The Columbus Blue Jackets (15-7-1, 31 points) are riding a six-game winning streak through 23 games and are positioned one point behind the New Jersey Devils for first place in the Metropolitan division.
The Blue Jackets battled in the first two games of the week to come away with one-goal victories, but dominated the Ottawa Senators Friday to wrap up the week.
Here are a few storylines from the eighth week of the Blue Jackets’ season.
Offense pick up without star production
So far, the power play has been abysmal. It hasn’t been in double-digit percentage since Oct. 14, which has been the difference in turning the offense into a dominant force it could be. The expected offensive presence of forwards Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky has not been consistent, either.
Yet, Columbus scored eight goals this week from seven different players, many of which aren’t the average contributors.
Defenseman Markus Nutivaara scored a go-ahead goal Friday against Ottawa and rookie center Pierre Luc-Dubois put the Blue Jackets on the board with his third of the year against Buffalo Nov. 20.
Josh Anderson has continued his steady offensive production, scoring his team-leading eighth goal in overtime in a 1-0 win against Calgary. Atkinson scored twice and Foligno scored once against Ottawa for their first goals since Oct. 27 and Oct. 25, respectively. Head coach John Tortorella will need more of that production from his top-six forwards.
Bobrovsky is still the best goaltender in the NHL
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky’s statistics are always listed in this rundown, but his play during the win streak has been nothing short of remarkable. He ranks second in the league in wins and first in save percentage, goals against average and tied with three shutouts. Not impressed? During the team’s six-game win streak, Bobrovsky has allowed four combined goals in his four wins with a .966 save percentage.
The penalty kill has been a major help to Bobrovsky, and the defense has improved in the past week with its ability to limit quality scoring chances. When those were deficiencies, however, No. 72 was a one-man defense and he’s beginning to be rewarded for it.
There’s plenty of the season left, but Bobrovsky is the early favorite for the first back-to-back Vezina Trophy winner since Martin Brodeur in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 season.
Lukas Sedlak solid in return
The Blue Jackets returned one of their best penalty-killers from an ankle injury this week in Lukas Sedlak. The team was in dire need of depth at center, so Sedlak’s return was welcomed, even if he’s not a prolific offensive player.
In two games, the Czech skater tallied one assist in 9:24 of average ice time, but his impact was felt most in the penalty kill, which was a perfect 4-for-4 in his two games.
The third line of Sedlak, Tyler Motte and Jordan Schroeder has provided Tortorella with a productive forecheck and active sticks in the defensive end that keeps the opposition’s chances to a minimum.
- Third-line left wing Matt Calvert remains on injured reserve since Nov. 6. Calvert was initially given a three-to-four week window of recovering from his upper-body injury.
- Alexander Wennberg has missed the past five games with an upper-body injury.
Montreal star goaltender Carey Price is back in net for the Canadiens after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury. His first game back, against Buffalo on Nov. 25, was a shutout. The Blue Jackets will face three of the league’s worst power plays — Montreal, Carolina and Anaheim. But if there’s one game to watch this week, it will be Saturday on the road against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
Top performers (skaters)
Cam Atkinson – two goals (6), one assist (3), three points (9), +4
Markus Nutivaara – one goal (1), two assists (8), three points (9), +3
Josh Anderson – one goal (8), one assist (4), two points (12)
Oliver Bjorkstrand – two assists (9), two points (14), +1
Sergei Bobrovsky – 3-0-0 (14-4-1), 1.32 goals allowed average (1.91), 76 saves, .950 save percentage (.936)
In the circle (faceoff record, faceoff win percentage, EV record, PP record, SH record)
Brandon Dubinsky – 23-34, 40.4, 20-27, 1-0, 2-7
Nick Foligno – 19-27, 41.3, 13-25, 4-2, 3-0
Pierre-Luc Dubois – 10-19, 34.5, 10-19, 0-0, 0-0
Lukas Sedlak – 7-8, 46.7, 6-8, 1-0, 0-0
Overall: 46.4 percent, ranked 31st
Special teams units:
Powerplay – 0-for-1 at Buffalo; 0-for-2 vs. Calgary; 0-for-2 vs. Ottawa
Overall: 6-for-62 (9.7 percent), ranked 31st
Penalty kill – 3-for-3 at Buffalo; 1-for-1 vs. Calgary; 3-for-3 vs. Ottawa
Overall: 49-for-58 (84.5 percent), ranked tied-fourth
11/27 – at Montreal (9-12-3)
11/28 – vs. Carolina (10-8-4)
12/1 – vs. Anaheim (10-9-4)
12/2 – at Washington (14-10-1)