Coming into the 2014-15 season, the Columbus Blue Jackets were looking to build on their success from the year before. 2013-14 was a big milestone year for the Blue Jackets as they made the playoffs for the second time in their team’s history and won their first ever postseason game. Unfortunately, the Blue Jackets are still looking for their first series victory. In their first postseason series in 2010, Columbus was swept by the Detroit Red Wing and last year they lost the series 4-2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Before the start of the season brought some unfortunate news as forward Nathan Horton was diagnosed with a degenerative back condition that could spell the end of his career. At the beginning of the season, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky struggled and it was determined that he had a broken bone in his glove hand. Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney struggled in his time filling in and Columbus ended the first two months with a 6-15-2 record.
When Bobrovsky came back though, Columbus went on a great winning streak and were 10-1-1 in December thanks to an impressive seven game winning streak. Columbus has cooled off during January though and they currently sit in sixth place in the division with a 20-22-3 record.
The thing about the Columbus Blue Jackets are they have been extremely inconsistent. Their goals per game is low at 2.4 and their goals allowed is a staggering 3.1. Both of these marks are toward the tail end of the league which certainly explains their unfortunate standing. One aspect of the Blue Jackets game has been their special teams as their power play if fourth best in the league at 24.3%. Columbus has done well in overtime games also as they are 6-3 when extra time is needed. Their record is better in shootouts as they are 4-1 in those games. Columbus’ ability to win close games will prove helpful as they have some work to do in the second half.
Player that has overachieved: Nick Foligno, LW
Foligno has been one of the brightest stars for this team as his 18 goals lead the club. This resulted in a six year extension and he was one of the captains for the All-Star Game held in Columbus. Foligno and teammate Ryan Johansen are both having great years, but Foligno is a career setter. He has already tied his career high in goals with 18 and he is six assists away from his previous career high. Foligno has been one of the reasons that Columbus has done well on the power play as he has points in 22 of 37 of their goals (9 goals and 13 assists). Foligno will need to keep this up during the second half as Columbus has struggled to get consistent production from any other line.
Player that has underachieved: Sergei Bobrovsky, G
There have been a couple of disappointments this season for Columbus, but the biggest player is Sergei Bobrovsky. Even after coming back from injury, Bobrovsky’s play has been inconsistent. Bobrovsky isn’t playing as well as he has for the past couple of years as his goals against average and save percentage are among his career worst when he has been a starter. It looks like Bobrovsky will miss some time as he is currently dealing with a groin injury and has no timetable for a return. If Columbus is going to have a second half resurgence, they will require Bobrovsky to be healthy and playing the Vezina Trophy winner he can be.
Second Half Outlook
Now that the All-Star game is over and the festivities have died down, it’s time for Columbus to get back to work. 20 of their last 37 games are against teams that would be in the playoffs if they started today. Out of those 20, half of them are against divisional foes (New York Islanders, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers and Washington), so there is room for them to make up some quick ground. Columbus has a losing record against their division so it will be important for them to win these games and overcome the hole they dug themselves into at the beginning of the season. As a whole, their schedule is evenly spaced so it will be hard for them to put together long winning streaks unless they are playing their best.
Columbus has had some injuries, especially up front, but they are close to getting back center Artem Anisimov and Boone Jenner should be back with in the next month or so. This should be able to help give their offense the boost they have been looking for. Outside of the top line, the Columbus is struggling to score and it is something that might be addressed at the trade deadline. Columbus will need to stay healthy if they are going to begin to win more games and make a push for their first back-to-back playoff berths. It’s going to be tough for the Blue Jackets to get back into the playoff picture, but it won’t be impossible.