I’ll admit that I entered yesterday’s Blue Jackets game with pretty low expectations. Now maybe it was the fact the Jackets game was following another miserable Cleveland Browns Sunday meltdown, but the CBJ had just gotten shown up by the Washington Capitals the night before. The offense was non-existent, the defense had holes you could drive two Zamboni’s through, and Bobrovsky had not been in Vezina form. But the Columbus Blue Jackets that showed up last night, was not the team I had watched get manhandled by the Capitals.
Before the game, there were some big lineup shifts, with Nick Foligno back from personal leave, Dalton Prout leaving his seat in the press box, and Curtis McElhinney getting the start over Bob. The latter had most Jackets fans expected a high scoring affair from Vancouver and the Sedin twins.
As I switched the channel over to the Jackets from the Browns game, I was both excited to leave that mess behind, but also had the sinking feeling of the impending Jackets letdown. Not even two minutes into the game, I felt my fears were confirmed, as Vancouver immediately went on the PP. However, the Jackets weathered the storm and it was onward and upward from there.
Maybe it was the “backup effect”, but both the offense and defense were finally playing as a cohesive unit. The Canucks still out shot the Jackets (37 shots), but McElhinney stood strong and only allowed one (controversial) goal. At one point during the game, I commented on twitter, “These are the Jackets I signed up for!”. I think that statement sums it up perfectly.
I don’t expect the Jackets to dominate this season, but I expect them to play a close game and figure out a way to win. These are the Jackets we saw on the miraculous run at the end of last season. The Jackets that make the other team play for the full 60 minutes. The Jackets where someone steps up at that opportune moment. Yesterday, RJ Umberger (!) stepped up with the game winning goal.
What does concern me is that it took starting the backup goalie Β to get the team playing as a cohesive unit. We saw this last year when Bobrovsky came in for Mason, where the defense played a more careful game in front of the then backup. Bobrovsky played great last year, but the defense and offense needs to understand that he cannot do it all. They need to block shots, clear the zone, and poke check for Bobrovsky just like they did in front of McElhinney.
Yesterday was the honestly the first time I actually enjoyed watching the Jackets play. I hope the cohesive play can continue in front of Bobrovsky, and that it provides the push to get a nice run of wins together. At the very least, it shows us that this team has the talent to be a contender. They just have to use it.