After a historically bad start, the Columbus Blue Jackets were able to shoot the cannon enough times against the Red Wings to earn their first win of the season. You read that right. The Blue Jackets beat the Red Wings by a 4-1 score. If you saw that coming and live in Las Vegas, you could have paid your mortgage for the next year (Disclaimer: PHT does not condone “gaming” in any way).
Here are the facts: the Blue Jackets started the season 0-7-1. It was such a bad start that it sparked a heartfelt letter from Jackets’ GM Scott Howson. James Wisniewski returned from the Shanahammer imposed suspension to start the season, rookies started scoring, and Columbus beat the vaunted Detroit Red Wings (even if it was against Ty Conklin). Clearly, the Wiz is worth every cent of his ridiculous $33 million contract, right? Too soon?
The good news is that just about every player on the Jackets had the best game of their season. Ryan Johansen and John Moore scored the first goals of their promising careers; while Steve Mason figured out how to stop pucks on a consistent basis. Which brings us to the keys for the Blue Jackets over the next 73 games: find some consistent scoring and make sure Mason makes saves. It sounds easy, but it took them a few weeks to figure it out.
The win vaults the Blue Jackets into striking distance from the 14th seed in the Western Conference. Calgary Flames: you’re officially on notice.
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After making the Chicago’s roster on a professional tryout in training camp, Ray Emery made the most of his first start with the Blackhawks en route to a 4-3 win in front of a sold-out United Center crowd. The win helped the Blackhawks improve to 2-1 on the young season; while dropping the visiting Winnipeg Jets to 0-2.
Things didn’t exactly start off on the right foot for the Hamilton, ON native. The Jets jumped out to a 2-0 lead as they scored two quick goals in the first eight minutes on Emery. But the team settled down and had four straight goals that led to Emery’s first win in a Blackhawks’ sweater. By the end of the night, Emery has stopped 27 of 30 shots against Winnipeg and held off the pressing Jets as they tried to tie the score in the waning minutes.
Joel Quenneville liked what he saw from his new goaltender in his first start:
“He was rock solid in the third and it was a great test to see how he responded to some dangerous opportunities.”
It certainly helps having the star-studded Blackhawk forwards in front of him to bail the team out of the 2-0 hole. Patrick Kane continued his evolution into an NHL center with a goal and a pair of assists, Marian Hossa chipped in a goal and an assist as he skated on Kane’s wing, and Andrew Brunette scored his second goal of the season with his new team. Primetime performers like that have a way of making a .900 save percentage and 3.00 goals against average look a little better. Besides, the only statistic that matters at the end of the night: one win.
Emery knows that he’ll need to keep his foot on the gas if he wants to solidify his spot on the Blackhawks for the rest of the season. Corey Crawford looks like he’ll be the starter for the rest of the season, meaning Emery will be fighting with Alexander Salak for the rest of the season for the right to wear a baseball hat on the bench in Chicago. Emery got a little more good news earlier in the day when Salak was assigned to Rockford in the AHL before the game.
It’s a great story to see Emery’s success early in the season. He was a finalist for the Masterton Trophy for “exemplifying the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey” last season after coming back from a career threatening hip injury. For people who are root for the good human interest story, look no further than Emery for a guy who is thriving in the face of some pretty long odds.
Still, if he falters, he could be replaced by the promising Salak faster than you can say “Marty Turco.” Our advice to Emery: just keep winning. It’s hard to waive an undefeated goaltender.