The Columbus Blue Jackets have won four of their last five games, to the delight and vindication–and yeah, probably slight surprise–of their fans, who had likely resigned themselves to a season full of Jekyll and Hyde. Certainly the first half of CBJ’s season soared to a few stunning highs and sunk to some pretty dark lows. (We’re still not talking about Edmonton. It will always be too soon.)
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about a team like Columbus is that the potential is there. The potential always feels like it’s about to explode. When they play a cohesive game–a game which balances their defensemen and forwards, rather than pitting them all against one another in front of the net–the Blue Jackets can take on anybody. They played beautifully (for the most part; no one ever accused CBJ of consistency) against Pittsburgh, who is first in their division and fourth overall, and thoroughly handled the Wild with a 4-0 shut out. When the boys are good, they’re good.
And lately, they’ve been good for most, if not all, of every game. They’ve managed to claw their way up to fourth in the Metropolitan division. They have the 9th best power play in the league. Ryan Johansen is on a seven-game point streak, Matt Calvert has been tearing it up since returning from his injury, and Cam Atkinson and Brandon Dubinsky consistently get to the net and put the puck where it needs to go.
Is there something to be said for the alchemy of momentum that CBJ has picked up while winning 4 of their last 5 battles? Of course. Winning can make it easier to win. But you can see the difference in game play. They’re not slower, but they’re less rushed. They haven’t quite worked out the transition between defense to offense but at least there is an obvious transition that’s taking place, even if the kinks have yet to be massaged out. Their shots on goal have skyrocketed, which is particularly excellent since statistics (and logic) show that the team that shoots the most scores the most, regardless of shot quality. Ovechkin has 26 goals this season, but he’s also had 156 shots on goal, which is 23 more than the next-highest SOG.
The point is, we’re on an upswing. It’s hard to say whether a CBJ that wins is Jekyll or Hyde in this metaphor, but whoever it is, let’s hope he’s here to stay.