With only two playoff appearances in franchise history, the Blue Jackets finished 27th overall in the standings to close out the 2015-16 season. John Tortorella, their coach, was at one point early this season the most likely of all NHL coaches to be fired first.
But this has turned into a remarkable run, and an unexpected one, too. The power play ranks as the best in the league at 28 per cent. Sergei Bobrovsky, the winning goalie versus the Wild, has been heavily relied on and he’s responded by posting a .934 save percentage coming into Saturday’s contest. Their young defenseman have been very good. Rookie Zach Werenski has continued to impress and Seth Jones is up to seven goals on the season.
On Saturday, they faced a Wild team that had won 12 in a row. The Blue Jackets and Wild. The two hottest teams in the league at the end of 2016.
This time, the Blue Jackets took the win by a final of 4-2 in a feisty one.
Among the great stories in Columbus has been the play of Cam Atkinson. He continued that against the Wild, scoring twice, giving him 17 goals on the season. The Blue Jackets, with goals from Jack Johnson and Atkinson, scored 15 seconds apart in the middle period, opening up a three-goal lead.
The Wild tried to fight back. Jason Zucker‘s breakaway goal 24 seconds into the third period appeared to give them life. But they couldn’t beat Bobrovsky after that, and the Blue Jackets held on.
They end 2016 leading the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins for top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
What does 2017 have in store for the Blue Jackets? They are serving notice it could be a big year for them.
Red Wings rally by Bruins in another game that evokes the Eighties
Things looked pretty grim for the Detroit Red Wings after the Boston Bruins chased Jared Coreau from the net with a quick 3-0 lead. Maybe the Red Wings took note that this has been a weird, high-scoring week in the NHL, because they rallied back and eventually won 6-5 via a shootout.
To recap the zaniest games of each day from this odd few days of hockey:
(That’s the coach’s answer to slamming a video game controller in a frustrating loss.)
Fitting in with this week’s other wilder contests, there were flurries of goals even beyond the trio that quickly gave Coreau the boot. The Red Wings warped a 4-1 Bruins lead to a 4-4 tie with three goals in a little more than 10 minutes of time.
Adam McQuaid then regained Boston’s lead 21 seconds after it was tied, but the Red Wings didn’t give up. Instead, they applied a ton of pressure in the third period until Gustav Nyquist tied it up with about three minutes left.
Detroit still has a long way to go to protect its remarkable playoff streak, especially when teams like the Bruins can at least salvage “charity points” with losses. If the Red Wings want to make an unlikely push, they’ll need to show the kind of resolve that was on display on yet another wild night in the NHL.
#RedWings win a game after allowing 4 first-period goals for the first time since November 1, 1991 vs Hartford
PHT brings you the hard-hitting math, as you know, so here’s the latest burst: Connor McDavid is more than a point-per-game player.
You see, he scored the 100th point of his promising NHL career, and he did so in just his 92nd career game on Wednesday. Let us remind you that he’s just 20 years old (and he turned 20 on Jan. 13). Yeah.
Point 100 came on via an assist on a Zack Kassian goal as the Edmonton Oilers went up 1-0 against the Florida Panthers.
Here’s the clip:
Update: There’s debate regarding whether McDavid’s overtime-winner should have counted or not, but either way, it’s impressive that he generated a goal and an assist after hitting the 100-point mark. So it’s now 102 points in 92 games.
Here’s that contested goal:
Video: This assist helps explain why Red Wings might not trade Vanek
In the video above, you can see Bob McKenzie lay out the Detroit Red Wings’ status as the trade deadline begins to look like more of a consideration.
Considering their playoff streak, it’s not that shocking that they’re at least struggling with the idea of being sellers. More than a few people probably did a double-take (or spit-take?) when McKenzie noted that management might opt to re-sign forward/remarkable reclamation project Thomas Vanek instead of moving him for assets.
It’s reasonable to question that logic, but then you see what he’s doing lately, particularly the chemistry he seems to be building with Andreas Athanasiou.
Wednesday’s gorgeous assist to Athanasiou illustrates some of that brilliance, if stats bore you:
If stats tell some of the story, well, they’re impressive. Vanek now has a seven-game point streak with the assist; if he doesn’t score another point, he’ll have 10 points during that span. He also has at least a point in 11 of his last 12 contests.
Athanasiou’s really “feeling it” lately, too. If he stays at a goal tonight, he’ll have five goals and eight points in his last seven games, only failing to generate a point in two of those contests. His speed and skill really seem to be coming to the surface, a great sign for the 22-year-old.
Still, Vanek is 32, and the Red Wings would need a heck of a run to even make the playoffs. So that’s where the discussion gets a little sticky.
There’s still time to sort that out, though. In the meantime, fans should enjoy what those two have been accomplishing, even if many want the window to close on that combo soon.