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The Columbus Blue Jackets rolled through yet another month of NHL hockey in the month of March with a 10-4-2 record. The winners and losers of the month are easy to pick out, and they mirror how the season has gone to this point. There was multiple individuals who played both great and poorly, and special teams plays a role in the winners and losers as well.
Columbus Blue Jackets Winners and Losers of March 2017
Bobrovsky continued his fantastic season in March with a 9-1-1 record. Not only does this bode well for the upcoming playoff hopes, but it bolsters the Russian netminders’ Vezina Trophy hopes. It is safe to say that Bobrovsky should be a top two candidate for the prestigious trophy, and if he wins his second there will be few who are surprised.
The play of Bobrovsky has been a massive key to the historic season the Blue Jackets are having, and he’s rightly being praised in The Buckeye State. Bobrovsky faced 365 shots over the 16 games he started, allowing only 12 goals in the entirety of the month of March for a save percentage of .967, an elite number to say the least. Add in four shutouts and you get a stellar month.
It is because of the stellar play of Bobrovsky that the Blue Jackets were able to clinch their third ever Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance in franchise history. “Bob” could arguably be the winner in every month of this season, and if the vote goes the way it should, the Russian-born netminder should be taking him his second career Vezina Trophy.
David Savard has had an absolutely stellar season, and much like the aforementioned Bobrovsky, March was no exception to that statement. Savard has been a fantastic second pairing defenseman, only playing there due to the fantastic play of both Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. It is an easy thing to say that if he were anywhere else right now, he would be well deserving of first pairing minutes.
Savard has never been a major contributor in the way of points, but 22 points in 70 games for a second pairing defenseman is, by no means, a bad return. Aside from that, Savard has been fantastic in shutting down anyone and everyone he encounters. According to corsica.hockey, Savard has a zone, venue, and score adjusted Relative Corsi-For Percentage (Rel.CF%) of 3.57, higher than even the highly-touted Werenski (3.44).
Savard has played a massively important role in sheltering Jack Johnson (Rel.CF% of 0.98) from carrying much of the weight on the second pairing this season as well. It is players like Savard that have been the unheralded heroes to this fantastic season, and the playoff hopes of the darkhorse Jackets will rest firmly on players like Savard. Safe shoulders to be leaning on.
The Fifth Line Faithful
The Fifth Liners, as they are affectionately referred to at Nationwide Arena, have been blessed with witnessing a historic regular season. You can constantly here the “CBJ” chants roaring in the tightly packed arena in the Arena District of Columbus, and you can feel the energy and optimism in the voices of the Fifth Liners. The loyalty of the Fifth Liners has been rewarded this season with a Vezina Trophy candidate in Bobrovsky, a Calder Trophy candidate in Werenski, and an historic 16-game winning streak earlier in the season.
The fans have won this season, especially with the fact that Columbus still boasts some of the most affordable ticket prices, in-arena beverages, and in-arena food around the NHL. Supporter groups like The CBJ Artillery and Boone’s Goons deserve a massive amount of credit for not only stoking the flames of optimism, but making sure all the new fans feel welcome and part of the family in Nationwide Arena.
There is only one true loser in the month of March, and it isn’t an individual. It was difficult to pick out a player that play most, or all, of the month that didn’t perform to expectations in their respective role. It is because of this that there is only a single loser in the month.
One of the biggest worries throughout the month of March was the powerplay. Once sitting atop the NHL at above 27%, the man advantage isn’t reaping the rewards it once was for the Blue Jackets. It’s because of this that many are worried that, over a seven-game series, the first round might be the end of the season for red-hot Blue Jackets.
While thinking that the first round is all they should settle for is relatively cynical, the powerplay needs to improve drastically from recent games to ensure this doesn’t become the weakness of the team. The zone entries have looked pitiful over the course of the last month, and the well of lethal finishing from between the circles has gone dry. It’s because of these two factors that the powerplay has rapidly dropped down the rankings.
While this is only one weakness of what is a very dangerous team, it’s something that needs to be a point of emphasis leading into the playoffs. If Columbus doesn’t finish top of the Metropolitan Division, it’s likely that their first round opponent could be the Pittsburgh Penguins. Two of the biggest keys to winning a series against the Penguins would be slowing down their speed, and taking advantage of any mistakes they make. Simply put, the powerplay needs to improve to provide a realistic chance of the Blue Jackets making the deep playoff run they’re capable of.