After a slow start, Cam Atkinson has started to have quite the season full of milestones. He scored his 200th goal earlier this month against the Dallas Stars and broke the Columbus Blue Jackets’ shorthanded goal record held by Rick Nash (Atkinson leads the league this season with three).
Now Atkinson finds himself on a four-game goal streak, being back to his usual self after a season full of injuries and inconsistency in 2019-20. As he has heated up, so has the Blue Jackets’ offense, showing that Atkinson’s success is a must for the team’s success.
Atkinson’s Goal Streak
Atkinson has been red hot on offense, hitting his longest streak of the season and his most prolific run of offense in the last two seasons.
He’s had great vision, has been finding the open spots on the ice, seeking out rebounds, and deflecting pucks. He has quickly found himself the team’s leading goal scorer (6) and is tied for most points (13, tied with Oliver Bjorkstrand). The effort has paid off for him and the organization.
On the four-game streak, he has recorded four goals and four assists (eight points total). Included in that run was a four-point outing (one goal, four assists) in a 6-5 win over the Chicago Blackhawks last week. He now has a total of 13 points in 17 games this season.
To make his numbers even better, he didn’t score his first point until the fifth game of the season (an assist in a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 21), so he has scored 13 points in the last 13 games. His hot streak has been a bright spot for the struggling Blue Jackets.
Blue Jackets’ Offense During the Streak
The Blue Jackets’ offense has had a significant surge since Atkinson has taken off and have had a noticeable increase in GF/G (goals for/game).
Before the streak, they were averaging 2.77 GF/G. The offense was struggling and struggled to enter the offensive zone, let alone sustain any zone pressure.
But in the last four games, the offense had a boost. During that time, they have been averaging 3.50 GF/G. This increase has brought the team’s average up from 2.77 to 2.88 GF/G. Their 3.50 goal average is also above the NHL’s season average of 3.00.
With Atkinson’s help, the Blue Jackets are slowly starting to find answers offensively. If he continues to play at this level and with new offensive weapons, such as Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic, the team will slowly make its way from below-average offensively to an average offensive team, if not above-average.
Atkinson’s Fire Has Been Lit
Since the departure of star forward Artemi Panarin, Atkinson has taken his fair share of criticism.
Much of that talk stemmed from last season, where he struggled to stay healthy and find consistency. He only scored 26 points in 44 games, a major down year by his standards.
There was a small but growing number of fans calling for head coach John Tortorella to bench him or at least make him a healthy scratch just this season. This December, he sat down with Aaron Portzline and made it know that the narrative bothered him.
“It definitely lights a fire,” Atkinson said. “The season before (Panarin left), I had 41 goals… right away (in 2019-20) people are like, ‘He’s nothing without Panarin’…I had… 27 (goals) the year before Panarin and 35 the year before that. People are pretty quick to turn the page… that really fuels my fire” (from ‘‘It really fuels my fire’: Blue Jackets’ Cam Atkinson can’t wait to start ’20-21,’ The Athletic, December 28, 2020).
With Atkinson scoring half of his 26-point total from last season in just 17 games, it is safe to say his and the offense’s fire has been lit.
Cody Chalfan is currently a journalism major at the Ohio State University who grew up in Columbus and loves hockey, especially the Blue Jackets. He is disabled, therefore he is a major advocate for the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone movement. A piece he wrote focusing on the Blue Jackets’ work on expanding the sport into the local special needs community can be found here. Cody can be contacted via Twitter (@cachalfan) direct message for comments, constructive criticism, or story ideas.