Although they came up short in the end, losing 2-1, the Blue Jackets had a strong showing in Pittsburgh last night. The entire first period, they had the Penguins on their heels. It was a very strong game, and a sign that the team is getting stronger. So, putting the close loss behind us, lets take a look at what the Blue Jackets need to do tonight to get a win against New Jersey.
1. Keep The Grit
The Blue Jackets have recently been showing toughness. It is very similar to when they went on their 19-5-5 streak at the end of last season. They are battling harder each game from the second that the puck is dropped. This will soon turn into more wins. It has already changed the mindset of our opponents. For years, when teams would play the Blue Jackets, they were already focused on the next game, but that has changed. Since last season, teams are very aware of what Columbus is doing, and they are taking notice.
2. Increase Shots On Goal
This has been an issue all season for the Jackets. In most games this season, shots on goal have been very low. However, in the games where the Jackets had an increased number of shots, offensive production has soared. Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno are both on pace to have the best season of their NHL careers with 23 and 16 points respectively after 30 games.
If the Blue Jackets can consistently get a decent number of quality shots on goal, they will win more games. Period.
3. In McElhinney We Trust
He has started the last 3 games, and in those games he has allowed only 2 goals and has 2 consecutive shutout victories. For a backup goaltender, it literally does not get any better than that.
From what we have seen from McElhinney in his short time with the Blue Jackets, it will not be difficult for him to keep up a high level of play. Last season, while playing for the minor league Springfield Falcons, he had a goals against average of 2.32 in 49 games played.
If the Blue Jackets can keep their focus and start the game with the intensity they had last night in Pittsburgh, they can get the win against the division foe Devils. New Jersey is currently three points above the Blue Jackets in the standings.