The Blue Jackets are surging right now
Yes, you read the description right. The Columbus Blue Jackets issued a heavy statement last night to the elite Pittsburgh Penguins. Their large-margin victory extends Columbus’ ongoing win streak to 11 games. In case you thinking the Columbus Blue Jackets got away with a big win against an injury-ridden team, then you would be wrong. Pittsburgh’s powerhouse trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel were all in uniform and struggled to put up more than one goal. I suppose you could say that the Blue Jackets’ margin of victory would not have been as large if the Penguins had Kris Letang on defense, but the top tier defenseman remains sidelined with a lower-body injury.
Scott Hartnell led the way with a hat-trick taking his point total to 20 on the season. Columbus’ other likely top performers this season have done their job for the most part. Brandon Saad has 27 points, Nick Foligno has 25, and the experienced Sam Gagner has returned to his high-production he was used to with the Oilers as he has 25 points. A huge part of Columbus’ success is found in their draftees, both recent and in the not-so-distant past. Cam Atkinson, who was selected 158th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft, leads all Blue Jackets with 34 points in all 31 games played this season. The Jackets’ 2014 draftee Alexander Wennberg is continuing to make a reputation as a playmaker with 22 assists. And if it weren’t for the players like Erik Karlsson, Kris Letang, and P.K. Subban, Columbus’ 2015 1st round draftee Zach Werenski would likely be getting more attention for 21 points on the season.
A good thing for the Blue Jackets is that their trade from last season that sent Ryan Johansen to Nashville in exchange for Seth Jones is working out to their advantage. Johansen was becoming a “point per game” guy in Columbus after having a 71-point season in 2014-15. But last season, he was lacking in production at the time of the trade, with only 26 points in 38 games. Seth Jones has definitely become a better player with Columbus. At just 22 years of age, Jones is not averaging a point every other game since he’s no longer worn bright yellow. With 5 goals and 8 assists in 25 games, Jones is on track to solidify his increased offensive production as the season progresses.
John Tortorella was named head coach of the Blue Jackets at the start of last season after former coach Todd Richards coached 7 games without attaining a point en route to his firing. Tortorella became the first American head coach in the NHL to achieve 500 wins in a victory against the Vancouver Canucks. He now is sitting at 1st place in the entire NHL at 48 points in just 31 games. The 2nd place Blackhawks have 48 points as well, but have needed 4 more games to keep up with the Blue Jackets. With 4 more wins this month, Tortorella and the Blue Jackets could become just the 2nd team in NHL history to go undefeated in a month of play and the 1st since the Penguins did it in March 2013.
It might be hard to believe but the Blue Jackets were among the league’s worst last year with virtually the same roster from last season. They certainly have room for error this season as they not only have more points but have a few less games played compared to other teams in their division. They finish out the month against Montreal, Boston, Winnipeg, and Minnesota as they attempt to make history.