Before the Blue Jackets began this stretch of 10 of 12 games at Nationwide Arena, they were trying to right the ship and turn some of their one-goal losses to the other side of the ledger.
Nearly three weeks later, they've found themselves in the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture and have set a franchise record with points in each of those dozen games. They went 8-0-4 in the aforementioned stretch, and after tonight's 5-1 win over Calgary, pulled into a tie in points (32) for the eighth and final playoff spot with an enormously important road trip beginning right now.
As I type this, the Blue Jackets are on a plane to Nashville where they'll face an angry Predators club tomorrow night at Bridgestone Arena. But like many players mentioned post-game tonight, they're so focused on themselves right now that opponents' situations barely (if ever) enter their minds. In the simplest form, they are lining up, putting their sticks down and going to work - and it's hard to argue with the results.
This game was one that could have gotten away from the Blue Jackets. They were not sharp to start the second period and the Flames were flying shift after shift before tying the game at 1-1 on Curtis Glencross' 13th goal of the year. Todd Richards said he felt a lack of intensity from his group, and their collective level wasn't high enough as the Flames made a strong push to turn the game around - but a big play from Artem Anisimov changed the complexion.
Anisimov drove hard to the net on Miikka Kiprusoff and disrupted the Flames goaltender a bit, and it lit a fire under his Jackets teammates. What happened after that, well, you know: they scored three times in 75 seconds - a franchise record - and rolled to their third straight win.
They did it as a group, too; many have said that each team in the NHL would need its depth for success in a shortened season. Case and point tonight for the Blue Jackets: every player on the roster played at least 10 minutes.
Let's break it down:
1. DESERVED REWARD: Derek MacKenzie (two assists), Jared Boll (goal), Colton Gillies (goal, assist) finally got the tangible reward on the scoresheet after being one of the Blue Jackets' most reliable units in this 12-game stretch. Not only were they physically dominant tonight - particularly in the Calgary zone - but they were responsible for some significant moments in the game. Boll's goal got it all started, MacKenzie chipped in some helpers and Gillies put the cherry on top with his first of the year.
2. RED HOT FOLIGNO: It was only a matter of time before Foligno really caught fire. After a two-goal effort tonight against Calgary, Foligno has 3-6-9 in his last 12 games and has been a terrific fit alongside Ryan Johansen and RJ Umberger. They're three big, strong players who play at a high pace and can out-work teams in the offensive zone. Umberger had a pair of assists tonight, as well, and Johansen picked up a +2 rating in the second period alone.
3. TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS: The Blue Jackets made their own breaks and did what they needed to do. This home stand was the tipping point of their season - and now, there's another tipping point with an all-important road trip coming up. They went 4-0-1 on the home stand and won their last three at Nationwide Arena, setting the stage for a road swing that will give them a clear definition of where they stand. It's going to continue to be a fun ride.