The Columbus Blue Jackets are by far the biggest surprise this year in the NHL. No one saw this coming, not a soul. Sure the usual top dogs are there: Chicago Blackhawks, reigning Cup champs Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, and a few others. However, the Blue Jackets are a total surprise, and their current 16 game win streak, and even bigger surprise. However, when you watch them play and break down the stats, you start to realize how good they really are. It starts with a very lethal power play, stellar goaltending, and a great team culture.
When you look at the power play of the Blue Jackets, you see why they have become so good. 27.4% of the time, the Blue Jackets score. The is the best in the league (league average is about 18%). This shows how lethal they are, 27% is extremely good. If any team plays agains the Jackets, one of the top priorities is to stay out of the box, which is always easier said then done. The success is do to great puck movement and the Jackets taking advantage of high percentage shooting angles and scoring on them. They also use Seth Jone’s big shot, they make sure to take away the opposing goaltenders eyes, and then finish off any rebounds that may pop out. Only time will tell if the Blue Jackets can keep up the 27% success rate on the power play, it can be extremely difficult.
The second reason is Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s been absolutely amazing this year posting a .934 save percentage and goals against average of 1.95. These are great numbers. Add on the fact that the Jackets score just about 3 or so goals a game, and you’re going to be very successful. Bobrovsky hasn’t been this successful since his Vezina winning year in 2013 (he had roughly the same stats). Bobrovsky has been getting some great defense in front of him and even when that fails, he’s ready to bail them out. Usually that’s the sign of a good goaltender. However, as some may know, goalies can be very streaky. Bobrovsky may be stellar now, but who’s to say he can continue the success into the second part of the season? Much like the power play, only time will tell if he can continue the great numbers.
Lastly, the Blue Jackets just look like a great well oiled machine. Much of this has to go with great pick ups like Seth Jones from Nashville, and Brandon Saad (still hurts to this day he’s gone). The two of them alone combine for 48 points. The whole team in fact looks like they gel well together. They also have a business like attitude, which is largely do to the culture John Tortorella has tried to grow. Despite what Team USA did in September in the World Cup, Torts is a great coach. He’s won a Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning and has a fiery competitive attitude that some love and some hate. They are very business like as I said earlier. Torts has always tried to have his team be a working hard, never give in sort of team. It shows, people say the Jackets can’t keep this up but maybe they can. Hard work trumps all in the game of hockey. The Jackets have that, and now they have skill. When that skill works hard, you become something very scary to play against.
I think the Jackets are here to stay and I think they are very real. I won’t say they’ll win the Cup, that’s too hard to tell. However, I don’t think this 16 game win streak is a fluke and I think the Jackets will be close to the top of the NHL come play off time. Only time will tell if I am right. It’s refreshing to see a team no one thought would do well succeed. Especially from an non traditional hockey market.