The Columbus Blue Jackets played their first home game of the 2014-2015 season last night against the New York Rangers, and showed off to the hockey world who they really are: a team that is physical, fast, and a legit threat in the Eastern Conference.
Okay, so through two games, the Blue Jackets surged pass the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 Thursday night on the road, and defeated a Henrik Lundqvist-less Rangers squad 5-2. One could say that this is a fluke — a typical Ohio sports kind of showing: open up fast out of the starting gate, only to face plant on the doorstep to championship glory. But this season’s Blue Jackets are the anomaly.
From the opening hype video to the end cannon blast, Nationwide Arena was rocking, and the Blue Jackets were impressing everyone. Second chance efforts, physical play around the boards, and intensity on the attack paved the way for the Blue Jackets win against the Rangers on home ice.
But let’s recap why the Blue Jackets are a legitimate contender in the East, in more detail:
Home Ice Advantage
As I nibbled away on pretzels and sipped on Dr.Pepper in press row, the lights went out, and the hype video plays. Last season, the hype video was more of an upbeat happy-go-lucky theme — the Bay City Rollers ‘Saturday Night’ blasting on (you guessed it) every Saturday night. This season, however, the hype video got a little more intense, and made Nationwide Arena more electric and intimidating. Granted, the hype video did feature Matt Calvert throwing a haymaker at Rick Nash, but the video got the fans pumped.
Fans inside Nationwide Arena are generating more and more organic crowd noises. English translation: fans aren’t waiting on the screens to say “Make Some Noise!” in order to make some noise.
“C-B-J” chants were prominent throughout the entire game, and boos rained down on Rick Nash whenever he was on the ice. Fan cheers originated in all parts of the arena, and weren’t isolated to just one or two fans. Just about everyone was cheering/yelling/standing on every Blue Jacket shot.
If the Blue Jackets fan base can stay electric, every home game becomes a headache for the opposition.
Scott Hartnell Likes Big Hits and He Cannot Lie
In his first home game as a Blue Jacket, Scott Hartnell did this to the Rangers Lee Stempniak:
Hartnell is the bruiser on this Blue Jackets team; this makes him the X-factor in the more physical games to come this season. Against the Rangers, Hartnell netted two points (both assists), blocked a shot, administered two hits, and completed 21 shifts for a grand total of 15:52 on ice time. Production like that is what the front office likes to see, and what the fans like to cheer at.
Remember, Nathan Horton is still out with an injury. Once Horton comes back to full strength, Hartnell and Horton will see some ice time together. At that point, Hartnell still plays the role as bruiser, Horton creates space in the attacking zone, and the Blue Jackets can stretch defenses. If this happens, three to four goals will be a constant night in and night out for the Blue Jackets — and Hartnell will score goals after bulldozing past defensemen.
Which brings us to our next reason for why the Blue Jackets are a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference …
You Get a Goal, and You Get a Goal, and You Get a Goal
Analysis of the day: you have to outscore your opponents to win games. The Blue Jackets knew about that memo, but are racking up goals, and winning in high-scoring fashion.
After a three goal effort against the Sabres, the Blue Jackets scored five times on 24 shots against the Rangers — Cam Atkinson scored twice; Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, and Nick Foligno scored one goal apiece.
Anisimov scored his goal on an absolute blister of a one-timer.
Atkinson scored his goal on a rebound, but not before falling forward on his shot attempt.
The Blue Jackets are corralling the net, and capitalizing on rebounds for second chance shot opportunities. If the Blue Jackets can continue this way of attacking, then expect just about everyone to score this season.
Once Ryan Johansen picks up his scoring (and point) pace, the Blue Jackets tour de force becomes even greater.
Officer Bobrovsky, You’re On the Case
Sergei Bobrovsky has been called a “top-cop” by the guys on TSN — a moniker kept by AP Columbus reporter Rusty Miller.
Bobrovsky! The top cop stops Martin St. Louis on 2-on-1 feed from some guy named Nash. #CBJ
— Rusty Miller (@RustyMillerAP) October 12, 2014
Here is the shot Rusty Miller tweeted about — it’s an absolutely filthy save against St.Louis.
Yes, it’s a great nickname to have; Bobrovsky is backing the “top-cop” name up by, well, arresting the puck in his glove. Against the Rangers, Bobrovsky saved 24/26 shots, and stopped all five Ranger powerplays.
If Bobrovsky continues to stonewall shots, then the Blue Jackets will have no trouble moving on up the Eastern Conference standings.