Emptying the notebook: Day 2
We started the morning session in the OhioHealth Ice Haus and saw the team go through a 45-minute practice, mostly a refresher from Sunday's system work designed to get the legs going again. There was some breakout work, focusing on the details of who retrieves the puck and how the forwards move the puck through the neutral zone -- all things that a transition team like the Blue Jackets need to have down pat.
After the first part of practice, Todd Richards moved the group on the main ice at Nationwide Arena for the first time this season. Unlike the up-tempo morning practice, the afternoon consisted of much more teaching and structural review. Backchecking assignments, defensive zone coverage, face-off scenarios in all three zones, and a lot more.
It's kind of like going over a syllabus on the first day of classes: here's what's expected, let's learn it once and then move forward together.
Some of the line combinations from Sunday remained the same and some changed, but that's exactly what Richards indicated. The short window for training camp means that NHL teams aren't going to get precisely what they're looking for in terms of chemistry, etc., but they will have to make the most of the time afforded to them.
Allow me to empty the notebook after Day 2:
-- First thing I noticed: two lines stayed together and the other three were mixed around. Umberger-Brassard-Atkinson and Dubinsky-Anisimov-Dorsett took the ice ensemble today, while the bottom six was still up in the air. I suspect that will be one of the ever-changing areas of the lineup as we get closer to the start of the season.
-- On the other three lines today: Foligno-Johansen-Prospal, Calvert-MacKenzie-Boll, Letestu-Jenner-Gillies. Really liked the Johansen line (and we covered the Prospal/Foligno partnership in detail on CBJ Today), and it brought another level in the young center's game. I thought Johansen was good today and we'll see how Richards evaluates it in the coming days.
-- After Boone Jenner centered the fourth line yesterday, he was on the wing of the "extra" line today while other players got a chance to state their case. There are a handful of guys in the hunt for bottom six spots and even position-wise, so even though the top six looks set (for now), there's a lot of dust left to settle before Nashville.
-- Do I still think Jenner makes the team? Leaning toward "yes."
-- Today's defense pairs: Tyutin-Nikitin, Johnson-Wisniewski, Erixon-Aucoin, Moore-Savard.
-- Before we read too much into those, I'll say this: swapping Moore for Erixon today looks to me as if Richards wants to see a few of the Blue Jackets' young blueliners paired with Aucoin to see who's the best fit. I thought Moore was very good yesterday, and today, Erixon stepped up and made a strong account of himself.
-- Erixon has a ton of talent and has come a long way in his first season in the organization. He's a go-to power play guy for Brad Larsen in Springfield, plays a lot of minutes, and racks up a ton of assists mainly from his point shot. Once Larsen turned him loose to shoot the puck (and that was pretty much from day one), the points came in bunches for him.
-- Aucoin is going to be a very valuable presence for the defense prospects here. He's like a fourth assistant coach on the ice, reviewing drills with his partner before they take their reps. If there's a question, he can usually answer it and it's nothing but encouragement coming out of his mouth.
-- Talked to Jack Johnson for a bit after practice and he's operating under the assumption that he will pair up with James Wisniewski to start the year. Yes, folks, "Controlled Chaos" is back together and Johnson is pretty excited about it: "We paired up together right away when I got here last year and it was great. We really enjoy playing together."
-- Was impressed with Anisimov's decisiveness on the ice; there's little grey area when he gets the puck at the attacking blue line. It's taking the shot or making a play, and the decision is quick. Guy's got a great wrist shot and tends to hit the target on a regular basis.
-- I've heard a lot of people talking about the Dubinsky line in the last 24 hours, and for good reason. They were crisp out there today and I'd say it's a safe bet they'll be back together in the morning. You don't even have to label them a "scoring line" or a "checking line," really. All three guys are so versatile that you can dictate how you want to use them based on your opponent and the corresponding matchups.
-- We're back at it tomorrow morning at 10:30 in the OhioHealth Ice Haus. Come on down, it's free and open to the public. If you can't make it, we'll have another live blog going as soon as the guys hit the ice.