Three Keys: Minnesota
As relieving and exciting as last night's 2-1 win over Dallas was, it is now a thing of the past.
The Blue Jackets, through some fog delays and a late arrival in St. Paul, have to turn the page and quickly get ready for a tangle with the Minnesota Wild tonight. It's an offensively-charged, fast-skating club on the other bench this evening, and once again, the Blue Jackets will have their improved checking game put to the test.
Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Devin Setoguchi, Mikael Granlund...there's no shortage of talent on Mike Yeo's club and there aren't any sluggish skaters in that group. They like to push the pace, get the puck moving up the ice and putting pucks on the target. Parise's the hot hand right now, riding a five-game scoring streak and leading the team with five goals in the first five games.
Yeo will start Niklas Backstrom in goal tonight; Backstrom holds a 9-5-1 lifetime record against the Blue Jackets with a 2.27 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. On the Columbus side, Steve Mason gets the nod in goal and he's 4-5-1 in his career against the Wild with a 2.76 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
This is an interesting game for many reasons: can the Blue Jackets put three solid efforts together and get the desired result on back-to-back nights, and will they be able to slow down the Wild's top line?
Here are my "three keys" to success for the Blue Jackets tonight:
1. Put it on repeat: As I said earlier, last night's game is over and it's time to move on. There's a quick turnaround time for tonight but that could be a good thing for the Blue Jackets. The slate is wiped clean, but one thing has to remain consistent and that's their work ethic. It was evident from the Chicago game and into the Dallas game, and now it has to go one step further against the Wild tonight. The same principles apply: slowing down their attack and taking away opportunities for top players, and staying disciplined in all three zones.
2. Shake it off: The Blue Jackets had a glorious chance on the power play last night with a full two-minute 5-on-3, but they got nothing out of it. Todd Richards called it the worst power play execution he's seen in his tenure with the Blue Jackets, and it could have been a turning point in the game (and not in a good way). Instead, the Blue Jackets took something from it and got the tying goal later in the period. They're going to get power play opportunities tonight, and they need to have a short memory because it could be the difference in the game.
3. Start on time: Brandon Dubinsky talked about it last night, and it holds true -- tonight's game starts at 7 p.m. local time and that's when the Blue Jackets have to do so, as well. Their slow starts from previous games aren't going to work tonight and the Wild have the firepower to bury teams quickly. Getting started on the right foot and doing the little things well is going to be a big key for the Blue Jackets to leave the Twin Cities with a pair of points.