Sense of urgency contributes to end of Blue Jackets' losing streak
A four-game skid can do funny things to the psyche of a team, but overcoming adversity is the hallmark of successful teams.
Would the Blue Jackets overcome the adversity of this losing streak in a building that they hadn't won a regular season game dating back to the end of last season? Are the voices "in the room" loud enough, is the message getting through? One win does nothing to assuage the long-term concerns, although Columbus came into the friendly confines of Nationwide Arena and played a good team in the Canucks well enough to walk away with a 3-1 victory.
Rather than wait and let the slide continue, forward RJ Umberger spoke of the sense of urgency within the dressing room.
"You don't want to panic," said Umberger, "But, you got to know and sense where we're at. You need a win and you talk about that game being the biggest game of the year. That was our attitude last year, that each game was the biggest game of the year.
"Coming home after a rough trip, with four losses in a row, you've got halt it. That's what we talked about. We had to lay it all on the line. I keep saying it was 'gutsy' because all of our guys played good, played hard."
The mentality of playing this way, and the confidence a win gives them, will only help them over the course of an 82-game season. The Blue Jackets stuck to their game plan and played a full 60 minutes, as opposed to the last few games.
"That's kind of the game that we played last year," Umberger said. "From a complete standpoint, we had everybody going tonight. You need somebody to step up every time. It was a good effort for our whole team."
"To me, we got the ship headed in the right direction again," head coach Todd Richards said. "I still felt going through the game tonight that there was another level that we need to get to, that we can get to. But this was a huge improvement from last night (a 4-1 loss at Washington)."
The prescription for winning this game was staying within the system and every player helping out each other. While it wasn't a perfect game, the Blue Jackets played a sound defensive game in front of goalie Curtis McElhinney and got the offense going after managing only two shots on goal in the first period.
Rookie defenseman Ryan Murray has quietly gone about learning the game at the NHL level, and in the process become the best consistent defenseman on this Blue Jackets squad according to Richards.
"He's a young kid trying to make a difference in the game. Ryan's a kid who's worked extremely hard. He's battled and competed every game. He might be, probably, consistently over the first seven games, our best defenseman."
Murray has shown poise and an on-ice vision (chronicled on these pages) since taking the ice in July for development camp after recovering from shoulder surgery.
He's learning from his mistakes and doesn't seem to repeat them. He might not be getting huge minutes on the ice, but he's making the time he does get count.
"I feel pretty good," he said. "I feel confident. I feel like I'm handling the puck a lot better than I was earlier in the preseason. I just want to keep playing with confidence. I want to make sure that I’m doing my job and contributing to the team."
Could Murray be the true offensive-defenseman that this club has waited for its entire existence? Time will tell, but he's shown a knack for learning from his mistakes.
"I was off for 10 months," he said. "I feel great right now. But, there are some plays where I’m like, 'Why did I do that,' you know? Whenever I do make a mistake, I just try to hammer it into me, 'Think about it, think about it’ for 10 or 15 seconds. Know what I can do differently and know what I can do better. And then, make sure that I do that."
Murray continues to shine as he gets more experience. Veteran defenseman Fedor Tyutin brings a consistent level of play to every game. You always know what you'll get from him, each and every night.
"We didn’t play a perfect game, but I think every single guy had a sense of urgency," Tyutin said "We can't afford to lose anymore. We've been talking and it's a mutual thing. If you want to battle for the Stanley Cup, you can't go on a losing streak."
The mindset for the Blue Jackets to battle to the victory had its genesis before the game, according to Richards.
"I sensed before the game that the guys were ready," the coach said. "The music was off and you could hear the banter back and forth (among players), getting themselves ready. Not that it means that you're going to come out and get what you desire. I felt that we were ready. It's a credit to them, the players. It wasn't easy, but the players did a lot of really good things."
Columbus returns to action on Tuesday, as they battle their division rival New Jersey Devils at Nationwide Arena at 7 p.m.
-- Goaltender Curtis McElhinney, going 659 days between starts in the NHL, was solid in net for the Blue Jackets stopping 37 of 38 shots on goal by the Vancouver Canucks. His last start was December 31, 2011.
--Forward Nick Foligno returned to the lineup for Columbus after missing the last three games due to a family emergency with his newborn daughter.
-- Defenseman Dalton Prout also returned to the lineup, while Nikita Nikitin was a healthy scratch. Nikitin had a few brutal turnovers in recent games.
-- Forward Jack Skille was reassigned to the Springfield Falcons after being a healthy scratch versus Vancouver.
-- Columbus head coach Todd Richards celebrated his 47th birthday Sunday with the 3-1 win over the visiting Canucks. Richards is 3-0-0 in games played on his birthday. "That's a good stat," he said with a chuckle after the game.