Numbers Behind Blue Jackets' Late-Season Transformation

The Columbus Blue Jackets have completely flipped the switch — and the story — as we head into the final days of the regular season.

Who saw the Columbus Blue Jackets winning 10-straight games, forcing their way from fringe-playoff status at the trade deadline roughly four weeks ago to where they are now: sudden-contenders for their first division title?

By the end of the Feb. 26 deadline, the Jackets had re-acquired Mark Letestu for center-depth, brought in Ian Cole to stabilize the defense (I don’t think you can let this guy get away), and Thomas Vanek, who has nine points (four goals, five assists) in 12 games since his arrival in Central Ohio.

Coincidentally, none of those on the power play, which is said to be his specialty.

In the span since the deadline, the Jackets have gone 11-2 while scoring 51 goals (4.64 per game), good for first overall in the NHL. Artemi Panarin is fourth in the NHL with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) during March. The team points-leader is (69—25-44) has been just fine without Patrick Kane — I think we can stop asking him about the other. Cam Atkinson (37— 18-19) has found his game. He has 12 points (six goals, six assists) in March.

Before the deadline, I said the Jackets were simply not good enough. That they weren’t a playoff team as currently constructed. Technically, that wasn’t wrong since the team struggled all season with consistency and scoring goals. They had talent but something was amiss all season.

Then the trades and acquisitions brought a renewed energy and sense of urgency.

Seth Jones — emerging as Norris Trophy potential — stepped up in a huge way with seven points over a four-game period: four goals, two game-winners, in three games.

Though with his absence due to a nagging injury for a few games, Ryan Murray has found an opportunity. Markus Nutivaara has continued to step up and elevate his game. Ian Cole brings a leadership and what feels like a calming influence.

In my introductory post before the season, I said the initial goal should be getting back to the playoffs, an achievement not previously done in consecutive seasons. With that nearly a certainty, why stop there?

Think bigger.

As the Jackets plug away at these final weeks of the regular season, instead think winning the division. Think about the potential of setting up Games 1 and 2 at Nationwide Arena, the prospect of not necessarily playing the Penguins or Lightning in the first round.

The Jackets have this in their hands but it will still be tough.

It’s also kind of funny how I mentioned this team has been going through the roller coaster ride all season long:

“And just as we think one way or the other about this team, the pendulum tends to swing the other way. Even with the doom-and-gloom after one or two games, they are in a playoff spot, currently. At the very least, they’re in the race.

And I can guarantee the roller coaster nausea will accompany the ride, every rise to the top and fall to the bottom, the rest of the way.” — 3/7 Bobrovsky Forced to be Blue Jackets Difference Maker

With the streak starting in San Jose and going 9-0 since then, the roller coaster has reached peak performance.

As a whole, the team has become an offensive juggernaut overnight, averaging an NHL top-five 3.82 goals-per-game for the month of March. Their 5v5 scoring (152 goals) has improved to sixth in the league, up four spots from March 7.

And don’t forget about the men in goal. Sergei Bobrovsky (34-21-5, 2.38 GAA, .922 SV%) has won seven-straight and Joonas Korpisalo (8-7-0, 3.23 GAA, .902 SV% ) has won his last three-straight games. His spot-start versus Vegas help get this thing rolling.

It’s hard to ignore the job that Jarmo Kekäläinen has done.

There is cohesion among the club and it’s transitioned onto the ice. And this is a team that has excelled during the absence of Josh Anderson as well. It’s exciting to see this team finally jelling and playing as expected.

Couldn’t have picked a better time in the season.

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