Mar 12, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky (17) during pregame warm-ups against the Vancouver Canucks at Nationwide Arena. Vancouver defeated Columbus 2-1 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Keys To The Game: Blue Jackets VS. Sabres

We are a mere two games into the season and the Blue Jackets are sitting at 1-1. Looking at the stats, Columbus is running pretty close to the middle of the pack in most categories with 2.5 average goals per game, an 80% penalty kill, and a -2 rating. The most impressive statistic at the moment is their power play percentage, 40%, which places them 2nd in the NHL.

Columbus Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky
Photo By: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There were some, albeit few, shining moments in the Jackets first 6 periods of the season. The best news for fans so far is that Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik have looked stellar. If that play continues, and a few others step up, our offensive production will show immediate improvement.

Todd Richards has mentioned several times that they aren’t looking ahead at the schedule. All they are focused on is the next game. So, in similar fashion, I am going to take the same viewpoint.

Here are the keys of the game for the Blue Jackets to leave Buffalo with a win:

1.  Defense has got to step it up. The Jackets have a 3 goals against per game average, and it is not the fault of Sergei Bobrovsky. Granted he has let a few soft rebounds free in the crease, but it is very early in the season, and he will be fine.

2.  The defense, with the exception of Jack Johnson, has looked sluggish and sloppy. I know that Johnson isn’t known for his puck handling, but even with that, he is still the current standout.

Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Marian Gaborik
Photo By: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

3.  5-on-5 goal production has to increase. Making 12 shots on goal in the first two periods combined, and then 18 in the third is not going to cut it. The Blue Jackets have a history of being a come from behind team, but that is not going to make them winners in the Eastern Conference.

Everyone may not feel this way, but as I mentioned earlier, I feel that Bobrovsky is letting too many soft rebounds laying out there for the opposing team to take advantage of. It has not really hurt the Jackets yet, but that is because it is early in the season and we were playing the Flames and the Islanders. It is a safe bet that teams like the Buffalo Sabres have noticed the trend and are going to be ready for it.  I must note that I attribute this all to it being early in the season, and I think he will be in true form very soon.

That, in a nutshell, is what the Blue Jackets need to be thinking about this week when preparing to go into Buffalo. The Sabres are 0-3, and are ranked 30th in average goals per game with a meager 0.67. That is a stat that Columbus certainly hopes to take advantage of.

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