The stories were so easy to write: The red hot Blue Jackets coming into Detroit to face the Red Wings, who have been struggling so badly at home - ripe for an upset as the Wings dragged themselves back onto their feet in front of the home crowd.
Zach Werenski, the Michigan native and defensive wunderkid, playing in front of his family. Would he shine, or would he screw the pooch under all that pressure.
The surprising removal of Columbus’ captain, Nick Foligno, due to illness and the callup of Oliver Bjorkstrand. What would the Jackets do without one of their leading scorers, and could the young forward replace the veteran’s presence after being dropped into the top six?
The narratives were easy to write, but none of them really came into play.
Instead, the story in the Blue Jackets 4-1 victory over Detroit came down to some of the same things that have been paying off for Columbus all season.
1) Bob was BOB.
Make no mistake, the Wings wanted to take it to Columbus, and the Blue Jackets weren’t at the top of their game, especially early in the first period. But Bob made the saves they needed, and in the crunch, he delivered.
2) The Hustle
If you look at the goals Columbus scored, with the possible exception of Sam Gagner’s empty netter, they were a product of players outworking their opponents and not giving up on plays. Cam Atkinson opens the scoring on a shorthanded goal that comes together thanks to Cam and Dubi breaking out on an odd man rush.
Brandon Dubinsky gets the GWG on a play that...well, I’d say calling it a broken play for both teams is being pretty generous.
Seriously, what even WAS that? But Dubi never gave up on the play, and he got rewarded.
Then you have Lukas Sedlak - a gamer from day one, who just could not find the back of the net, finally collecting that first NHL goal. Why? Because he never stopped moving, and he was exactly where Sam Gagner needed him to be.
(The fourth line deserves props in general for driving play all night, and giving the Wings fits in the neutral zone. Well done, boys.)
3) Standing Up.
The Jackets didn’t get any help from the officials tonight despite the Wings taking a number of...shall we say liberties. Bob was given a rough ride nearly every time the Wings made it to the crease, and several hooks and obstruction moves seemed not to bother the officiating crew.
Enter Scott Hartnell.
In the post game presser, Torts and virtualy everyone interviewed by Fox Sports afterward credited Hartnell stepping up to engage Steve Ott as the turning point in the game. That willingness to engage and defend each other has been a big piece of the puzzle so far this season, and it was a major part of the victory once again tonight.
As far as things went for Werenski and Bjorkstrand, neither played a bad game, but they weren’t driving forces for this matchup. That’s OK. The Jackets didn’t need them to be, and the serviceable contributions they delivered were a valuable part of the team’s overall effort.
To sum it up, the Jackets answered physicality with physicality, got some stellar goaltending, AND they turned in some opportunistic scoring to go with it.
That’s a powerful combination. Is it any wonder they’re rising to the top of the standings with it?