The Blue Jackets are off to a 7-3-0 start through ten games, and they're doing it with a blend of youth and veteran talent.
Head coach Brad Larsen has crafted his lines and pairings to near perfection, giving the Blue Jackets depth that they can trust on a nightly basis. Despite injuries to Emil Bemstrom (oblique strain), Patrik Laine (oblique strain), Max Domi (broken rib, then NHL health and safety protocols), and Adam Boqvist (lower body), the Blue Jackets are still humming along.
However, they've dealt with an interesting schedule over the past week. They played in Colorado on Wednesday night, then hosted the Avalanche in Columbus on Saturday night. Six days later, this Friday, they'll finally play another game against the Capitals at Nationwide Arena.
"Whether we want (a break) or not, it's here," said Larsen on 97.1 The Fan's weekly Hockey & Hounds segment. "So we just deal with it. We got some bumps and bruises and we're dealing with some stuff, so it's never a bad time to get some rest, but it's an opportunity to try and push too. (We're trying to) tune up a few areas...and use these days to try and get better."
Boqvist is expected to return to the lineup on Friday night against the Capitals, and Domi could return as well. Bemstrom has been skating with the team during practice but is not participating in contact drills yet.
The Blue Jackets have won three games in a row, which is something that they did not achieve even once last season. With 14 points from ten games, they are third in the Metropolitan Division with a .700 points percentage and tied for seventh in the NHL.
"Quite honestly, I don't think we were great against New Jersey," said Larsen. "The first period against Jersey, we were on our game, and then the next two we lost it a bit. They're a good young team also...our goalie was good and we found a way to win. But the Colorado game, or both games really, I liked how we built throughout the game. I felt like we got stronger in each of those games and played our best period in the third period and really pushed a good hockey team."
In the first game, the Avalanche were missing some key contributors and started their backup netminder in a game that the Blue Jackets won 5-4 in overtime. Back in Columbus, Devon Toews, Mikko Rantanen, and Andre Burakovsky returned for Colorado. Despite the return of that trio, the Blue Jackets were able to ride a strong third period to a 4-2 victory.
"And (the Avalanche) were banged up (last week)," said Larsen. "They were missing some guys. In the game that they faced us at home, they got three of those guys back and they all had impacts in the game. But that third period again, we came to play. We came to win. Young, old, whatever you want to say, that's how you want your team to play. You want them to attack the game and play to win, not to hold on or get tentative."
Despite the hot start, Larsen knows that the Blue Jackets have a long way to go. They're 12.2% done with the season and they're in a good spot right now, but that could all change in a week.
"There are many boxes to check when you're only ten games in," said Larsen. "I keep telling everybody: 'Pump the brakes a bit, we've got 72 games left.'"
"This is a true marathon. It's not a sprint. We're happy to start well. Of course, nobody wants to get off to a bad start. But we're only ten (games) in, and we've got lots of runway ahead of us. We've got to make sure that we keep our minds focused on what we've got to do. I've told our team this: 'Stay humble.' Be happy and enjoy the wins, but the league will humble you really quickly if you start to get that little bit of arrogance. It can be a fine line between confidence and arrogance sometimes."