Jumping Out Early
It took Boone Jenner just 1:23 Wednesday night against Anaheim. It took Nick Foligno just 2:29 Thursday in Boston. It took Sam Gagner just 2:34 Saturday night against St. Louis. What am I talking about?
Those were the amounts of time it took those players to give the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead in their respective games. Talk about being ready for the game right from the drop of the puck.
In fact, the Blue Jackets have tallied the first goal in 11 of their 13 games to start the season. This is a refreshing start to the season in this aspect given how other seasons have gone. The Blue Jackets aren’t finding themselves down two or three goals before putting forth an effort.
In this week’s review of the game tape, we are going to show you why Columbus has had early success in games. What are they doing differently now that they weren’t doing before?
The Columbus Quick Starters
The Blue Jackets have allowed just eight first-period goals this season. If you don’t count the Boston game this past Thursday in which the Bruins got four in the first, the Blue Jackets have allowed four first-period goals in 12 games. Conversely, Columbus has scored 16 goals in the opening period.
The thing that sticks out on tape, especially this week: preparedness and energy. The Blue Jackets come into these games ready from the puck drop and just bring it the first five minutes of games. They have yet to give up a goal in the first six minutes of a game this season. The earliest goal allowed thus far was Kevin Shattenkirk’s goal at 6:35 of the first Saturday night. The Blue Jackets have five goals for within the first six minutes of a game.
Let’s look at Boone Jenner’s first goal of the season Wednesday night against Anaheim. You’ll see where the preparedness and energy come into play for Columbus. This goal started after the Blue Jackets lost the faceoff. The puck went behind the net where two Ducks players were there ready to clear the puck out.
Scott Hartnell chases the play into the corner, while Dalton Prout pinches on the wall, forcing the Ducks to turn the puck over. Their play and positioning away from the puck was instrumental to the resulting goal.
Hartnell then skates in front of the net. Jenner gets the puck at the right point and gets it to Hartnell all alone. John Gibson makes a great save on Hartnell. Jenner crashes the net and deposits it in for a quick 1-0 lead.
Whether it was a good pinch, or crashing the net, their energy was on full display. Their preparedness allowed them to force a turnover by positioning themselves well even after a lost faceoff. Now the Blue Jackets can play from ahead. They quickly make it 2-0 thanks to some excellent work from Brandon Saad.
The puck ends up in the corner, where Saad goes to battle with Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner. Both Hampus Lindholm and Chris Wagner are close by, making it seem like a non-dangerous situation for the Ducks. Saad makes a beautiful play on the wall to free himself and delivers a perfect pass to Jack Johnson. Johnson fakes his shot and gets the puck to Ryan Murray, who sees the Ducks collapse toward him. While this is happening, Saad is wide open on the other side. Murray makes a beautiful pass and Saad slams it home.
Let’s look at Foligno’s 1-0 goal from Thursday. Again, energy and aggression is clearly on display.
Hartnell throws the puck into the corner. All five Bruins skaters are in the vicinity. The Blue Jackets are in the middle of a line change. Zdeno Chara collects the puck and flips it right to a pinching Wennberg. Wennberg hits a streaking Foligno with a perfect pass and it’s in the net before Tuukka Rask knew what happened.
The Blue Jackets are not sitting back waiting for a play to happen. They are more aggressive in forcing plays to happen. Couple that with a young defense more than holding their own, and you see why Columbus is enjoying early success in games.
The Road Ahead
While the early success is an excellent step forward, the rest of the game, especially this week, hasn’t been all that good. The Jackets allowed the Ducks to tie the game. The Bruins scored four unanswered after allowing the first goal to Columbus. The Blues scored four power-play goals in a losing effort. Columbus must find a way to carry their early momentum throughout the rest of the game.
The good news however, is that Columbus did win two of the three games. They now sit at 7-4-2 after 13 games. The Jackets host Washington Tuesday, host the Rangers Friday, then they play five games in seven days starting Sunday in Washington. A win against Washington Tuesday will tie the Jackets best 14-game start in franchise history with 18 points.
The bottom line is that the Columbus Blue Jackets have taken steps in becoming a more competitive team. They start fast and don’t allow much of anything early in games. They’ve carried that momentum into a winning start. Can this continue throughout the season?
We’ll see you after their Florida trip for more Blue Jackets film review.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.