All season long, the Columbus Blue Jackets have waited for someone, anyone, to step up their offensive game. With the goaltending and defense keeping them in many games as evidenced by the number of one-goal games they’ve been in, all that’s been needed to get the team on a roll is goals.
One player in particular has answered this call of late taking his game to another level. Fans have waited a long time for this to happen consistently. Oliver Bjorkstrand might finally be breaking out and playing his best. Perfect timing.
Bjorkstrand’s Recent Outings
There are only two Blue Jackets with double-digit goals at this point. Those are Pierre-Luc Dubois (11) and Bjorkstrand (10). Bjorkstrand got to 10 goals by scoring twice Monday against Washington and once against Detroit on Tuesday.
Each goal demonstrates something special about his overall talent. On his first goal Monday against the Capitals, Bjorkstrand crashed the net, utilized excellent body position and then showed off his hands. This was one heck of a play all the way around resulting in a tipped goal.
Defenseman Michael Kempny really had no chance to stop this play. The pass was perfect. And Bjorkstrand’s positioning was perfect. Once he tipped the shot, Braden Holtby had no chance. It was a big goal at an important moment of the game.
Then to put the icing on the cake, Bjorkstrand turned on the after burners and took Radko Gudas to school. Bjorkstrand raced by Gudas and was able to tuck the puck home past an outstretched Holtby. That’s a very highly-skilled play to see he had the chance and then finish it. This was a thing of beauty.
Then finally on Tuesday in Detroit, Bjorkstrand showed off his ability to snipe. But before that, he showed he can pass the puck too. He recovered the puck on the wall and circled back to the middle. He then hit Gustav Nyquist with a pass. As soon as Nyquist received the pass, Bjorkstrand bolted to the front of the net. Nyquist spun a backhander to Bjorkstrand and he finished it with authority. The whole play was brilliant. Jonathan Bernier didn’t know what hit him.
Bjorkstrand now has 10-10-20 on the season which includes four goals and five points in his last five games. He is showing why those around Columbus and the Blue Jackets have always been excited about his upside. He’s now starting to get results. But it’s not just his offense that’s working now. His overall game is at another level.
It shows. Bjorkstrand’s ice-time is up. His trust with John Tortorella is at one of its highest points. This is the most confident I’ve seen him since he became a Blue Jacket. The underlying numbers support this.
Looking at Natural Stat Trick for the season, look at some of these numbers and how it ranks on the team. These are at 5-on-5.
- xGF%: 60.28% (1st)
- Corsi For%: 54.87% (2nd to Kole Sherwood who has a limited sample.)
- Scoring Chances For%: 57.91% (1st)
Then factor in that Bjorkstrand has the most shots on the Blue Jackets with 115. These numbers show that he’s been their most consistent producer of chances. His issue was finish just like the rest of the team. That is starting to turn around. It gives the rest of the season a bit of a different flavor.
This season by no means is over. Joonas Korpisalo is playing well. The defense is playing well especially limiting quality chances against. Now the offense is showing signs of life. Bjorkstrand is leading this charge.
This is the best I’ve seen Bjorkstrand in Columbus and to think, his best is yet to come. He is just scratching the surface of how good he can be.
Bjorkstrand has brought his best game of late. The timing couldn’t have been any better.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager. Please take note of the updated Twitter handle: @mark_scheig.