So how about the last few whirlwind days for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The welcome back reunion and goal for Mark Letestu, the anticipated arrival of Thomas Vanek, and the addition of Ian Cole into the fray of a bolstered defensive corps. Yes, dare I say the Blue Jackets are better today than they were just days leading up to the Feb. 26 trading deadline.
I'm more into getting draft picks for Johnson, Jenner, Calvert than paying any real price for a rental who won't help the team get out of the first round anyway. #CBJ— William Chase (@WillChase_) February 25, 2018
Though I was iffy on this team leading up to the deadline, and while I’m still not sold that this club is more than a one-and-done postseason entrant (you kind of have to root for a Flyers-Jackets matchup, don’t you?) you still have to give it up for Jarmo Kekäläinen for acquiring the three veterans for very little:
- Vanek from Vancouver Canucks for Tyler Motte and Jussi Jokinen
- Letestu from Nashville Predators for 2018 4th-round pick
- Ian Cole from Ottawa Senators for Nick Moutrey and 2020 3rd-round pick
And though the acquisition for Cole led to the undying belief from a majority of the fanbase that Jack Johnson was all but gone, you now have John Tortorella forced to scratch a pretty good starting contributor every night the rest of the season. Which also accounts for injured Markus Nutivaara. Tortorella talked about that roster depth in the fallout from Monday’s wild win — recap — over the Capitals.
On Monday, Columbus was at its best, playing their most complete game as they’ve demonstrated all season.
The power play was two-for-three — in the first period — the Jackets capitalized four times in the first period, the first time they’ve had a four-goal period since Oct. 17 at the Winnipeg Jets, and they never relented. Not when the Capitals had a three-minute power play in the early moments of the second period.
“No matter what team you’re on in the Metro, it’s great beating Washington.”
Vanek will get his first action with the Jackets Thursday in Los Angeles to take on the Kings at 10:30 p.m. He brings 18 points on the man-advantage with four goals. He’s 34-years-old but he’s been productive with 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists) overall this season. With the Canucks, Vanek was tied for third on the team in scoring, third in goals and assists.
He’s now the Jackets second-leading scorer behind Artemi Panarin.
Vanek’s arrival comes at a time in which Josh Anderson will miss the next four weeks after sustaining a knee sprain Monday and Nick Foligno, who traveled west with the team, still out.
I liked Motte — here’s additional reading from earlier in the season — but he clearly wasn’t going to be a regular in Columbus, and now he’s on his third NHL club since 2016-17. Jokinen is on his fourth NHL squad this season (More on him).
Here’s Motte showing some speed and grit in his second game with Columbus.
His first goal.
He was good at those stretch passes.
Letestu (nine goals, 11 assists) brings a solid faceoff presence, winning 3,164 in 6,067 chances in his career, 10 of 15 Monday night, and has always won the majority every season of his career. His 357 wins this season between the Oilers and Columbus place him second on the team behind Brandon Dubinsky.
The Jackets' inconsistencies this season well-chronicled, I’m anxious to see if the same jump from Monday night is present Thursday in L.A. There was a certain energy Monday night, against a really good team, and with Columbus already looking to avoid a season-sweep, they played with spirit and never relented.
By The Way
Is this Alexander Wennberg’s forte?
How about Seth Jones there with the spin-o-rama to set the play.
And a little Jumpman 23 air for the finish.
Did You Know
In the Blue Jackets last 12 wins, dating back to Dec. 23, they have kept their opponent under three goals in all of them. Only 12 wins. But two-or-fewer goals each time.
Makes you think.