Nov 15, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Curtis McElhinney (31) stands for the national anthem before the game against the Montreal Canadiens at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Keys To The Game: Columbus Blue Jackets VS. New Jersey Devils

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

Dec 9, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Matt Calvert (11, middle) is congratulated by teammates after Calvert scored a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

Nov 25, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen (19) reacts with forward Nick Foligno (71) after scoring his second goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Columbus defeated Toronto 6-0. Photo By: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

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

By all accounts, Sergei Bobrovsky being out of commission for 5 -6 weeks is a huge loss to the Blue Jackets.  But there is something the casual fan may not know…Curtis McElhinney has looked stellar.

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.

Tags: Columbus Blue Jackets

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