As this game was preparing to unwind, fans from Minnesota (and other more northern climes) had to be chuckling at the images and descriptions on their televisions. A snowstorm that deposited several inches of snow in central Ohio hindered the attendance at Nationwide Arena. Schools were closed, traffic was at a crawl, the usual drill. Meanwhile, back in St. Paul, it was minus-4, with considerably more snow, schools were in session and life proceeded as normal. At the 30 degree temperatures prevailing in Columbus at game time, Minnesotans contemplate donning shorts.

Such is the difference between regions, but this was the last opportunity Wild fans had to smile, as the Blue Jackets came out of the gate hard, and kept the pedal to the metal for sixty minutes in notching a dominating 4 - 0 victory. For those who have been following the articles and discussions here, it was an embodiment of the fast, free and hard style of play that we have been advocating, but have seen only sporadically. There were no passengers on this night, from the blue paint to the opposing crease.

Solid Start Unrewarded

Skeptics will note that the Wild were at a disadvantage in this one, having played a tough affair on the preceding evening against the Chicago Blackhawks, but such is life in the NHL. In case you haven't been following the West this year, Minnesota was 17-8-5 coming into this contest, with 39 points. That's only good for 3rd in the Central, but would be tied for 2nd in the entire Eastern Conference. This is a solid club, playing well, and the trick is to jump on clubs when you have the chance. The Blue Jackets did just that.

From the opening face-off, the Blue Jackets skated hard -- in all zones. They gave the Wild little breathing room, provided each other with ample support in the defensive end, and likewise gave Curtis McElhinney clear lanes of vision, and quickly cleared any rebounds that wandered into areas of danger. The exit passes were crisp and quick, but the Minnesota neutral zone defense stymied early attempts to establish extended offensive zone presence.

To the Blue Jackets' credit, they were not dissuaded, but simply relied upon their structure, and continued to press. Soon, the cracks began to open, and the continued pressure created opportunities. Only some other-worldly saves by Niklas Backstrom kept this one scoreless, as neither team could convert on singular power play chances. Still, Columbus held a 9-7 lead in shots after the 1st -- an unaccustomed position of late. In fact, it was only an end-of-period flurry by the Wild that kept the tally reasonably close. So, while no blood was drawn, the Blue Jackets had done a sound job of softening the defenses with some body blows, and the stage was set for a knockdown or two.