The Columbus Blue Jackets are on a roll.
After their latest victory, a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Friday night, the Blue Jackets improved their record to 19-5-4, good for third in the vaunted Metropolitan Division. But thanks to playing fewer games than everyone else, they have the best points percentage in the league at .750; with a .750 both at home and on the road. As they enter Sunday’s game in Vancouver, more than a third of the season is done.
This Isn’t A Fluke
It’s safe to say, that what the Blue Jackets have done to this point is no fluke. There are still only three teams that have recorded a regulation victory against them. Clearly, what they’re doing is working. The question on the minds of many is, why? How are the Blue Jackets this good with mostly the same roster from last season and why is it working?
Here’s the thing. A thorough look at the state of the Jackets suggests that many things are working concurrently. That’s what makes the team dangerous. They can beat you in so many ways. When it comes to the Blue Jackets, it’s ‘pick your poison’ and good luck.
The ‘Pick Your Poison’ Blue Jackets
Let’s focus on the Blue Jackets’ current eight-game winning streak and more specificially, let’s revisit their 5-1 win over Tampa Bay to start the streak.
Consider the goal scorers that night. William Karlsson opened the scoring. Then it was Alexander Wennberg, Josh Anderson, Scott Hartnell and finally Sam Gagner. Except for Wennberg, that’s four goals from their bottom-six. Anderson finished with a career-high three points. The Blue Jackets’ depth enables them to win games. Remember how much of a sore spot the bottom-six was for the longest time? It’s now a strength.
Game two in the streak was in Denver. The top line of Brandon Saad and Nick Foligno helped the Jackets to an early 2-0 lead. Colorado came back and tied it. The Blue Jackets needed a game-winning goal in the third. Leave it to Boone Jenner to deliver. Although it was just his third goal of the season, it couldn’t have come at a better time. His line with Atkinson and Brandon Dubinsky can strike at any time, giving the Jackets another way to beat you. In this game, the top-six were the difference.
Game three was in Glendale, where the Blue Jackets fired 60 shots at Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith. The Jackets fired from everywhere but found themselves down 2-1. That was until Wennberg scored with just 2:16 left on the team’s 49th shot. His emergence is a major reason Columbus is where they are. When the team needed a big goal, their top-line delivered. The team is clutch in the early going.
Game four was a rematch with the Coyotes. It was also the Sam Gagner show. The Blue Jackets scored four goals. Gagner had a hand in all of them. He was on the top power-play unit and tallied a goal and an assist. He also played on the fourth line and had a goal and an assist there. He now has 13 goals this season playing in a role that suits him perfectly.
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 6, 2016
Game five was in Detroit. It also showed us another area the Blue Jackets can kill you. Just 3:08 into the game Cam Atkinson scored short-handed to give Columbus a 1-0 lead. Although Detroit tied it, Dubinsky helped the Jackets regain the lead. Then Lukas Sedlak converted his first NHL goal. Sergei Bobrovsky was outstanding, stopping 32 shots earning first-star honors. In this case, special teams, the top-six, the bottom-six and goaltending helped the Jackets to another win.
Game six was against the Islanders. The game was 2-2 in the third period. The final score was 6-2 Blue Jackets. Who scored the game-winning goal? Josh Anderson. They also got goals from Saad, Sedlak and Seth Jones in the third. Not only did the bottom-six strike again, but so did the defense. Besides Jones collecting two points, Jack Johnson scored his first goal in 41 games. The Jackets defense is really good and can score big goals for the team. Johnson’s goal tied the score in the first period.
Game seven was in Edmonton and showed more of the same. Bobrovsky made key saves and earned first-star honors. Gagner opened the scoring. Atkinson scored the game-winner on the power play. Matt Calvert gave them an important insurance goal.
And game eight was in Calgary, where Bobrovsky was again the first star. Jenner and Saad opened the scoring, while Gagner and Calvert finished it off.
You Won’t See It Coming
The Blue Jackets have many ways they can beat you. One night, their top-six will overwhelm you. The next night, their bottom-six will score timely goals. Then the next night, Bobrovsky will stand on his head and steal a game.
Given the overall depth and makeup of the team, they are truly a pick your poison team. Take out their top-six, and their bottom-six will feast on you. Leave the defense alone and they will score big goals against you. Take a penalty against them and their top-ranked power play will bury you. If you relax while the Jackets are short-handed, they’ll put the dagger through your heart with a goal.
What’s happening in Columbus is real and not going away anytime soon. Good luck finding a game plan that can completely shut this team down. They have too many weapons to account for. It’s no wonder they lead the league in points percentage and are on their way to the top of the NHL standings.
With the Blue Jackets, it is ‘pick your poison’ and good luck.