Can the Columbus Blue Jackets breathe a sigh of relief after the Jackets beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 Sunday Night? The answer to the question is yes, the Blue Jackets can be relieved even though they finished the season a dismal 1-6-0. Even with a 1-6-0 finish in the last seven games, there are some positives and things to be relieved about this end of season skid.
One of those positives is that over half of the games that the Blue Jackets played were against teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Three of those games came against the top three teams in the league, including two of them being on the road. Three of those four games against playoff teams were close games and well executed by Columbus.
The defense itself is a positive for the Blue Jackets. Zach Werenski and Seth Jones are the first defensive pairing in Columbus history to both score over 40 points in the same season. The Blue Jackets also have two defensemen who are very strong on the second pairing in David Savard and Jack Johnson. While the two may not be huge point producers, the analytics speak for themselves. Savard finished first out of all the defenseman in Relative Corsi-For Percentage with a fantastic 3.47, and Johnson finished fourth with a respectable 0.75 as well.
A big positive for Columbus has a lot of players that have playoff experience, even though the franchise itself does not have much to boast. With having players like Kyle Quincey, Lauri Korpikoski, Scott Hartnell, Brandon Saad, and a head coach who has a lot of playoff experience will help the players who do not. Even the younger guys on this Columbus roster have some playoff experience from when the Cleveland Monsters won the Calder Cup last season. The biggest help will come from head coach John Tortorella, who won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.
One of the reliefs is that the Blue Jackets offenses has seemed to have found its groove, averaging 2.5 goals a game since the month of April has begun. Blue Jackets players that had a dry spout have found the back of the net in recent games including Matt Calvert, Cam Atkinson, captain Nick Foligno, Brandon Saad, and Boone Jenner. The Blue Jackets have also gained key offensive players back from injury the most important being Oliver Bjorkstrand, who brings a certain swagger to the Columbus offense.
A big relief for Columbus is that rookie defensemen Zach Werenski will be back in time for Blue Jackets series versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, which begins Wednesday. Werenski has been a huge part of the Blue Jackets record-breaking season, including setting personal records on his own. Werenski has set franchise records for points by a rookie and points by a defenseman in a season.
Perhaps the biggest relief for the Blue Jackets is that Sergei Bobrovsky, outside of the game versus Pittsburgh, has kept playing at elite form and kept Columbus in games that they had no business being in. Bobrovsky has been the backbone for Columbus all season and is the main reason they are the fourth best team in the NHL now. Bobrovsky has given no one any reason to think that he won’t continue his elite goaltending in the playoffs either.
With these things going in the Blue Jackets favor, there is a lot to be excited for headed into the postseason. Whether it be because of the goaltending of Bobrovsky, or that offense has refound their groove, the Blue Jackets will be a hard team to play against in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.