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What a difference two games make. Jackets fans were ready to jump from bridges, give up on the team, and pontification if last year's leading scoring could help the the 2-5 Blue Jackets. The effort and consistency weren't dressed for the Blue Jackets in their four game skid that came to an end Sunday night. The one common theme that all of these worries shared was the lack of 60 minute effort that has plagued this team the early parts of the last two seasons.
And tonight, in Nationwide Area, in front of <an as of yet undetermined number> adoring fans, the Jackets showed that marvelous things will happen (or "marvelous pigs in satin" if you're Mrs Glowworm) when the effort and EXECUTION is consistent the entire game. It's also nice that a few bounces went the Jackets way. It's sublime that the Jackets have won two in a row. There are less "Rule 614" tweets and there are far fewer cries for Vinny Prospal - which means my 'mute' button has gotten a break from squelching Dbags who laugh at people for suggesting Vinny Prospal could help this team. It's ok to have a differing opinion, just don't drench the rest of us in vinegar or water if you feel your opinion is superior. That's exactly what this teeny-tiny fragile fan base needs, MOAR High School in-fighting, but I digress...
The Jackets effort is better these past two nights, markedly better. They are winning puck battles, there are less pucks blowing up on the ice (a cute hockey metaphor for 'CBJ players can catch passes'). All five players are taking better checking lanes in Dzone coverage, leading to less scrambling around and a more consistent break out. There are far fewer cutesy east-west passes in the offensive zone and more going north-south with the puck. And, while not the hero of the decade, they got a solid start from a goalie formerly know as "McBackup."
It's tough for me to find the time two watch Tues/Thurs Blue Jacket games. I am head coach of a Pee Wee travel team who practices at 8pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But I get to watch the beginning and end of these games in my element at the rink. I have never seen a hockey game where one player is to blame for a 4-1 loss or where one player is to blame for blowing a lead and losing a game in the last 70 seconds. Ye olde "win as a team, lose as a team" is accurate 99% of the time and has been the case for the Blue Jackets this season. Even when a player turns over a puck that directly leads to the deciding goal in a 1-0 contest - there are 59 other minutes of the game that weren't just a swarm of players convulsing at center ice. I believe the stink of the previous CBJ regime has left the locker room and any future dissent will be dealt with swiftly. It's easy to say "great team win" when the Blue Jackets win, and it's easy to blast the player you heard is a liability on the ice when the team loses. But the last 9 games have all been a team effort, one way or another.
The last two convincing wins isn't lightning in a bottle. These CBJ wins are what happens when you work hard AND play smart. The latter being key to the last two games - when you play smarter, the execution is better. The Jackets have been getting help on the Power play, and while it's not a style I necessarily agree with, I can't argue it's success thus far. It ain't broke, so keep it going. I hope this momentum the Jackets have found the last two game can continue to be a regular occurrence the rest of the season. If feels so good to see this team playing as well as they are capable of playing. While I've only seen about 15 minutes of tonight's game, I liked what I saw - same energy in the first 15 minutes as I saw in the last 15 minutes.
And here is my 'Game in one Haiku'
It's consistent play
Sixty Minutes; all three zones
Keep it up or suck