The Blue Jackets skated, skated and then skated some more during Wednesday’s practice, then put in another hour of good work Thursday afternoon.
Coming off a lackluster 4-0 loss to Detroit on Monday night, the CBJ coaching staff stressed the importance of battle level and winning loose pucks during a rare quiet time in the NHL schedule. The message was that the Blue Jackets had to be much energetic – and much sharper – Friday night against Calgary.
By the time the puck dropped, the Blue Jackets were ready. Columbus put together a 60-minute game against the Flames on Friday night, posting a solid 3-1 victory to push their record back to 2-2-0.
“I think night and day from Detroit,” forward Justin Danforth said afterward. “We were lucky to have a couple of days to regroup after that game. We needed to go back to the basics, back to figuring out systems and back to those one-on-one battles like you guys watched in practice. Not a fun practice (Wednesday), but I guess it paid off.”
Danforth was one of the leaders of the charge, notching a goal and a primary assist to push the Jackets to a 2-0 lead. Zach Werenski had an empty-net goal as part of a two-point night, while Sean Kuraly also tallied and goalie Spencer Martin made 36 saves, the third-most of his NHL career.
But most importantly, everyone chipped in, doing their part to make sure the Blue Jackets got two points.
“It was a great response,” head coach Pascal Vincent said. “We challenged our guys. They challenged each other. We played against a big team, and they responded well. It was a good effort.”
Now, it’s on to the next one. One victory is great and all, but true success is measured in the NHL by consistency, and the Blue Jackets know that yo-yoing between extremes is no way to make it back to the postseason.
With that in mind, the Blue Jackets will try to turn the page going into tonight’s game in Minnesota.
“It’s huge,” Kuraly said. “We’re gonna just focus on our first period tomorrow, our start tomorrow. We are done enjoying this one. It was quick and it was good, and we move on to Minnesota.”
Know The Foe: Minnesota Wild
Head coach: Dean Evason (Fifth season)
2022-23 Stats: Goals per game: 2.91 (23rd) | Scoring defense: 2.67 (6th) | PP: 21.4 percent (15th) | PK: 82.0 percent (10th)
The narrative: Minnesota has built a consistent winner, a tough, physical team that has made the postseason in 10 of the past 11 years, but the Wild have failed to win a playoff series since the 2014-15 season. The push toward taking that next step will come from such talented youngsters as forwards Matt Boldy (2019 first-round pick) and Marco Rossi (‘20 first-rounder) as well as defenseman Brock Faber (‘20 second-rounder), all of whom are on the roster.
2022-23 leaders: Kirill Kaprizov (2-4-6) and Mats Zuccarello (0-6-6) are the Wild’s top two scorers thus far, and that’s no surprise considering Kaprizov – one of the top offensive talents in the game – led the squad last year with 40 goals and 75 points, while Zuccarello (22-45-67) was right behind. Boldy’s first full NHL season was a success as he posted 31 goals among his 63 points, while Joel Eriksson Ek also topped 60 points (23-38-61).
In net, Marc-Andre Fleury was the team’s leader in games played last season and went 24-16-4 with a 2.85 GAA and .908 save percentage, but Filip Gustavsson looks like a potential star as the “Gus Bus” went 22-9-7 with a 2.10 GAA and .931 save percentage in 39 contests.
What’s new: The youngsters will get plenty of opportunities this season, and Faber, a University of Minnesota product, already leads the team in average time on ice. It’s a good infusion of youth and skill into a team that has won through physical play and strong defense in recent seasons, but the Wild didn’t turn a blind eye to adding a little more size, bringing in three-time Stanley Cup winner Pat Maroon to bolster a forward group that already included such big bodies as Marcus Foligno and Joel Eriksson Ek. Captain Jared Spurgeon is also yet to play this season with an upper-body injury.
Trending: Minnesota captured both games last season, shutting out the Blue Jackets by a 2-0 score in Nationwide Arena on Feb. 23 and earning a 3-2 overtime win three days later in St. Paul. Columbus is 3-4-3 in the series since the start of the 2017-18 season.
Former CBJ: None
3 Stats to Know
- Danforth notched his first career NHL game with multiple points Friday night, posting a goal and an assist.
- Werenski also had a goal and an assist to earn his first two points since suffering a season-ending shoulder injury last season.
- Milestone watch: Patrik Laine is one goal from 200 for his NHL career (199-182-381, 466 GP). … Andrew Peeke is four games away from his 200th NHL game (9-25-34, 196 GP).
CBJ goalies Spencer Martin (stopped 36 of 37 shots against Friday) and Elvis Merzlikins (.950 save percentage this year) are both coming off strong performances. … Ivan Provorov has three assists in his first four games with the Blue Jackets. … After notching just four assists in 59 games last year – and becoming the only CBJ player in team history to score at least 15 times in a season with less than 10 helpers – Kirill Marchenko has three assists in the first four games of the season.… Boone Jenner notched a hat trick in Saturday’s game, the second of his career and 47th in team history. … With a team-high 26 goals last year, Jenner joined Rick Nash, David Vyborny, R.J. Umberger, Cam Atkinson and Oliver Bjorkstrand as the only Blue Jackets with three or more 20-goal seasons.
This Day in CBJ History
Oct. 21, 2015: The Blue Jackets name John Tortorella, the winningest United States-born coach in NHL history who led the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup championship, as head coach.
Oct. 21, 2019: Gustav Nyquist scores the first overtime penalty shot goal in franchise history, putting a puck past Frederik Andersen at 1:57 of extra time to give the Blue Jackets a 4-3 win at Toronto.
Oct. 21, 2021: Patrik Laine tallies the overtime winner and Cole Sillinger notches his first career goal as the Blue Jackets post a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders at Nationwide Arena.
Projected Lineup (subject to change)
Adam Fantilli – Patrik Laine – Alexandre Texier
Johnny Gaudreau – Boone Jenner – Kirill Marchenko
Kent Johnson – Cole Sillinger – Emil Bemstrom
Jack Roslovic – Sean Kuraly – Justin Danforth
Zach Werenski – Damon Severson
Ivan Provorov – David Jiricek
Jake Bean – Erik Gudranson
Elvis Merzlikins OR Spencer Martin
Scratches: F Mathieu Olivier, D Adam Boqvist, D Andrew Peeke
Injured reserve/Injured Non-Roster: Yegor Chinakhov (back strain, week to week), Daniil Tarasov (knee, week to week)
Roster Report: The hit that injured Laine in the dying seconds of Friday night’s game could keep him out, which would push Olivier into the lineup against a heavy squad. Merzlikins could get the call on the second half of the back-to-back after not feeling well enough Friday to go.