It’s funny what winning does, right?
Imagine a Blue Jackets head coach (for the sake of this discussion, we’ll say circa 2010) willingly proclaim that he has no idea what to make of his team. If this were Scott Arniel, we would be concerned. For good reason.
But when John Tortorella says he’s still waiting to figure out what he has, it almost sounds wide-eyed and excited. Like he’s thrilled with the continual tests the Blue Jackets are facing and continue to pass, and then seeing how it shapes them down the road. They’re five games into the season and have four wins — each of them oddly different — and no one involved seems terribly thrilled with how they’ve gotten there.
If it reads crazy, that’s fine. We’ve never been here before.
The Blue Jackets have expectations. Not just internal expectations, not just motivational quotes or goals they hang up in the dressing room. The organization, from top to bottom, now expects to win. The media expects them to win. Their fans expect them to win. Locked in a 1-1 slopfest in Carolina, you were just waiting to see which Blue Jacket broke the tie. This is obviously a good team and, when things aren’t going well, you fully expect them to snap out of it.
And that’s why Saturday night was so important.
The Blue Jackets were not good in that game. Not at all. They turned pucks over, they couldn’t execute in the offensive zone and their power play was baaaaaaaaaaaad. But you know what? They were only down by a pair with 20 minutes left, and they did exactly what they did the night before: they made the final period their best period. That’s what good teams do, regardless of what’s come before.
I’m not saying the Blue Jackets are now in a class with the NHL’s top teams, but I am saying they’re doing things that are emblematic of those teams. When Tortorella talks about his team adding "layers of confidence" and playing with a degree of arrogance, this is what he’s referring to.
ANSWER THE BELL
While we twist and turn through the weirdness of the NHL season’s first two weeks, sure enough, the Blue Jackets’ first “problem” has been turned on its head. Tortorella was disappointed in the top line’s performance in their first few games, but Friday and Saturday saw Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg grab both oars and row the damn boat.
Panarin scored the game-winner on Friday and added three assists on Saturday. Wennberg scored the winner on Saturday and was noticeably more involved. Atkinson scored a huge goal in Minnesota that brought the Blue Jackets within a goal and set up their comeback win. Everyone was in the action, and that’s what those top guys are expected to do. They answered their coach’s challenge and look to be headed in the right direction.
Where they need help now, though, is with everyone else.
Tortorella went heavy on minutes for the No. 1 line on Saturday, with each guy logging 20-plus. When you’re trailing in the third period, that’s often the case, but the Columbus bench was quite short. Had they gotten anything from the other lines, it may have been a different story. They need to get Oliver Bjorkstrand going. They need Sonny Milano to keep on his current vibe. They need Brandon Dubinsky and Josh Anderson to chip in offensively like they did Saturday.
It’s what made the Blue Jackets a great team last season. They can bank some points and get by for a little while on the shoulders of their big guns, but over the course of a season they need their depth to contribute.
STOP THIS MADNESS
There's rumor/speculation going around that I'm not sure I can get down with.
If you read enough Reddit threads and Star Wars news sites, you'll see a bunch of people trying to take the teases we get throughout the film cycle and attempt to piece plot points together. For The Last Jedi, which we know little about, this seems like a classic example of throwing shit against a wall. This weekend, I read theories about this installment flipping the script and following the journeys of Rey and Kylo Ren as the venture closer to their respective middles, and the story resolves with a decision to either work together or destroy each other.
I'm fairly convinced that we'll see Rey struggle with the dark side, or at least the tendencies every young Jedi is warned of that can be a prelude to evil.
Someone talk me away from this fan fiction. PLEASE.