Improved Forechecking Paved the Way to Victory Over The Stars

By Jacob Nitzberg on March 4, 2021 at 11:43 pm
Mar 4, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Nick Foligno (71) and Dallas Stars center Radek Faksa (12) fight for the loose puck during the first period at the American Airlines Center.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Don't look now, but the Blue Jackets are on a two-game winning streak.

One did come against the Red Wings, but they don't ask how. They ask how many.

Their 3-2 win over the Stars tonight was defined by vastly improved defensive play and forechecking, all game long.

"We were coming out of the zone a lot better and just making smart plays, not making those small's an important part of our game," said Oliver Bjorkstrand, whose goal in the second period gave the Blue Jackets a 2-0 lead. 

The Danish winger found himself all alone in front of the net after a Stars turnover, and beat Anton Khudobin for his seventh goal of the season. He's got 18 points in 25 games, which is one point behind Cam Atkinson for the club lead.

"Everyone chipped in defensively today," said Joonas Korpisalo. The Finnish netminder made his sixth consecutive start and notched his second win in a row. He's 2-3-1 in his last six starts, but he's notched a .916 save percentage and 2.33 GAA, so he's been playing well despite the tough results. 

"I thought we got back forechecking, and for the most part I thought we played a really good game," said John Tortorella. All year, Tortorella has expressed his desire for the Blue Jackets to play as a group of five when they're on the ice, both offensively and defensively. Tonight, he liked what he saw.

"We played in fives a lot tonight. I thought we forechecked in fives, we were close to the puck...breaking out of our end zone and just arriving and being in position to get out of there (was) much more consistent tonight," said Tortorella.

After the Stars scored two unanswered goals in the third period to make it a 3-2 game, the Blue Jackets could have folded. Instead, they rose to the challenge. They forechecked hard on every shift, and the Stars weren't able to pull Khudobin for the extra attacker until there were 48 seconds remaining in the game. In fact, the Stars didn't register another shot on goal after Jason Robertson's tally that made it 3-2 with 9:12 remaining.

While they've now won two games in a row, Tortorella knows they have to take it one game at a time. You can't get too high on the highs, and you can't get too low on the lows. 

"I'm not gonna jump up and down and do cartwheels here," said Tortorella. "We're slowly trying to get better. You put a couple games together, you win a couple games, we just have to stay on top of ourselves and try to get better in all aspects."

The Blue Jackets will stay in Dallas to take on the Stars again on Saturday night, where they'll look to continue their current trend of consistent forechecking and working as a unit.