It was one game, but you could tell something was different.
From the drop of the puck on during the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, there was a sense of urgency rarely seen from Columbus this season.
They won battles. They out-raced the Penguins to most pucks. They made smart, simple plays. They kept traffic out of Sergei Bobrovsky’s way. It all adds up to a much-needed victory, one that could get this team started in the right direction.
For the first time since the coaching change, you could tangibly see John Tortorella’s imprint on this hockey club.
All of the hard practices Tortorella put the team through, all the hours of watching game film, breaking down why mistakes were happening everywhere on the ice, paid off on Friday. The Blue Jackets were fresh and focused. They had a plan. They executed that plan against the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and the rest of the Penguins.
The Blue Jackets weren’t threatened, until right at the end. It almost became disastrous.
After the Penguins got a goal from Patric Hornqvist with under a minute to go, Pittsburgh thought they tied the game. The referee immediately waved the goal off. It went to review.
Upon review, the puck was kicked in. The goal didn’t count, and the Blue Jackets breathed a heavy sigh of relief. For once this season, they got a break. Had the game gone to overtime, who knows what could have happened.
What Is The Tortorella Effect?
Tortorella wanted an aggressive, physical style against the Penguins. He’s spent his time with the Blue Jackets forging an identity, one that was severely lacking before he arrived. It started with building their confidence up. It continued with fast, aggressive play. More importantly, the Blue Jackets were not intimidated by the Penguins. Although separated by 12 points in the standings, and mired in last place in the NHL, the Blue Jackets showed that they were the better team, at least for one night.
There is still much work left for this team to say that they are back. I asked captain Nick Foligno if he thought Friday was their best game of the season.
“It’s coming. I don’t want to say it was the best game of the season since we still have areas to improve.”, Foligno said. “But we were shorthanded tonight with Dubi coming out of the lineup and guys just jumping in, Mur (Murray) jumping in and Prouter playing forward. You just see everyone. We’re starting to take ownership of this team.”
The Blue Jackets can’t dwell on this victory for very long. They come right back tonight to face a hot Arizona Coyotes team. This will really tell us where they stand. Considering they haven’t won at home this season, they cannot look past this opponent.
But at least for one night, the Blue Jackets can feel good about themselves. They played probably their most complete game of the season. They took six penalties, but was able to kill all of them off. They got a power-play goal of their own. Bobrovsky made crucial saves at key times. This was the Columbus Blue Jackets that we all expected to see at the beginning.
One game does not signal a turnaround, but it does give us hints of what we could see in the immediate future. Right now, what we see is Tortorella’s effect on this team taking shape. Given what he brings to the table, that is music to the ears of Blue Jackets fans.