Blue Jackets Killing It on the Penalty Kill


That is the number of power play goals allowed by the Columbus Blue Jackets since the start of calendar year 2019. Remember the days when they were among the worst in this statistic in the NHL? Yeah, I don’t remember either.

What a dramatic turn around this is for a team that struggled mightily with both special teams units. Usually when you are among the worst for a long stretch, it stays consistent throughout the season. Not with these Blue Jackets. Not the way they approach killing a penalty.

Just watch them on tape. They are aggressive and are not afraid to attack you, no matter who you are. Look no further than what happened on Tuesday night in Denver.

Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen
The Avalanche could not solve the Blue Jackets power play. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Blue Jackets held one of the best power plays in the NHL in the Colorado Avalanche to no goals in four opportunities. The real statement was in the third period when the Avalanche had two power plays but only mustered five total shots on goal for the period.

Second chances were almost non-existent. Penalty killers played their position extremely well and knew when to attack the puck carrier. When the puck got on the stick of a Blue Jackets’ player, they were able to effectively clear the puck. It was a clinic on how to kill a penalty in today’s NHL.

So what is the secret to their success? How were they able to turn this around in such a way that it went from a clear weakness to a clear strength? I posed that very question to Seth Jones, Boone Jenner and Alexander Wennberg. Even John Tortorella had a little something to say about it too. Let’s dive in.

Seth Jones

“I think we’ve always known we’ve had it (the personnel, ability) here”, Jones said. “It’s just a matter of playing together. If everyone is pulling on that rope, doing their job out there, it’s a lot easier. It seems like you have the same amount of players out there (as the opposition). We try to communicate as that’s important. We block shots every game that matter. And obviously the goaltending as that’s the most important part of it. To know that you’re going to go out there and do a job and your teammates know you’re going to do a job, it stresses how important our job is on every kill.”

Seth Jones
Seth Jones says success on the penalty kill came once everyone started playing together. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Boone Jenner

“I think we just kept working at it”, Jenner said to me Tuesday. “We knew we had the personnel. We kept working, talking to each other. We went through a lot of video and meetings just trying to sort it out and play to our strengths. I think once we started doing that, reading off of one another, that’s when I think we can really strive in it. And we really took it upon ourselves to make it a big part of our game. It gives your team juice and life. I think it’s something we take pride in.”

Alexander Wennberg

“I think we play (the kill) the same kind of way every time”, Wennberg told me. “No matter who you play against, we are a really good unit right here. You try to stay aggressive no matter who’s out there.”

John Tortorella

“Been really aggressive. Had some good sticks tonight (in Colorado). Had some good anticipation as far as trying to break up plays. That’s a tough group (the Avalanche) to slow down especially their first group on the power play. That’s the key part of the game to keep us in it until we got our legs going.”

Moving Forward

The Blue Jackets will enter Thursday having the fifth best penalty kill in the NHL after allowing just one goal this calendar year to date. As it turns out, they play a team in the Arizona Coyotes who have the best penalty killing unit in the NHL.

Confidence is contagious. Once they started going games without allowing a power play goal, you could just see them be more aggressive in all facets of the kill whether it was on the fore check or attacking the puck carrier.

The key now is to keep the good times rolling. It also helps that they are among the league leaders in fewest minors taken. So they aren’t shorthanded often. And even when they are, they don’t allow much. As Jenner said earlier, it gives them life in other phases of their game.

The Blue Jackets have been on the wrong side of special teams in recent playoff appearances. Perhaps we are starting to see a shift in that. We’ll see if this keeps up. But for now, these Jackets are among the NHL’s best when shorthanded and that’s nothing to sneeze at.