Dorsett: "we stuck with it"
Derek Dorsett has been around long enough to have a complete history knowledge of the Blue Jackets' struggles in Nashville. But entering last night's season opener at Bridgestone Arena, he could not have cared less about the past.
Like his teammates echoed all week, they were approaching the game with a different outlook and a clean slate attitude. Their focus was on the first game of 48 on this year's NHL docket, and ensuring that they left the Music City with nothing less than two points.
And though it wasn't the start they were looking for -- Martin Erat's goal just 39 seconds into the game was a slight setback -- they didn't waver from their plan. Given the string of miserable luck that preceded last night's game in Nashville, it would have been easy to start thinking a different way, Dorsett said, but that mentality wasn't an option.
"We didn't get down on ourselves when they scored early, we just stuck to it," Dorsett told BlueJackets.com after practice today. "We kept grinding away and played them really hard. It could've gone the other way with them scoring early and we could've let that take the wind out of our sails, but our guys pushed through it."
Against a team like the Predators that prides itself on being opportunistic via mistakes by the opposition, Dorsett was fond of his team's responsibility at both ends of the rink. They made the smart plays in the offensive zone to extend shifts and wear down the Nashville defense, and made sure they were aware of the counterattack if they turned the puck over.
The "third man high" in the offensive zone was a constant all night long, ensuring that the Blue Jackets would have a forward high-tailing it on the backcheck to negate odd-man rushes. Nashville never really got its game going off the rush and had to overextend on numerous occasions, and Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards thought his team weighed heavily on the Predators in the closing 40 minutes.
"If we're going to be a solid defensive team, we have to do those things," Dorsett said. "I thought the first period was a feeling-out period for both teams and a bit sloppy, but in the second and third periods, we can really look at that and say to ourselves 'that's our identity' and that's how we're going to play.
"We just have to keep working hard. We have to make sure everyone's doing their part tomorrow. We can't be living off what happened yesterday or anything like that, it's time to keep going north."
Dorsett was part of a new-look line combination, on the right wing of a unit featuring Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov. The latter two played extensively with each other during their time in New York, and adding Dorsett to right side gave them an extra edge along the wall and helped establish a strong cycle game.
The first period was a bit sluggish and Dorsett thought his line was "one or two seconds off," but they ramped it up in the second and third periods to get the Predators back on their heels.
"Artie and Dubi are both big guys and they can hold guys off the puck," Dorsett said. "We have to make sure that when we get in those battles along the wall that someone gets open and heads to the net. If they do that, we should start creating more chances.
"It's going to take a little bit longer to get the timing down and chemistry, but I thought we got better as the game went on. But in the last 40 minutes, we got a lot better and have to carry it into tomorrow."