Win Jackets win. It has been the resounding theme all week of ‘had been’ Blue Jackets fans that sit along the fence waiting for the franchise to prove their worth. Well, win they did, and in rare form.
The Jackets opened the season this evening in Nashville, a destination that has proved extremely difficult for them throughout the years. They brought some new forwards, a new defenseman, and Bob to a sold out Bridgestone Arena, primed for the season opener.
I had a couple of particular interests outside of my standard (work hard, win), but I think Sergei Bobrovsky was the one player I was most excited to see at the NHL level. He had a very strong rookie season and then struggled early last year before losing the starting position to Bryzgalov in Philadelphia.
At first look, he concerned me. Way too early in the game, Erat carried the puck across the blueline and took a shot on net that seemed to deflect off the defender and beat Bob clean. Another painful moment came later in the first period when a backhanded slow moving puck snuck through Nikitin and then Bobrovsky, who was down attempting to retrieve his stick. Two goals that seemed all too familiar being scored on the Jackets.
From there, it was the Bob show. He did not allow another goal to be scored until the shootout, during which he only allowed one in six attempts. He was very strong in all facets of his game and looked to only get better, finishing the game at .941. It would not surprise me at all to see him return to net for Monday’s home opener against Detroit.
Artem Anisimov also had a very impressive debut with the Jackets. Scoring a highlight reel goal with a Predator hanging off him in the second period, along with taking that backhander with him into the shootout and finishing nicely. His speed around the puck, sneaky decision making while awaiting an outlet pass, and strong face-off showing offer a ton of positives for the near future, and prove what Jackets management saw in him a few months ago when acquiring him. Speaking of that goal;
One of the tougher pills I had to swallow last summer was the deal that sent a longtime favourite of mine, Marc Methot, to the Ottawa Senators. Fortunately, Nick Foligno came the other direction, and that paid dividends offensively tonight with his tenacity around the net. He is a strong forward that can get his stick on the puck in ‘tough’ areas, leading to a goal and a post late in the game. I can see him factoring into the offense nicely as the season progresses.
There were other standouts. Ryan Johansen proved his added weight will make a difference in his game. Cam Atkinson had a couple great looks and seems to have a knack for the puck being on his stick at the right times. Derick Brassard still struggled in the faceoff circle but is pulling tough minutes as the Jackets number one center. His goal in the shootout looked effortless and proved to be the winner. Derek Dorsett was his usual self, flying around the ice, laying punishing hits.
Defensively, I saw some strong play all around. Defensive partners helped one another throughout the game and covered appropriately (Moore’s speed really does match well with Aucoin, who can get beat to the outside 1 on 1). I did not see “controlled chaos” get into the offense nearly as much as I expected them to (combined 1 shot, with plenty of attempts peppering the backboards), and really only saw Wiz make a couple of bad pinches that produced odd man rushes against the Jackets. Other than that, I thought the group played a sound game of hockey and I hope it continues.
A couple of non-player points I would like to make: First, after seeing a prediction as low as 12 wins for the season for the Jackets, I am pretty proud of this team right now. This win was bigger than most know, IN Nashville. 1/12. Next, when was the last time we saw a Blue Jackets team fight for a win like this? If memory serves, we lost a lot of heart breakers early in 2011/2012. How great would it be to start this season with the opposite?
The Blue Jackets are home against Detroit Monday. Come out and support this great team. They look ready.
Carry the Flag.