There is no arguing that the Columbus Blue Jackets are currently one of the hottest teams in the league, winners of eight of their last ten contests.
After a come from behind win against the Washington Capitals, the Blue Jackets now have a signature road victory and was able to stretch their winning streak to four games.
Owning a 10-4-2 record, the Blue Jackets own the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and have played the fewest amount of games in the Metropolitan Division.
Still early in the season, we will undoubtedly see some teams drop out of the playoff picture at the same time others surge and make a final push to make the postseason. Columbus has been a part of that before, riding a hot Sergei Bobrovsky (who ended up with the Vezina Trophy) just short of a playoff bid (tied for the eight spot).
While they have put themselves in a good early season position to not have the need to see such a surge, there remains some concerning factors when it comes to the Blue Jacket’s start.
Even with Bobrovsky having a strong start to the season, Columbus’ success has come through the offense, as they have the second highest scoring team per game in the entire NHL. They also have the league’s best power play, operating currently at 31.8% after a two goal effort against the Capitals Sunday afternoon.
It’s not the numbers in general that should be concerned, it’s how they got to them that screams regression.
Columbus as a team has averaged 3.38 goals per game through their first 16 games of the season, but have done so while generating the fewest amount of shots on net in the league. In terms of shots on goal per game, the Blue Jackets have only averaged 26.5, nearly two full SOG than the next place team.
Being outshot on a consistent basis isn’t good long term. Columbus currently ranks 28th in Shot-Attempt%
That means they are scoring at an incredibly high rate - 12.7%, second in the league to the New York Rangers. Going back the past five years, according to sportingcharts.com, the team to lead the league in shooting percentage has hovered right around the 10% mark. The Toronto Maple Leafs had a season with a 11.47% mark, but the other four finished in between 10.07-10.67%.
Odds say that Columbus will come back down to earth when it comes to their scoring.
Same with their power play efficiency. While they have the highest percentage in the league, and have scored the seventh most power play goals overall, they have also generated the fewest man advantage opportunities.
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Over the last five years, again using Sporting Charts, the top power play team in the league has operated in the 21.6-26.8% range. The 31.8% Columbus is currently converting at, is the same mark that the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens finished with, the highest mark in the history of the game.
Those Canadiens had Guy Lafleur and Jacques Lemaire, with Steve Shutt scoring 16 power play goals.
This Columbus squad is not that Canadiens squad.
Columbus, under John Tortorella, are an intriguing team to watch going forward. They have the talent to justify them sitting where they are at in the standings, and even if they do regress could remain a threat in the East.
We will have to see how they do respond to any regression, as that will hold the key whether or not they remain in the playoff picture or fade off, but as the numbers suggest there is no doubting that the time will come for their offensive numbers to take a step back.
Wennberg Riding Team’s Efficient Start
Maybe no other player on the Blue Jackets is enjoying the success the team has had on the power play than Alexander Wennberg, who after two more points with the man advantage is now tied for the league lead.
Of his 17 points scored this season, 10 have been with a man advantage. His game winning power play goal against the Capitals was his first power play marker, on what was his first shot on net.
His 14 assists overall is tied for the NHL lead, and of the players he is even with (Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane are two names you may be familiar with), he has by far taken the fewest shots on net.
When Columbus traded Ryan Johansson to the Nashville Predators, they were hoping Wennberg would take that next step forward into becoming a number one center. After 32 assists (40 points overall) last year, he is well on his way to surpassing that this season.