Blue Jackets starting to play the right way
DEC 10, 2013 11:39a ET
That was Columbus winger Matt Calvert talking about his team's play the past three games, two shutout wins, followed by the tough one-goal loss in Pittsburgh Tuesday night.
One of the signs for Calvert is the team's cycling, which he says has been strong the past three games, and adds it's just a matter of putting it in the back of the net. That's exactly what Calvert did after a beautiful feed from Mark Letestu, for the only goal in the 2-1 loss to the Penguins.
But that loss aside, the Blue Jackets have been a force the past three games, and they've been a team that was clearly not outworked and was clearly tough to face. That was the mantra last season during the run of success, but the team hasn't been able to find that game as consistently this year.
Has it clicked, finally? Three games certainly don't comprise a broad enough brush stroke to say the Blue Jackets are poised for another run, but the games against the Lightning, Wild, and Penguins could be a strong indicator of better days to come. And winger Blake Comeau says playing the "right way" comes down to the team's defensive zone first.
"I think it's when we're playing good, structured hockey in our defensive zone we come out of the zone in waves of three with the defensemen jumping in late, and we create opportunities that way," Comeau said. "I think when we're playing well, we're getting the puck in deep and forechecking well.
"I think most importantly it's when we're not cheating for offense," he continued. "We're a team that's comfortable winning 2-1, 1-0. And when we play the right way, we're going to get our chances as we showed when we won 6-0 in Toronto and 4-0 here against Minnesota. We have some good skill on this team, but first and foremost we have to compete and play a hard-checking game."
One thing that was obvious in the win over Minnesota compared to the loss to the Penguins was the number of quality shots and rebound opportunities Columbus had against the Wild versus the scarcity of chances in Pittsburgh. Comeau says it comes down to effort and support.
"A big key for us is that we're supporting each other, playing with speed through the neutral zone," he explained. "And when we get the puck on the forecheck, we need to get it up to our defense, and they've been doing a really good job getting shots on net. And we need guys around the net and in front of the net for those second and third whacks, which obviously is something that we need to be better at, as well."
According to Cam Atkinson, the problem getting quality shots through and generating more rebound chances in Pittsburgh was an issue with positioning, not effort.
"I think one thing that we needed to do better is obviously we've got to get to the front of the net, but we've got to get in front of the goalie," he said. "We were getting to the net, but weren't getting to the top of the paint; it seems like we're getting to the sides of the net. So, we have to get more scrums going and get pucks through."
No doubt, the game in Pittsburgh was a bit of a step back from the impressive wins over Tampa Bay and Minnesota. But in all three games, this Blue Jackets team showed the characteristics of the team that came within a tiebreaker of the playoffs last year. And Comeau says the team has figured out what it needs to do to continue playing this brand of hockey.
"It doesn't matter if we're playing at home or a different building or what team we're playing or what style they're playing. It's more about what we're doing," he mentioned. "We have to play a consistent game. Hopefully we realize in this room that when we've gotten away from it, we haven't been very successful, and when we've played the way we need to play, we've won games. Hopefully we can keep going with that mindset and string some wins together."
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