Physical line helping Jackets form an identity
Anderson, Jenner, Foligno coming off strong game at Montrealby Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com
There's one line that Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella has turned to time and time again of late as the team battles for a playoff spot.
And it's not the one featuring the team's top scorers.
While Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson have comprised one of the top lines in the NHL all season, the line Tortorella keeps coming back to features captain Nick Foligno, alternate captain Boone Jenner and winger Josh Anderson.
The line has created an identity as one that's physical and hard to play against. Tuesday night in Montreal, it accounted for the team's two goals, with Jenner and Anderson each playing more than 20 minutes of ice time.
It's a line that's been together most of the season, and it plays a heavy game at a time when that's what the game demands.
"We've been playing basically this whole year, so it's easier that way," Anderson said after the 3-2 loss. "We know where each other is on the ice. We can make reads on each other and plays that we need to make. Sometimes when they're not there, we have three big guy that can skate where sometimes you have to dump it in, and usually we're the first ones there who can get to the puck. It's just the little things."
Anderson has been the straw that stirs the drink over the past few games. He has six goals in his last 10 contests and is playing with confidence, causing Tortorella to label him "a force."
The swift-skating but physical forward has been scoring goals in all different ways, from getting to the front of the net to scoring on the rush, as he did when he beat Carey Price on a 2-on-1 against Montreal for his career-best 21st goal of the season.
"He was very effective," Tortorella said after the game. "He is becoming more and more consistent. Obviously his speed just backs off teams' defense. He's beating people one-on-one, too. I think that's important that he can do that."
Video: Nick on the need to play a complete game
On the season, Anderson has been one of the team's top forwards at driving play. At 5-on-5, he's been on the ice for 42 goals for and 28 against, and he is above 50 percent in scoring chance ratio and high danger chances ratio.
Jenner has also had success in the advanced numbers, and he's been playing like a force while battling an ankle injury of late. In his last seven games, Jenner has a goal and six assists while winning 62.1 percent of his faceoffs.
Foligno had a goal against Montreal and pointed out the line's success came after it dedicated itself on the defensive end.
"I think we had to just adjust a little bit after the first," he said. "We seemed to open ourselves up with the freebies where they were getting odd-man rushes and scoring. And then defensively we did a great job of tightening up and making them have to come through us, then we got our chances. I feel really good about that, that mind-set going forward."
The only mark against the line vs. Montreal was giving up the game-winning goal with less than seven minutes to play in the third period. Foligno and David Savard had a miscommunication on who would take defenseman Jordie Benn, who swooped low in the zone and then found Tomas Tatar back door for the winning goal.
But if it weren't for the line, the Jackets wouldn't have been in the game to begin with, as Anderson and Foligno provided the team's two tallies in a game the team played without standout Artemi Panarin.
"We had a little bit of a mixup who was low down low in our end on their winning goal, but I thought their line contributed," Tortorella said.