Thursday, January 5, 2017

Feeling Blue

            Columbus, Ohio: It's well known for its collegiate football team, the Buckeyes. Producing countless Heisman Trophy winners and many championships, Ohio State football has been the pinnacle of sports in Columbus.
            However, there is another team in town that is emerging as one of the best. Their name is the Columbus Blue Jackets. They're currently on a 16-game winning streak dating all the way back to November 29 of last year and hadn't lost in the entire month of December. As it stands, they only have five regulation losses as of January 5th. How in the world is this once-hapless franchise bowling over the competition?
            For one, Columbus has plenty of depth. Nine Blue Jackets have hit double digits in assists, with Alex Wennberg leading the way with 26 assists. Overall, Cam Atkinson leads the team in points (38) and goals (18). The Blue Jackets are second in the league in goals scored, averaging 3.4 goals per game. John Tortorella's teams are known for getting the puck to the net and this Jackets team is no different. Tortorella's squad is averaging 30.3 shots per game.
            Which leads to the next point: Columbus is opportunistic when it comes to the power play. Leading the league in power play percentage with a 28.3% success rate, the Blue Jackets are getting power play goals from Atkinson (eight PP goals), Nick Foligno (seven), and Sam Gagner (six).
            Another area where the Blue Jackets are strong in is not letting the puck in. Sergei Bobrovsky has an astounding record of 25-5-2, along with a save percentage of .934 and 1.92 GAA (both second in the NHL only to Minnesota's Devin Dubnyk). The Jackets are only yielding two goals per game, best in the NHL.
            So what's the best way to beat Columbus? Well, Columbus's team isn't the best at killing off penalties on their own, ranking 17th with a 81.6% success rate. The only problem is that the Blue Jackets don't really go to the penalty box that often; they're 23rd in the NHL with 122 minor penalties this season. In other words, when the Jackets do go on the penalty kill, it's best to make most of every opportunity. Same goes for when they're even strength. Pepper Bobrovsky shot after shot until one goes in.
           When is it that Columbus will fall? Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals stand in the Blue Jackets' way of NHL history as Columbus is one win shy of tying the NHL record of 17 straight games won. After that, it's eight straight games of mostly Eastern Conference opponents that have been disappointing this year. They play at home versus an again Rangers team and play against a sliding Flyers team the next game. After that, it's three games against Carolina in a six-game span with games against Florida, Ottawa, and Tampa Bay sandwiched in between. The Senators are probably the best bet to usurp the Jackets if Columbus's win streak continues to January 22nd. In the meantime, let's just hope that Columbus keeps up this streak.

Photo courtesy of Yahoo! Sports

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