Columbus Warns The Best Of The West: The Blue Jackets Are For Real

Patrick Drottar@pdrottarCorrespondent INovember 21, 2010

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 19:  Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets receives high fives from the bench after scoring a goal against the Anaheim Ducks in the first period at the Honda Center on November 19, 2010 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

A week ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets were licking their wounds after another devastating loss to the Colorado Avalanche. After losing 5-1, the Jackets were still looking for their identity as they prepped for a three game road trip out west against three tough Pacific Division teams in Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose.

The Blue Jackets were clearly underdogs in their first game, as the division leading Kings had yet to lose at home this season. The Jackets didn't let that get to them as they went out and played aggressive hockey, pulling off a 5-3 upset. Rick Nash tallied his seventh and eighth goals in the victory, and leads the team in goals for the seventh straight season, which just happens to be how long Nash has been with the team.

Steve Mason, coming off a brutal loss to the Avalanche, stopped 33 of 36 shots and kept the Blue Jackets competitive throughout a back and forth game where the Kings were able to tie the game twice before taking the lead early in the third period.  An unlikely player would step up to tie the game at three as Jared Boll scored his second goal of the season before Rick Nash scored the eventual game winning and empty net goals.

Mason's play would earn him his fourth straight start as the Jackets made their way to Anaheim to take on a Ducks team full of all-stars.

The game in Anaheim was a clear example of how a team could be entirely outplayed, and still win the game. The Ducks shot the puck 50 times and had a plethora of scoring opportunities, but Mason shut the door, only allowing three goals in the Jackets 4-3 victory.

Rick Nash would start the scoring, as he tallied his ninth goal of the season and his fifth goal in four games. The Ducks were quick to respond with a power play goal from veteran Saku Koivu early on in the second period. Bobby Ryan would later score a short-handed goal to put the Ducks on top.

However, the Jackets didn't get down on themselves and were able to score three unanswered goals to take a 4-2 lead into the final period. Chris Clark would start the scoring as he was able to deflect a Mike Commodore wrist shot heading wide of the net past Jonas Hiller. Jakub Voracek would later tally his fourth goal of the season as he shot a juicy rebound off of Hiller into the net.

Mike Commodore, in only his second game back since injuring his wrist, scored his first goal of the season as he beat Hiller with a blue line wrist shot. Commodore did not wait long to get back into a groove after his injury.

Anaheim would later score to put the game at 4-3, but it was too little too late. The Jackets were now 5-1 on the road this year and would look to sweep their California road trip with a win against the Sharks.

At the beginning of the road trip, most thought that the Blue Jackets would be lucky enough to get one win, and would come back home to Columbus scratching their heads over what needed to be changed. However, the Jackets were able to complete the sweep of the state of California for the first time in franchise history yesterday, as they went in to San Jose, and shut out the always dangerous Sharks.

Steve Mason was given a rest after four straight starts and Mathieu Garon, who has put up incredible numbers this year, was given his sixth start of the year. The Quebec native picked up where he left off, stopping all 35 shots taken by the Sharks.

As the Sharks couldn't find a goal, Rick Nash found plenty of them. The captain scored all three goals as the Blue Jackets won their first regulation win in San Jose. Nash would score his first goal on the power play less than five minutes into the game. His second goal would come in the second period thanks to a pretty pass from Jakub Voracek. The Blue Jackets are now 9-0 when Voracek records a point.

The Sharks were not able to get anything going, as they were on the power play on five different occasions and could not put points on the board. Mathieu Garon was spectacular in net and had clearly frustrated San Jose, who usually is lethal on the power play.

It is clear that after the three wins out west that the Blue Jackets are contenders this year. Columbus is 12-6 to start off the year, which is their best start in franchise history.

Each game put the Jackets in a different situation and they were able to stay competitive and pull out victories in each. From a back and forth match up with the Kings, to utter domination against the Sharks, the Blue Jackets are warning the entire Western Conference not to overlook them.

The Blue Jackets don't get any rest next week as they face two division foes at home with a game in New York against the Islanders. The Predators come to town on Monday and the Jackets get their first shot at the rival Detroit Red Wings on Black Friday. The Jackets get a double dose of the Red Wings as they finish the week in Detroit on Sunday.

This week should be nothing short of entertaining for Blue Jackets fans. Columbus will unveil their new third jerseys during their match up against the New York Islanders on Wednesday and will wear them for the first time on Friday against Detroit.