Cody Chalfan The Hockey Writers
Blue Jackets Need Atkinson, Murray, Texier & Anderson to Step Up
It has been an odd season for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Between injuries, new faces, and even a suspension of the season due to COVID-19, consistency has been difficult for players to find.
Many players that are usually a factor for the franchise have found themselves having quiet and inconsistent seasons. In this piece, some of those players who have been quiet will be mentioned along with how they will have a chance to finally make a difference in the qualifying round against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Cam Atkinson Could Lead an Offensive Surge
Cam Atkinson had a 2019-20 season to forget. A nagging ankle injury greatly reduced the number of games he was able to play, leading to inconsistencies in his game. He only scored 12 goals, way off his career average of 22 goals a season.
Atkinson is a very important part of the offense. Last season in Round 1 of the playoffs he played very well, recording four points in four games. The Blue Jackets won that series 4-0.
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He realizes that he has to be at the top of his game for the team to have success. Last Friday, he was asked if he felt it was his responsibility as a goal scorer and veteran of the team to be a leader this postseason. His answer was, “Absolutely, I need to be one of the energy guys, drag people into the fight, I have a lot of experience, so I have to lead by example. That comes down to hard work playing with a lot of energy, slipping through the holes.”
What does Atkinson bring for the Blue Jackets against the Maple Leafs? Scoring, and lots of it. He has had 368 points over his career. He has also had no shortage of success against Toronto, scoring 13 points in 19 games over his career, including two points in two games this season. He also has a plus-three in those 19 games.
Atkinson’s offensive abilities and experience against the Maple Leafs will prove invaluable for the team. He will find his offensive game and will be a big factor in this play-in series.
Josh Anderson Possibly Brings Size and Speed
Josh Anderson has become a weapon for the offense in the last couple of seasons. Unfortunately, due to a shoulder injury requiring surgery, he only played 26 games this season. Even in those 26 games, he was very quiet by his standards, only recording four points.
To be clear, it is still unknown if Anderson will return to the lineup in time for Toronto, but he’s on the roster, so it’s a possibility. If he does, his speed and size could be an edge for the Blue Jackets. His size and power allow him to play a physical game, recording 602 hits over his six-season career. His speed is another big key to his game that brings a whole other dimension to the offense.
In his career, Anderson may have only recorded 115 points in six seasons, but 77 of them were in just the past two seasons (2017-18 and 2018-19). He has increasingly become a key piece of the offense. In the last two seasons, Anderson recorded two goals in four games against Toronto and has a plus-2 against them in his career.
If he can play in the play-in series, Toronto’s defense will have their hands full and he will be an x-factor for the Blue Jackets.
Murray Looks to Stay Healthy and Contribute
Ryan Murray is another player looking to make a difference in the qualifying round. Like many other seasons, his 2019-20 campaign was cut short by an injury. When he is healthy, he is a difference-maker on defense, and if he stays healthy he could be a big part of success for the Blue Jackets defensively.
With 590 blocks, 174 hits, and a plus-13 in his seven-season career, Murray is a solid defenseman. He has found success against Toronto over the years too. In 14 games, he has 6 points against them — the only two teams he has more against are the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes. He also has a career plus-minus of plus-9 against Toronto — the only team he’s better against is the Montreal Canadiens.
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A big part of his ability to contribute will be staying healthy, something Murray has struggled with over the years. He has only recorded a full 82 games once, which was back in the 2015-16 season. Over his career, he has averaged only about 50 games a season. Staying healthy is a must for him to make a difference.
If Murray can stay healthy there’s no denying that he will solidify an already skilled defense for the Blue Jackets. He will be a boost for the team and bring even more support in stopping the high-flying Toronto offense.
Texier Hopes to Show What He’s Capable Of
Alexandre Texier is a promising young player that was never able to show what he was capable of after a season-ending back injury. Texier will look to finally give the team the boost he was hoping to this season in the play-in series against the Maple Leafs.
Texier hasn’t had much experience against Toronto, just two games with no points. However, we do know that he is capable of being a scoring threat. In his first NHL game in the 2018-19 season he scored a goal. He also scored two more goals in Game 4 against Tampa Bay in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, leading the Blue Jackets to a 7-3 win and series sweep.
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In his 12 games in the 2018-19 season, Texier scored four points and the Blue Jackets went 8-4 with him in the lineup. This season, in 36 games, he recorded 13 points, including a game-winning goal in OT over the Buffalo Sabres. For a young player, he shows promise and most certainly will look to prove himself against Toronto.
If Texier stays healthy, just like last postseason, he will show what he’s capable of. He will rise to the occasion and give the Blue Jackets’ offense the boost they need to compete with the Maple Leafs’ strong offense.
The Recipe For Success For the Blue Jackets
If Anderson, Texier, and Atkinson all play up to their standards, the offense will be at a much higher level, one that can better compete with Toronto’s explosive offense. If Murray plays to his level, the already solid defense will be even better equipped to stop the Maple Leafs’ offense. If these players, or the ones at least in the lineup, play to their capabilities and the defense stands tall, the Blue Jackets will win this series in five games.
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