COLUMBUS, Ohio — Despite a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks and an 0-2 start to the season, the Columbus Blue Jackets took a “step in the right direction” tonight toward finding their identity.
For one, starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had a solid performance, stopping 35 of 37 shots faced and keeping the game within reach for his teammates.
“I thought he was great,” forward Matt Calvert told Today’s Slapshot. “We gave up a lot of odd-man rushes there late in the game at even strength. He stood on his head, stopped some big breakaways and that really energized our bench.”
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella was also pleased with Bobrovsky’s performance. He said he trusts his goaltender, especially with the young team he has in front of him.
“This is a young group and a young back end; we are going to have to take some chances and Bobrovsky is going to have to make some saves,” Tortorella said. “That’s Bob’s job. Hopefully we can get some key guys going more consistently.”
Some of those key guys that need to get going include the Blue Jackets’ top line of Boone Jenner, Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson, who struggled to generate offense. Together, they have put up one point and 12 shots on goal through the first two games, and Tortorella had a few words on the trio after tonight’s loss.
“They’re trying like hell, but they can’t do anything right,” Tortorella said. “We can sit here and pick them apart, but they’re good players. They’re going to find their game.”
Players who did find their game tonight included 19-year-old Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski, who scored the first goal of his NHL career on the power play in just his second game. It was the team’s first goal of the night, and brought them within a goal 3:44 into the third period. It was also something Werenski said he had “always dreamed of.”
“It was definitely special,” Werenski said. “My parents were in the stands, so that was pretty cool, but we didn’t get the win so that’s kind of tough.”
Tortorella had high praise for Werenski, too.
“Zach is a guy that you can see, especially tonight, how he can control the game with the puck,” Tortorella said. “That god-given ability that he has, it’s at a different level than a lot of players in this league. I look at him, and the game Josh Anderson played tonight, and it’s really encouraging.”
Speaking of Anderson, the forward also scored a late goal for the Blue Jackets tonight. He spent a significant time on the penalty killing unit alongside forwards Matt Calvert and William Karlsson. Calvert said he has enjoyed playing with Anderson through training camp and the first two games of the season.
“It’s been great–he’s a north-south guy and he’s the kind of player I like playing with,” Calvert said. “He’s had two great games. But he’s young, and those young guys are learning what it takes every night, and so are we.”
Calvert added that he felt the team as a whole took a step in the right direction.
“That last half of the game there, I really thought we found ourselves,” Calvert said. “We were figuring ourselves out offensively tonight, and we started to find an identity. Obviously, we have a few mistakes we could fix up, but we have a young group here and it’s going to be a process, but we have to take that and move forward.”
The Blue Jackets will get back to work with practice on Monday, but will not return to in-game action until Friday, when they face the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationwide Arena.