The Blue Jackets picked up their first win of the season on Friday night, holding off the Chicago Blackhawks by a 3-2 final at Nationwide Arena. It was loud, it was fun, and it was much-needed before heading out west on a four-game road trip.
They got the job done primarily with five defensemen. Ryan Murray exited the game in the first period with an upper body injury and did not return, leaving John Tortorella with two rookies and three veterans the rest of the way (one of those vets is 22-year-old Seth Jones) - and they did a tremendous job.
Here's what we learned tonight:
1. The kid can play: Zach Werenski is a special player. Not often will you hear a coach gush about a 19-year-old rookie (they want to be measured about it), but Tortorella has no issues saying how highly he thinks of Werenski, who has gotten an opportunity to run the No. 1 power play unit right away. In this game, he opened the scoring with his second goal in as many games and it was quite like the first: he took a look, fired a quick wrist shot toward the net, and got it through traffic and behind the goaltender. We've heard over and over again about how his shots have a knack for getting to the net, and we've seen evidence of that so far. Columbus finished the game shorthanded on the blue line, mind you, but Werenski played 22:48 with five shots on goal and drew some difficult assignments while protecting a one-goal lead in the third period. Really encouraging stuff.
2. All that's missing was a goal: Brandon Saad played his strongest game of the season tonight and would have loved a goal against his former team - and he did everything except beat Corey Crawford. Not only was he active in all three zones, hanging on to pucks and looking to make plays, but he was utilized in all situations and has become a regular on the penalty kill (which has operated a clip near 86 percent in the first three games). No player on the ice tonight recorded more shots on goal than Saad; he finished the game with seven and you'd be hard-pressed to find a player who created more chances - and was a +2 in all situations shot attempts.
Video: Bobrovsky on the team win tonight at Nationwide Arena
3. Bob was simply Bob: Sergei Bobrovsky has played well in all three games so far, but tonight was his best performance yet. Tortorella said the Blue Jackets played their best period of the season in the opening 20 minutes, but after that, it was an uphill battle as the Blackhawks found another gear and pushed the home team to the final buzzer. Bobrovsky was their backstop, finishing with 32 saves and staving off a furious Chicago rally in the final 10 minutes. He was deservedly the game's No. 1 star tonight.