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Cannon Blasts: The Blue Jackets are contenders now

That and more of this week’s links

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New Jersey Devils v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

Folks: the Columbus Blue Jackets are officially good again.

Their recent run of success (that’s a 15-2-4 record in the last 21 games, and 11-0-3 in last 14 games against the Eastern Conference) has them in the first Wild Card spot in the East. They don’t just stack up against teams this season, they also stand out among recent Columbus teams. In the Metropolitan Division era (which also lines up with all full seasons of Jarmo Kekalainen’s tenure as GM), this is the second best start through 50 games.

CBJ through 50 games

Season W L OT PTS Metro East NHL Pace Final PTS Metro East NHL
Season W L OT PTS Metro East NHL Pace Final PTS Metro East NHL
13-14 26 20 4 56 3 7 15 91.84 93 4 7 14
14-15 22 25 3 47 7 14 26 77.08 89 5 11 23
15-16 18 27 5 41 8 16 30 67.24 76 8 15 27
16-17 33 12 5 71 2 2 2 116.44 108 3 3 4
17-18 27 19 4 58 4 7 19 95.12 97 4 7 14
18-19 28 19 3 59 4 8 13 96.76 98 5 8 13
19-20 26 16 8 60 4 6 8 98.4 ? ? ? ?

What stands out to me most is that in five of the previous six seasons, the Jackets’ season-ending point total exceeded their pace at the 50 game mark. Does this team have the potential to exceed a 98 point pace?

On one hand, it seems unlikely that they can continue to count on the high level of goaltending we saw from Joonas Korpisalo in December and Elvis Merzlikins in January. On the other hand, the offense should continue to improve with the return of injured stars like Cam Atkinson and Oliver BJORKSTRAND to the lineup.

No matter what happens, at least the final three months of the season should feature meaningful hockey games in Columbus. Not too bad for a team that many outside observers counted out on July 2. If we’ve learned one thing in the last seven years, it’s that we should never count out the Blue Jackets.

The week that was

Game #47: CBJ 3 BOS 0
Game #48: CBJ 3 CAR 2
Game #49: CBJ 5 NJD 0
Game #50: CBJ 2 NYR 1

There was no hangover from the West Coast road trip as the Jackets continued to win on home ice, scoring important wins over the Bruins and Hurricanes and two more shutouts for the red-hot Elvis Merzlikins.

The Cannon Cast recapped the West Coast trip and Elvis’s play.

Pierre-Luc Dubois spoke to ESPN about the Jackets’ season, Tortorella, Baby Yoda, and more.

In the first NHL FanPulse of 2020, fans were asked to revisit the first question from the fall, about which playoff teams from last year would miss, and which teams that missed last year would qualify this year. The bad news is the Jackets are still on the former list, but the good news is they were a less popular choice than before. Full results can be found here. Thanks to everyone who has participated. The engagement numbers around the NHL network is very strong relative to the other leagues, so we really appreciate how this exercise demonstrates support for our sites.

Cam Atkinson talked to NHL Network about the figure eight drill. Neat little exercise for any hockey players out there:

On Deck

Wednesday: vs. Winnipeg

SPECIAL OFFER FOR CANNON READERS: Use this link to purchase tickets for Wednesday’s game on StubHub. (Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.)

Light week, with just one more game remaining before the All Star Game and the bye week. After Wednesday, the Jackets won’t play again until Saturday, February 1 at Buffalo.

Monsters Mash

The Monsters finally got a win! That happened on Friday in Rochester. Sadly that was sandwich by blowout losses to Binghamton and Utica, for a no good, very bad road trip. The AHL All Star break is coming up, and not a moment too soon. Hopefully as the Jackets get healthier, the reinforcements returning to Cleveland will boost the Monsters. That probably won’t include Nathan Gerbe, however.

Around the League

Vegas shocked the league by hiring coach Gerard Gallant. He won the Jack Adams in his first season there, as the inaugural Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final. He followed this up with another playoff appearance (and controversial exit) in his second season. Now, with the Knights in the middle of a skid (largely due to goaltending and not something in the coach’s control), they are making a change. Who did they choose as replacement? Peter DeBoer, who was fired in the fall from an even more disappointing San Jose Sharks team. Knights on Ice explains the pressure facing DeBoer in his new role.

Carolina Hurricanes star defenseman Dougie Hamilton broke his femur in a collision with Kevin Stenlund on Thursday and will miss at least the rest of the regular season. I hate seeing that happen, but Canes Country explains why the Canes’ season is not a lost cause.

This is a great story: Dallas Stars defender Stephen Johns returned to action this week, having not played for the entire 2018-19 season while suffering from post-concussion symptoms. Here’s wishing Stephen a successful season and a future free of further concussions.

Play me out

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced their 2020 class this week, and it includes Depeche Mode, the Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G, and T. Rex. I’ll spare you my rant about what constitutes “rock” and instead highlight the very worthy inclusion of T. Rex, a sometimes overlooked act from the early 70s which helped define the subgenre of glam rock. Their riffs were just so damn catchy.