Last night, the Jackets walked way from Detroit with a 5-3 win against the last place team in the league. On Monday night, the Jackets shut out the first-place team in the league, 3-0.
On Saturday afternoon, the Jackets lost to the now-third-to-last team in the league in an OT bummer. Last Thursday, the Jackets lost to a Penguins team they handily beat less than two weeks before in an OT “embarrassment to the organization.”
I mean, WTF?
Notably, the Jackets have been dealing with the absence of defensemen Zach Werenski in the last few weeks, and the recent absence of Emil Bemstrom, Sonny Milano, Josh Anderson, Ryan Murray, and now Andrew Peeke (who now possesses 1.5 fewer teeth after Monday’s game, and now has a broken hand from Detroit) is a big thorn in their sides.
Zach returned last night, which was a relief, but Peeke, Milano, Bemstrom and Anderson are all sounding like it’ll be many, many weeks until we see them again. Murray? Who knows, but that’s not a new issue.
So why is it that after all these injuries, I’m still feeling... hopeful?
Joonas Korpisalo’s performance against the Capitals on Monday was inspiring — this tweet from the Blue Jackets after the win against Washington is a good indicator of how he’s playing right now (doesn’t include stats from Red Wings game):
Last 16 games for Korpi:— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 17, 2019
.924 save percentage
7 games w/ 30+ saves pic.twitter.com/w5ZVE1dfxV
In a season that has been full of ups and downs and LOTS of question marks, one thing has been resoundingly constant — the rookies are buoying the team. Pierre-Luc Dubois is still leading the team in goals scored, and rookie Kevin Stenlund scored his first NHL goal against the Red Wings. It was a good-looking, bar-down shot, and he said post-game he plans to send the puck back to his parents in Sweden for safekeeping.
Also, Eric Robinson. That’s it, that’s the tweet.
Just kidding, I need to speak on him for a second: while notching only four goals and three assists so far this season — and I am quite confident there will be more — they have all been impactful and his presence (and ungodly speed) is always noticeable on the ice.
Meanwhile, it appears that Cam Atkinson is finally heating up (thank God) and Oliver Bjorkstrand has been hitting his stride with 58 shots in the last 30 days and three goals in two games in two days this week.
So, despite all of these unlikely occurrences and unfortunate injuries, I do believe that not only have we reached the make-or-break point in the season, but that the Jackets are, in fact, on the upswing. I know that there’s no magical switch they can turn on, but they show gleaming moments of chemistry and synchronicity that show us they are RIGHT on the cusp — they can easily hang with (and shut out, apparently) the best teams in the league when they’re on their A game.
As long as they focus on bringing that game to every matchup, I think we can expect amazing growth from this team as the season wears on.