That’s right. The Blue Jackets continued their longest winning streak of the season (2 games!) when they walked over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.
The Jackets had four days to practice and prepare for the game against Buffalo. The Sabres, who have yet to win a game, were looking to establish their own game from the beginning but the Blue Jackets started scoring early. The top line of Gaborik, Atkinson and Dubinsky had an explosive night, each player scored a goal as the line accounted for 6 points in the game. The Sabres tried to salvage what they could out of the game by starting two fights at once only 3 minutes into the game. However, Buffalo is having trouble remaining motivated and scoring or doing anything effectively and they lost the game early in the 2nd period. Final score was 4-1.
Saturday the Boston Bruins came into Nationwide Arena for an afternoon game. The team’s media outlets stressed that it was a good measuring stick for the Jackets early in the season. If that’s the case, then I’m not upset with the results.
The scoring started late in the 1st period in a game that was all about defense. Jack Johnson wired home a powerplay goal on a one-timer from James Wisniewski. After that it was a story of defense, grinding it out and generating any possible scoring chance. Late in the 2nd period Jarome Iginla helped the Bruins kill a penalty without his stick and finally retrieved a new one just before the penalty to Chris Kelly was over. Iginla came up with the puck and found Kelly as he was coming out of the box. Kelly took a slap shot from inside the blue line that Bobrovsky couldn’t handle and it was a tie game going into the 3rd period.
Loui Eriksson registered his first goal as a member of the Boston Bruins 49 seconds into the 3rd. The Jackets battled hard into the final minutes but with Bobrovsky on the bench and six skaters on the ice Milan Lucic managed to take advantage of a lucky bounce and directed it into the empty net to secure the win.
The final score (1-3) is indicative of how the Blue Jackets managed to measure up against the defending Eastern Conference Champions. The Bruins had more shots on goal and blocked shots. The Jackets edged the Bruins in hits, 29-28. The Jackets kept themselves in the game throughout but couldn’t seem to finish on their scoring chances.
I’m starting to believe that the team is playing with a high amount of confidence. Even though they lost a close game to the Bruins, they played their game and didn’t allow Boston to intimidate them into another game plan. It’s probably due to the fact that Columbus and Boston already have similar game plans at the core of their identity. Neither team really has any superstars, except Zdeno Chara.
If a team isn’t building themselves around a high-powered offense then they have to have a very good goalie, and Columbus has just that.
Again I’m talking about Bobrovsky, but that’s not a problem. He’s started every game for the Blue Jackets this season and looks as good as he did last year. He has a .926 save percentage on the season and had a .963 and .943 save percentage in the last two games against the Sabres and Bruins, respectively.
Johnson is such an interesting player to have on your blue line. He’s a fan favorite in Columbus and he puts up a lot of points for a defenseman, especially on the powerplay. However, I am critical of his play because he struggles at times when he is forced to make a big defensive play. He bobbled the puck that led to the empty net goal on Saturday. I’m interested to see what happens with him.
If you’re going to build a really competitive team around a goalie, the next step is to find a blue line that can really play shut down hockey. Johnson could be apart of a blue line like that, but the Kings traded him away to Columbus and they have one of the best defenses in the league without him.
Defenseman Ryan Murray got his first point this week, registering an assist in the game against the Sabres.
Boone Jenner was a healthy scratch Thursday but played on the 3rd line Saturday replacing Matt Calvert who is out with an undisclosed injury. Jenner has yet to record a point.
I’ll be keeping an eye on these two all season. I’m excited to watch both of these players make the transition to the NHL.
Ryan Craig was called up from Springfield to give the club 13 active forwards on their roster.
Defenseman Tim Erixon was sent back to the AHL to get some playing time. Fedor Tyutin made his return from injury Saturday.
Boll returned to the lineup on Thursday and fought Patrick Kaleta in the 1st period. He fought Shawn Thornton on Saturday. He’s on pace for 400 penalty minutes if he maintains
Jack Johnson, Marian Gaborik and Nick Foligno are all on pace to score 41 goals this season. Gaborik is on pace for 123 points!
Gaborik is also on pace for 328 shots on goal
Derek Mackenzie is dominating in the faceoff circle, 61.3%. He has helped pull the Blue Jackets into positive territory overall with their faceoff wins at 51.8%
Last week the Blue Jackets were 2nd in the league on the powerplay scoring 40% of the time. They’ve dropped to 12th with a respectable 23.1%
The team’s penalty kill is 4th in the league at 90%. They are better than the Bruins on the PK. The Colorado Avalanche have killed 100% of their penalties.
The Blue Jackets begin a 3 game road trip Tuesday in Detroit. Columbus is 2-0 on the road so maybe they’ll keep that streak going and win 3 games in a row!