Five Thoughts: Cam Atkinson Loudly Busts His Slump, and the Blue Jackets Continue to Roll

By Rob Mixer on November 24, 2017 at 10:03 pm
Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson celebrates a goal against the Ottawa Senators at Nationwide Arena
Aaron Doster - USA TODAY Sports

Hockey is weird sometimes, isn’t it?

The Blue Jackets owned the puck for long stretches of tonight’s game. They had everyone involved and challenged the Senators to match their speed. Ottawa had a hard time with it, but an opportunistic offense allowed the visitors to hang in a 2-2 after two periods, despite being out-shot 25-12 and garnering only 31% of 5-on-5 shot attempts.

But a 2-2 game with 20 minutes to go is anyone’s game.

Tonight, it belonged to the Blue Jackets.

Three third-period goals, a lock-down defensive performance and another solid effort at even strength added up to the sixth straight win. It was fun.

Atkinson warming up

The Blue Jackets are trying to ignite the offense within some of their top players, and Cam Atkinson is one of them. Over the last couple of weeks (really, since his return to the lineup on Nov. 7), he has looked a more confident and aggressive player – which is the best version of Atkinson.

Mere moments after the Senators opened the scoring in the first period, the Blue Jackets forced them into a mistake, and Atkinson was waiting on the business end. Ryan Murray pressured the Ottawa puck carrier in the Columbus end, and after another bobble at the blue line, Atkinson was off to the races. He made his signature move: a quick deke to his forehand and tucked it under the pad of a sliding Craig Anderson, quickly drawing the Blue Jackets into a 1-1 tie.

In the third period, the Blue Jackets wiped out a penalty and went to work on the next shift.

Lukas Sedlak and Atkinson made it happen along with Tyler Motte, and Matt Duchene turned it over. Atkinson ripped a shot past Craig Anderson to give Columbus a 3-2 lead at 10:40.

Atkinson is one of those guys that needs to turn it on, and boy, did he ever do that tonight. He had been without a goal in the nine games prior.

Blue Jackets start on time

John Tortorella has been itching to get his team into the game early – particularly on home ice. They were better on Wednesday night in their 1-0 win over Calgary, but tonight may have been their best start yet. They were skating, controlling the transition game, and pushing pucks north into the Senators zone.

They yielded the opening goal, but Atkinson’s tally was important to get them to the dressing room in a new game after 20 minutes because it was one of their best in a while. Tortorella was able to distribute ice time, roll his four lines, and dictate the pace of the game.

Nutivaara rewarded

How about Markus Nutivaara?

He’s making sure that Scott Harrington and Gabriel Carlsson (when recalled) need a major reversal of fortune to get back in the Blue Jackets lineup. Nutivaara struggled at times last year, but he’s been a different player so far in 2017-18 and one that looks like an NHL regular. He’s formed a productive and sturdy third pairing with Ryan Murray, a duo that can be used in a top-four role if Jack Johnson and David Savard need a break.

Nutivaara scored his first goal of the season tonight (and first in 45 games), floating a wrist shot through traffic and past a massive screen set by Josh Anderson. It gave the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead in the second period and was the type of goal they need to score to break the dam: nothing flashy, but something simple. Get the puck on net and get people in front of the goaltender.


We may be on to something…

The Blue Jackets’ No. 1 line of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson has been a pleasant surprise. And, honestly, who’d have thought it?

(This guy certainly did not).

They were a puck possession machine in the Blue Jackets' victories on Monday and Wednesday, and tonight, put in quality minutes against a much stronger defensive team. Panarin had an ugly turnover that resulted in Ottawa's second goal, but beyond that, they drove play in the right direction and all three finished in the positive for shot attempts at 5-on-5.

Foligno snaps the skid

Nick Foligno is off the schneid.

His first goal in 13 games was a huge one for the Blue Jackets, who took a 4-2 lead with 6:33 to play on their captain’s decisive snipe on a 2-on-1. Foligno has been pressing, trying anything to contribute offensively to a Columbus team that's had its offensive woes lately. Tonight, his contribution was an important one; Sonny Milano hit him with a stretch pass and Foligno's decisiveness was the best part of his goal. He took one look and ripped a shot past Anderson's glove hand to give the Blue Jackets an insurance goal. 

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