That picture is a solemn reminder of the hard-luck losses over the years in Bridgestone Arena. For whatever reason, the funkiest of the funky goes down under that roof and at times, it has been downright unexplainable.
I'm not here to explain the past, but I am here to explain what the Blue Jackets must do tonight to start the next chapter on the right foot. Let's skip over the emotions/energy/tempo stuff, because that's a given; these two teams do not like each other and I can't think of a better way to kick off the season. As a player, the only motivation you need to "get up" for this game is to look at the calendar and see the opponent -- these guys would love nothing more than to begin their season by boarding Blue Jackets Air with two points in their back pocket.
Here are my "three keys" to success for the Blue Jackets tonight:
1) Start strong -- we know emotions will be running high, but Todd Richards' team must get something going early to build on for the rest of the hockey game. Slow starts have plagued the Blue Jackets over the years (especially in Nashville), so an early goal or efficiently-run power play might do the trick. They can't take penalties or get themselves behind the eight-ball, because there are few NHL teams more opportunistic than the Nashville Predators.
2) Support the puck -- the Blue Jackets are going to kick-start their offense from the blue line and it all begins inside their own zone. If all goes according to plan (it rarely does in this game, but bear with me), they will try to spend as little time as possible in the defensive end and move the puck quickly through the middle of the ice. Forwards have to be on high alert in the neutral zone and be available to get the puck beyond the attacking blue line...or else the pesky Predators are hanging out, waiting to pounce on mistakes. Puck support is one of the many things Richards has harped on during training camp and it's not going to stop anytime soon.
3) Win the special teams battle -- you know it's going to be called tight; opening night, a few rule changes and everyone will be held accountable with penalties. As a result, we could see a lot of power plays on both sides, making it paramount to capitalize on your opportunities. This is especially true in the critical moments: start of the game, late in periods, in the shift(s) after allowing a goal, etc. If the Blue Jackets can keep this aspect of their game under control tonight, they'll be in good shape.
Stay tuned to CBJ Today and BlueJackets.com throughout the day as we look at lines, pairings, and more.