The morning after a game that got away from them quickly, the Blue Jackets convened at Nationwide Arena for a spirited, up-tempo practice session in preparation for tomorrow night’s contest with the Boston Bruins.
Most of the drills and teaching in today’s session were dedicated to improving the team’s play along the boards – a trait indigenous to many NHL teams, but specifically the Bruins. The Blue Jackets got a taste of that brand of game last night against the Predators, when the majority of regulation time was spent winning board battles and making strong exits out of the defensive end.
It will be more of the same with the Bruins, a strong four-line team that doesn’t allow much space in the middle of the ice and is stingy in allowing scoring chances. Oh, and they have one regulation loss in the last five weeks.
“I told the team that was probably our smartest game that we’ve played (last night),” Arniel said. “There wasn’t a ton of offense, scoring chances up until the last two minutes were 7-7. That’s Nashville, though; we were doing a lot of smart things, and at the end we didn’t do a lot of smart things to finish it off.
“We have to look at the positives of what we do and build on that. If we get two points against Boston, that’s five of six (points) this week. That’s a heck of a hockey team that’s on a heck of a roll and it could momentum back on our side.”
Five of six points this week is definitely Arniel’s target, but the single point against Nashville is one that he couldn’t let go upon leaving the arena last night. He and the players talked about it this morning prior to practice and discussed managing the momentum swings throughout the course of games.
“It can happen in the first or third period, but momentum in pro sports is how teams that are having success are the ones that handle those swings the best,” Arniel said. “We seem to be a team that gets back on our heels and don’t go at it face-to-face, sometimes we sit back on it.
“I think our mentality switches from positive to negative very quickly. We have people that have earned opportunity to be out there, but they don’t make experienced plays. It can be frustrating, but obviously it’s hurt us a couple times this year.” EVEN-STRENGTH PROWESS
One of the strongest aspects of the Blue Jackets’ game in recent weeks has been their 5-on-5 play, and several players noted that after practice today. They have taken concepts from practice and seen a marked improvement at even strength, putting the clamps on some of the league’s best offensive teams (Buffalo, Montreal of late).
“We play as a unit, and play our system and reload,” center Derick Brassard
told BlueJackets.com. “We don’t give any time and space to the other team. Yesterday, we did a really good job of that. (Nashville) didn’t have anything for basically the entire game.
“It’s something we’ve all bought into here lately, and we need to keep following the same plan every game.”
Arniel said that correcting their mistakes in coverage and on the backcheck has led to more possession time than earlier in the season, more scoring chances for and fewer allowed.
“We got real specific with our play without the puck, and it’s translated into so much more puck possession and recovery,” Arniel said. “Today it was our board work; it’s really evident now teams are being aggressive on the walls and that’s what our work today was about.” NEWS AND NOTES
- Arniel said that he and GM Scott Howson have decided against releasing rookie center Ryan Johansen
to Team Canada for the IIHF World Junior Championship selection camp. The deadline for NHL teams to release players is today.
- RW Cody Bass was assigned to Springfield (AHL) this afternoon.