After finishing with a 31-40-8 record last season and missing the playoffs, the Columbus Blue Jackets were a team that was not a part of everyone’s radar. Fast forward to this season, the team has a record of 28-8-4 and are fresh off a near record breaking 15 game winning streak, the Blue Jackets are a team to watch for in the Eastern Conference. The question on a lot of people minds is whether or not the team will be a contender come playoff time or are they just pretenders?
On offense, the team has proven that they can score goals at will and they have scored a lot of them this season. Led by right winger Cam Atkinson, who leads the team in goals with 20 and in points with 40, the team has a lot of talent on offense which shows every night with the team scoring 3.13 goals a game.
Alongside Atkinson, the team has multiple players this season that already have 30 points or more this season in Nick Foligno, Sam Gagner, Brandon Sadd and Alexander Wennberg. With all the firepower that team has on offense, it’s no wonder they can score a lot of goals.
Another reason why the team is at the top of the Eastern Conference right now is because the team has been playing really solid defensively. They are being led by young rising star Zach Werenski who has been a surprise this season. In only his rookie season, Werenski has proven that he has the potential to become an elite defenseman in the NHL for the years to come.
Along with Werenski, the team has young defensemen like Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, Markus Nutivaara, mixed with experienced veteran defensemen like Jack Johnson and David Savard.
The defense has done a pretty good job this season keeping the puck out of the net, giving the offense a chance to keep a lead, and not allowing other teams to have chances to do any damage on them.
The main reason by far of why the team is doing so well this season is the amazing goaltending by the possible Vezina-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. He is the league leader in wins with 26, fifth in the league in shutouts with 3, fourth in the league in save percentage with a save percentage of .931, and fifth in the league in Goals against with an average of 2.00.
Compared to last season which is a season Bobrovsky would love to forget, he has had a huge turnaround this season. He has been making great saves, not allowing a lot of goals, keeping the team in the game almost every night, and allowing the team the best chance to win.
During the winning streak, the team showed why they are one of the best teams in the NHL dominating every team that they have faced in the month of December. They won every game in that month, only to have their streak broken by the Washington Capitals on January 5th.
Come playoff time in April, the team will have a tough challenge with teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadians and the team that just ended their winning streak, the Washington Capitals.
With an offense that can compete with every team in the East the way they are playing, it will create some great matchups. The defense needs to keep doing what they are doing consistently helping the offense keep leads and keeping the puck out of the net come playoff time.
With a really young inexperienced team like Columbus, they might get outmatched by the teams that already have a lot of playoff experiences like Pittsburgh, Montreal, New York and Washington. That is where Bobrovsky comes in. He will need to play a huge role if the team wants to go far in the playoffs.
At the end of the day, even though it is a really young team with a lot of guys that do not have a lot of experience in the playoffs, the team is a playoff contender for sure and should make a decent run in the playoffs despite no setbacks.
Even if the team does not do well in the playoffs, the future looks bright for the franchise that looks like it will be a powerhouse for years to come in the Eastern Conference.
Photo Credit Kirk Irwin/Getty Images