Guys, I don’t know what kind of Super Wheaties nutrition plan the Blue Jackets has put all their players on, but it’s working. Last night’s game against the Penguins ended in a 5-3 win for Columbus, with goals by Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson, Derek MacKenzie, and two for Boone Jenner.
The win puts the CBJ record at 4-1-0 for the preseason. It’s hard to get attached to victories considering all the tinkering that gets done during the exhibition games, but such an outstanding record does say a lot about how well the team has gelled during training camp. We’ve seen some real stars emerge, chief among them Ryan Murray and Boone Jenner, who have made some truly spectacular moves over the course of the preseason game. Dubinsky and Atkinson’s continued excellence is no surprise, given how key both players were to the CBJ roster last season.
On the other hand, a worrying trend has shown its face during these exhibition games: the Blue Jackets kick off to a strong start, earning a lead in the first period, but come out in the second period with their pants around their ankles. We saw this against Carolina and the first Pittsburgh game as well; despite a great start, everything seems to fall apart for at least the first half of the second period. Passing gets rushed and panicky, offense-defense transition (or maybe just communication) breaks down, and way too much dependence is placed on the goalie.
So far, CBJ has been able to pull it together in time to regain traction over the course of the second period and into the third, but that kind of leeway won’t be available during the regular season. The Blue Jackets are arguably a more competitive team right now than they’ve ever been, and they can’t afford to have an “off” period.
That being said, some really exciting line combos have been showing their stuff this preseason, and the Jenner-Gaborik-Dubinsky combo is definitely at the top of that list. Jenner has far and away been the superstar of CBJ’s preseason, despite close competition from Dubinsky and Murray, and he showed us why in last night’s game.
(Plus, he looks like an adorable platypus, which is unrelated to his notable hockey skills but should probably get mentioned somewhere at least once. I mean:
Don’t you just want to bake him something? Okay, back to hockey.)
Dubinsky’s game is also worth an individual mention; he got his first goal and is currently leading the team for total points thanks to his six assists. Both Marian Gaborik and Jack Johnson had two assists this game to Dubinsky’s three.
On the Penguins’ side, Jussi Jokinen skated on the Evgeni Malkin-James Neal line and absolutely tore up the ice with a natural hat trick in the second period.
The Pens really seemed to find their rhythm in the last fifteen minutes of the game, and even took Fleury out for the man-advantage. It was a move that unfortunately for Pittsburgh resulted in a goal by Derek MacKenzie, but gave fans some fun hockey to watch. Malkin even managed to keep himself out of the penalty box without necessarily lessening the physicality of his game. Malkin, inarguably one of the best players in the league, is always a pleasure to watch on the ice; he plays the kind of all-around game that not many can match, as he’s both incredibly physical and dexterous. The Jokinen-Malkin-Neal combo showed off all three players’ talents, though ultimately it wasn’t enough for the win.
The Pens have history with using their preseason less to create momentum than to experiment with lines and combinations, so their less-than-stellar record likely doesn’t forebode the upcoming season. In the meantime, everybody cross their fingers for the fast recovery of backup goalie Tomas Vokoun, who was hospitalized with blood clots on Saturday. Reports from the organization seem positive — the clots were dissolved and he’s on the road to recovery. In the meantime, Jeff Zatkoff will get the opportunity to show what he’s made of in Wednesday’s game against Detroit.