Despite the end result tonight, it's hard not to feel as if the Blue Jackets have found "their game." But like Todd Richards said post-game, at some point, they need to start getting results from their strong efforts.
This also felt very much like a playoff game tonight inside Scottrade Center -- and it was similar to Thursday's win in Detroit. The Blue Jackets have found ways to establish their forecheck, spend a healthy amount of time inside their opponents' end of the rink, and finish some of the chances they work hard to create. That was evident in Detroit, but tonight against a Blues club eager to end a woeful losing skid on home ice, it was not.
The lone offensive highlight was a true highlight: Matt Calvert's shorthanded equalizer late in the second period was one of the better individual efforts of the year, and it came at a time when the Blue Jackets needed to get some pay-off. James Wisniewski's lead pass was just as sweet, and Calvert's one-handed finish was a thing of beauty...but unfortunately, that was about it for Columbus tonight.
Sergei Bobrovsky played well, and it looks as if Richards is going to try and give him the bulk of the workload as things progress. There's a chance Steve Mason plays tomorrow on the tail end of the back-to-back set, but nothing is set in stone.
Let's wrap up Game No. 18 with my post-game analysis:
1. CALVERT SHINES: Has there been a Blue Jackets forward more consistent than this guy? Seems like no matter what line he skates with, he finds a way to create something positive whenever he's on the ice. Richards appeared to double-shift him at times in the third period tonight to get something going, and it was a reward for excellent work in the first two periods. He and Foligno have been tenacious on the forecheck when paired together and that's when the Blue Jackets start to create chances.
2. WELCOME BACK, CAM: The only thing Atkinson hasn't been able to do (yet) is light the lamp, and with the number of minutes he's logged in two games back from an ankle injury, it's only a matter of time. He played upwards of 18 minutes in Detroit and was over 17 minutes against the Blues, and the Brassard line hasn't looked this sharp all season. Atkinson's offensive instincts and the number of touches he gets on the puck make that trio one to watch for as he gets more comfortable.
3. NEED TO FINISH: The chances are there, the work ethic is there...as we've said repeatedly (and Richards said post-game he felt like a broken record), the Blue Jackets have to find ways to bear down and bury more pucks. They're leaving points on the table in winnable games, and in games that they've been in prime position to at least salvage points. Once the tide turns in that regard, they'll get rewarded for their play.