Accountability Has the Blue Jackets Playing Better Hockey

COLUMBUS, OHIO - OCTOBER 02: Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Pascal Vincent during the game against the St. Louis Blues at Nationwide Arena on October 02, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OHIO - OCTOBER 02: Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Pascal Vincent during the game against the St. Louis Blues at Nationwide Arena on October 02, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images) /
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After a tough opening three games, the Blue Jackets came out looking like a different team this weekend. Accountability has come into question many times with this club, but it seems like something has finally clicked.

What a difference a week makes. After last Monday’s shellacking to the Detroit Red Wings – on home ice, no less – the Jackets took some harsh (and well deserved) criticism from the fanbase. Entering the weekend with a 1-2-0 record, the club was looking to silence their critics (us); and they did just that.

After last Monday’s loss, the team took Tuesday off before getting back to the grind on Wednesday. By all accounts, practice that day was far from fun, with the players taking one-on-one drills, followed up by a hard skate to finish things off. New head coach Pascal Vincent has talked openly about hard work being an expected attribute for the Blue Jackets, and he set out to prove that point after the team played a lackadaisical game last week.

Message received. The Blue Jackets came out Friday night and grinded the Calgary Flames into frustration. Though the final shots on goal would tell you that the Flames might have deserved a better outcome; it really never felt like the game was out of control for the Blue Jackets. Most of those shots came from the outside, with the Jackets swarming the front of the net and protecting goaltender Spencer Martin. Things boiled over for the Flames late in the game (more on that later) – but the main take away here: the Jackets were playing much better hockey.

Oct 20, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Justin Danforth (17) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Calgary Flames in the third period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 20, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Justin Danforth (17) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Calgary Flames in the third period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

This carried over into Saturday night, when the Jackets had to travel to Minnesota for the second half of a tough back-to-back. With star forward/current top line center Patrik Laine out of the lineup, I didn’t really know what to expect. Honestly, I figured it would not be our night. But I was proved wrong. Way, way wrong, in fact.

I would argue that Saturday’s game against the Wild was the best hockey I’ve seen the Blue Jackets play in several years. They dominated the puck against what should be a near 100-point team this season; finishing the night with 54 shots on goal and a 5-4 overtime victory. It was far from perfect, but the level of energy and skill we saw from this team was incredible, and I was really happy to see them get the outcome they deserved in this game.

The most encouraging thing for me to take away from these two wins: the Jackets played two completely different games, and won both of them. Friday night’s game was tight checking, physical hockey. Saturday’s game was more free flowing, with lots of skill. Winning both types of games is a sign of – dare I say it – a good hockey team.

Whatever Pascal Vincent has been speaking, these guys are tuning in. We all knew this team was talented, and he seems to be getting the most out of them at the moment. It all leads back to accountability: if everyone buys into doing the right things and playing within the system, the sky really is the limit for this group. Keeping that standard high for the balance of the season will be the next key.

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