways to win hockey games.
After besting the Washington Capitals in the Verizon Center 3-2 in overtime Thursday evening, extending their winning streak to five, the Blue Jackets are slowly narrowing the gap to a playoff spot. They sit seven points behind the Capitals, who occupy the third, guaranteed playoff spot. They are also seven points behind the Boston Bruins, occupying the second wild card position in the Eastern Conference.
The Blue Jackets were chasing Washington for the entire game, getting in an early hole through a steady march to the penalty box.
"We talked about not taking too many penalties," said head coach Todd Richards after the game, "and we end up taking six, three in the first five minutes. But a positive sign about (the win), despite being down 1-0 and 2-1, the guys stuck with it."
The confidence they've gained in themselves has translated to how they are playing the game from night to night. It might not always be a stellar performance, but in the course of this winning streak they're pulling together facets of their game to secure wins.
"We've had some really good goaltending and defensive play," said left wing Nick Foligno about the way they are playing now. "We just started to play the right way again. I know I keep saying that, but it's the simplicity of our game. We forecheck hard, our 'D' are able to pinch, we get out of our zone quick and we're back down their throats. And that's really the way that we play."
Foligno, on the ice for 19:21 against the Capitals, went 2-0-2 on the night and is 13-13-26 in 27 games this season.
"When we're doing that, we're really successful. Maybe not on the scoreboard, but we're tiring teams down. If we are tiring them, then they're going to make mistakes. That's the part of the games that we're starting to understand. The ebbs and flows of the games, we're no longer going up and down like a big rollercoaster, we're kind of finding that even keel. It's really helped us in our game."
The waiver claim of Kevin Connauton is looking to be a very shrewd move on the part of GM Jarmo Kekalainen to shore up the blue line. The 24-year-old defenseman has two goals, including the game-winner on Tuesday, in as many games.
"He's our offensive threat," said Richards of Connauton. "He's been playing really well, not just his production, but some simple puck plays and getting the puck up the ice, some patience and poise."
He's averaging over 18 shifts per game and seeing his time on ice increase. Gaining the confidence and trust of the coaches has seen him be put on the power play and in overtime. He's 2-0-2 in eight games for the Blue Jackets.
The entire team is showing the resiliency and confidence that they had last year. They have transitioned from wondering when the next bad thing will happen to truly believing they can win every game. They have a major part of their emotional engine back in the lineup with the addition of a healthy Brandon Dubinsky. Defenseman Fedor Tyutin is getting closer to his return and is practicing with the team.
With six of their next seven games being played within the friendly confines, they could conceivably be back in the playoff picture by the time the calendar turns from 2014 to 2015, 20 days hence. But the only game they are worried about is their next one against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. And this is as it should be.