Blue Jackets Pound the Blues

Expectations were low for the Blue Jackets entering Wednesday night’s game.  The club was coming off of a disappointing loss to the Minnesota Wild on November 6 and now had to face the hottest team in the NHL in division rival St. Louis. It had all the makings of a long evening in Nationwide Arena but what happened was, in a word, surreal.

The Blue Jackets pounded the St. Louis Blues, by a score of 8-1.  Columbus beat the Blues in every aspect of the game.  This is what is often called a beat down.

The Blues were winners of seven straight games.  Their goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, posted an other-worldly save percentage of .944 and a goals against average of 1.46 coming into the game.  The Blue Jackets hadn’t scored more than three goals in any game 13 games into the season.

Instead, the Blues exhibited what plagued the Blue Jackets in so many of their lopsided losses:  being tentative with the puck, being indecisive in their own defensive zone, being weak along the boards and failing to show any semblance of grit, nastiness or retaliation for extremely physical play.  In short, what was often said about the Blue Jackets was that, if there was a boiling point, no one could sure see it.

The Blue Jackets set the tone, from the get go, and dictated the pace and the physicality of the game against a team that has historically beat them around, with great glee.

On the scoreboard, the Blue Jackets set a franchise record for the most goals scored in a home game, as well as the largest margin of victory.  This truly was an unprecedented night.

Here is an analysis of the Blue Jackets performance Tuesday night:

The Good:

The short answer would be everyone, but, given the gravity of this landmark victory, here is a summary of the most outstanding performances.

The Second Goal:  The Blue Jackets opened up the scoring at 6:49 of the first period when Derick Brassard sprung Jakub Voracek on a breakaway goal.  But it was the second goal at 10:30 of the first period, when Jarred Boll broke down to a low angle and flipped a backhanded attempt on goal – on the surface, it was an innocent shot.  Amazingly though, the puck somehow deflected off of Halak’s skate or stick and trickled into the net to make the score 2-0.  From there, the game was no longer in doubt, as Blues then looked out of sorts and the blowout was on.

Jakub Voracek:  Any doubts that Voracek might have been mired in his usual sluggish start have been eased in recent games and was definitely put to rest after tonight’s performance, in which Voracek scored two breakaway goals and showed the incredible jump that he showed late last season.

Antoine Vermette:  Coming into the game, Vermette had only one goal and three assists in his first 13 games, part of which was due to being dropped to the Blue Jackets 2nd line after previously being teamed with Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius.  Vermette tallied a goal and an assist and displayed the speed and tenacious two-way play that was so often displayed since he came to the Blue Jackets almost two seasons ago.

Derick Brassard:  Brassard put to bed any concerns that he might never reclaim his Calder Trophy candidate form of the 2008-2009 season.  Brassard registered three assists in the game and now has tallied five goals and six assists to extend his point-scoring streak to eight games.

Chris Clark:  Clark was the Blue Jackets leading scorer going into the end of last week; however, all of his points were as a result of assists.  Clark scored two goals which broke a 17-game goalless streak.  More importantly, Clark is providing offense and leadership to a team that was previously devoid of both,  particularly since losing Ethan Moreau to an early-season injury.

Steve Mason:  While being spotted with a four-goal cushion before the Blues scored their only goal and enjoying the fruits of a seven-goal margin of victory may seem both boring and easy to do, Mason did make the saves when he had to and turned in another solid performance.  Except for a few tough outings and an occasional game in which defensive support was hard to find, Mason returned to starting in net and provided the Blue Jackets with hope that his sophomore season struggles are becoming a distant memory.

Scott Arniel:  Arniel deserves major credit for changing the dynamic of this team, both on its lines and in the overall treatment of his players, a great departure from former coach Ken Hitchcock.  Arniel isn’t afraid to try and to stick with new line combinations.   He has also handed over the keys to his promising young forwards, two of which are now starring of the Blue Jackets top line, in Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek.  But Arniel deserves the most credit for understanding the importance of setting the overall tone for this game and making a lasting impression on not only the Blues, but perhaps on the rest of the Central Division.

The Bad:

I couldn’t really find anything bad to say about the Blue Jackets’ performance Tuesday.

Room for Improvement:

There were no real areas for improvement, unless there is a way to clone that level of performance for the remaining 68 regular season games.

Up next for the Blue Jackets is a game against the Colorado Avalanche in Nationwide Arena on Friday, November 12th.

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