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Identity Win

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That’s how Torts described it. One for the culture, one to build on going forward.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

That was certainly a game, wasn’t it?

The first period was awful hockey. Just flat out awful. There were 11 shots combined, and it didn’t even feel like that many. Teams talk about “feeling out time,” that was the “too nervous to talk to someone at the middle school dance” of hockey periods.

The second featured a little more action. Ryan Murray, as part of his terrible night, was forced to take a penalty to prevent a shorthanded rush by Jay Beagle, nullifying one of the Jackets’ power plays. The Capitals took the lead at 15:43 of the second period through a Nicklas Backtrom wrist shot. This had all the makings of a home clunker heading into the third.

In the third period though, Columbus woke up in a big way. The team took 28 shots in the period to Washington’s 11. And they were rewarded in a big way. Zach Werenski (who else) tied the game on a snap shot that would have made Patrick Kane proud. It was downright filthy. With 6:58 to go, there was life.

With 6:21 to go, an odd sequence unfolded. The Capitals looked to have taken a 2-1 lead on a scrum in the crease. The Jackets coaches were looking for a goalie interference penalty to challenge it. The video coordinator astutely noticed that TJ Oshie was offside on the play and it wasn’t called, and told the Jackets to challenge for that instead. The goal was overturned, and the Jackets could breathe a sigh of relief. Also: the Jackets give a celebratory hat to various players after each win, to honor their contribution to the win. They gave it to the video guy last night.

With no further scoring, the two Metropolitan foes headed to overtime. Brandon Dubinsky (who, minutes earlier, took a puck to the face from Ryan Murray and broke his nose) won a faceoff, fed Cam Atkinson, and Atkinson buried it at :37 to win the game for Columbus.

Six straight home wins!

I’m not going to be overly critical tonight, except for one group: the defensemen. Outside of Zach Werenski, they were not all that great. Markus Nutivaara and Scott Harrington (a late draw in for Dalton Prout) played okay. David Savard, Jack Johnson, and Ryan Murray were brutally bad. We miss Seth Jones a lot.

BUT.

This was, as Torts said, an identity win. The Blue Jackets of yesteryear would have folded against the Capitals last night. Torts has (and it has never been more evident to me than last night) changed the identity and culture here. This team fought and clawed and scratched for every bit of that game last night, and came out on top. I was more impressed with that win than I have been in any other game this year. They went toe to toe with the Capitals (who were 44-0-1 with a lead after two periods, dating to last season) and came out on top. That was a statement win.

Also, Zach Werenski is officially beyond superlatives. He’s going to be an All Star, a Conn Smythe winner, and president of the United States. He’s just awesome, and I am so thrilled he’s a Blue Jacket.

On to the next one.