Remember training camp this year? Remember all of the reports of the infamous “Torts training camp” and how some of us (he said, looking in the mirror nervously) thought Torts was running the team ragged before the season even began? Turns out there may have been a method to Torts’ madness.
Tort’s emphasis this offseason was on conditioning. This team skated, and skated, and skated harder. The goal was simple – the Blue Jackets were going to be the best third period team in the NHL this year, they were going to be the best conditioned team in the NHL, and no one was going to outwork them. At the quarter mark of the season, how is the team faring in these goals?
Quite simply? Exceeding them. Per hockey-reference, Columbus is 10-0-2 when they have the lead after two periods. They are excellent at seeing out games when they have the lead. Almost as remarkably, they are 5-5-2 when trailing after two periods. They’re showing an ability to make comebacks that they didn’t have last season. Last year, when trailing after two periods, the Blue Jackets were 12-38-6. Slight improvement, yes?
The other mantra Torts has preached this year has been “safe is death.” Torts has encouraged the guys to push the pace of play, take shots from all over the ice, and try to pressure the defense to make things chaotic so that the offense can capitalize. Thus far this year, the Blue Jackets have outshot opponents 730-691. The team has outshot opponents 242-203 in the first period and 246-202 in the third. Our eyes have not deceived us with regard to the balance of play in second periods this season, though. The Blue Jackets have been outshot by a mark of 281-234.
Goals follow the same trend for the most part. Columbus is outscoring teams in the first period by an astounding 25-11. Columbus, for all their history of stumbling out of the gates and playing catchup, has been taking the play to teams right from the opening faceoff.
The second period, however, gives a bit of a shock. Despite being outshot by 47 in the second period on the season, Columbus is actually outscoring teams 23-21 on the year. Columbus has been outshot heavily in the second period this year, but has (surprisingly) managed to outscore other teams. If Columbus wants to be a true contender going forward the rest of the season, they must tighten up their play in the middle period.
In the third period, Columbus is outscoring teams 25-17 on the year. The team, as mentioned, has been excellent at closing out the opposition this year. This without netting many empty net goals this season – Columbus has just two on the year. The Blue Jackets have been, per the stats, emphatically closing teams out and not needing empty net goals to see their games out. This is the hallmark of a good hockey team.
In short, the Blue Jackets have been exemplary in the first and third periods this year. If the team can figure out how to tilt the ice even a little from where it currently sits in the second period, this team might just take off for the rest of the season.