Good afternoon, friends. Hope "California Week" is treating you well so far.
It's certainly been good to the Blue Jackets early on, picking up a 5-2 win in a tough building on Tuesday night. There was plenty to be encouraged by, starting with a stellar performance from Sergei Bobrovsky (41 saves, including a couple of wowzers) and extending all the way through the lineup. What we saw last night is the type of game John Tortorella expects from his team every single night, so it was definitely a building block.
As the season goes on, I'll drop in here from time to time and offer my thoughts and observations. If you agree, tell me, and if you don't, don't.
I'm kidding. Tweet me (@RobMixer) and tell me I'm wrong. I'm used to it.
Here's what I liked about and learned from the Blue Jackets' win in San Jose:
1. Penalty killing = on the up
The Blue Jackets entered Tuesday's game with the NHL's worst penalty killing, occupying 30th place with a success rate of 71 percent. In short, that's not good, and it's certainly not going to help you win many games.
Special teams have been one of Tortorella's main points of emphasis in practice since he took over, and also one of the few things he chooses to highlight from the opposition during film sessions. Particularly against a team like the Sharks with so many weapons, the Blue Jackets needed to be prepared for what was coming their way -- and they certainly were.
Columbus took three minor penalties in a span of about 11:30 in the second period, providing the Sharks with ample opportunity to seize momentum in the game, but the PK didn't buckle. They were a perfect 4-for-4 and kept the Sharks' 0-fer streak at home intact...and it's stunning to think a team as talented as San Jose has yet to score a power play goal at home this season.
"The biggest thing is being more disciplined," Brandon Saad said. "They have a lethal power play over there...but the kill did a good job."
2. William Karlsson is growing with each game
The absence of first Ryan Johansen and now Alexander Wennberg has meant more playing time for the guy they call "Wild Bill," but injuries aside, his play would have earned him this opportunity regardless.
Remember when you asked yourself back in March, "who is William Karlsson?" after he was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks? It's early, sure, but it's hard to picture the Blue Jackets getting back on track without him.
Tortorella can't seem to use the kid enough, sending over the boards for a career-high of 19:25 last night in all situations. His intelligence, stick work and ability to make patient plays to get the puck out of trouble have earned the coach's trust.
"He looks like a smart player and I think he's cerebral. He can skate," Tortorella said last week. "He makes subtle plays that a lot of people may not see when you're watching the game. When you're looking at the details of it, he's a smart guy. For a young kid being put in the spots he's put in right now, he's handled it pretty well."
3. When you have structure, you can have success
Tortorella wasn't happy at all with the Blue Jackets' lack of structure and systematic play in their loss to Winnipeg on Saturday. Not only did they loose a lot of battles and look slow, their fall-back (structure) wasn't there.
When they got to work in San Jose on Monday, the focus both on the ice and in the video room was getting back to their structural commitment. As Tortorella likes to say: when you have structure, you have a chance, and it was much better on Tuesday night and it enabled them to play a harder, quicker game.
"We wrapped two (good structure) games around a lousy game against Winnipeg, and you have something there," Tortorella said.