Its cheap, as in no cost. Unless, of course, youre battling laryngitis as I am at the moment. Then it comes with a syllable surcharge. But I digress.
I am referring to talk. In the early weeks of this abbreviated NHL season, one thing thats been an absolute constant from Columbus Blue Jackets players and coaches is the impressive chatter about the style this team needs to play to forge the kind of identity and culture its striving to achieve. Day after day, those of us covering the team have heard the mantra about how the Blue Jackets intend to be a team known for outworking its opponents, for winning battles and playing with urgency, all the time.
Again, easy stuff to say, and very inexpensive. It is definitely one thing to talk the talk and a whole different thing in the NHL to walk the walk, or maybe more accurately skate the skate. Its extremely hard to bring that level of intensity and work ethic and commitment night after night, especially with travel and scheduling hurdles and, even more daunting, an opponent who intends to push back and match your effort check for check.
But the Blue Jackets absolutely have to play that way. It may not be possible to reach that level every night, but this teams players will tell you they dont have the kind of team with a superstar makeup that can win in the NHL with its B game, or even less. This is a team that needs its A game on virtually any given night to skate away with two points. Even then, as we saw in the monumental effort against the Blackhawks, it may not be enough (although that game was one confounding no-goal call from being the high point of the early season).
Thats why it was so heartening to see Columbus bounce back from the regulation loss to Chicago with the performance it brought to the ice Monday vs. Dallas. In the past, maybe that disheartening defeat to Chicago, especially after the superb effort by the Blue Jackets, would have triggered a woe is us response. It certainly didnt on Monday.
Neither did a less-than-precise effort on a full two-minute, two-man advantage on the power play, when all Columbus needed was a goal to tie the game. Usually, when a team comes up empty after a chance like that, things turn south. But not on this night.
Somehow, some way, the futility on the power play (the Blue Jackets were 0-7 overall on the night and 0-21 in their last four games) seemed to propel this team to a different level. A beautiful zone entry that led to a perfect Fedor Tyutin pass to Derek Dorsett for a one-timer from the left circle tied the game in the second period. Then Ryan Johansen drove to the net and planted himself at the right doorstep, and that was probably a factor when Vinny Prospals tough-angle wrister from the goal line changed direction and found its way past Kari Lehtonen for the game-winning goal.
It was only one game. But that one game was marked with grit, sacrifice, intensity, and desperation. It was punctuated with Matt Calverts hustle to provide support after a breakdown in the Blue Jackets d-zone, with Brandon Dubinskys laying out his body in the final minute of play to attempt to block a shot, with Prospals relentless work to maintain possession in the offensive zone, and with countless other instances of sacrifice, hard work, and one-on-one battles won by Columbus.
It was the Columbus Blue Jackets skating the skate. It was a team knowing it has to pay the not-so-insignificant price to back up that inexpensive talk. Just one game. But maybe it was the sign of a team starting to build the identity and culture that all the great franchises have.
It has to start somewhere. And maybe it did, during that one very impressive regulation win Monday.