Jan 21, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) makes a save against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Columbus beat Los Angeles 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets: Behind Enemy Lines

One team’s stock is rising; the other team’s stock is doing its best Great Depression reenactment.  Guess which is which!

Jan 23, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Matt Calvert (11) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s Opponent: The Columbus Blue Jackets

Record: 26-20-4, 56 pts.

Standings: Seventh in Eastern Conference

Current Streak: Won eight

What the Blue Jackets are doing right now ought to be illegal.  After all, this team IS streaking, and that’s just shameful.

Hardee har har.

Seriously: the Blue Jackets are 9-1-0 over the course of their last ten games, and are riding an eight-game winning streak that includes wins over the Philadelphia Flyers, the Los Angeles Kings, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the New York Rangers – four teams that are all currently in playoff contention.  Why are the Blue Jackets enjoying success right about now?

For starters, Columbus is +8 on the season – one of only four teams in the Eastern Conference who can boast that they have outscored their opposition so far this season,  (By contrast, the West has six such teams, and another team that is even.)   Right now, Columbus has the 7th most proficient offense in the NHL, due in large part to the fact that it gets balanced scoring up and down its lineup: the team currently does not feature anyone with as many as 40 points, but it does have nine players with 20+ points.  The Blue Jackets are led by the still-baby-faced, twenty one year-old Ryan Johansen, who has 18 goals and 19 assists on the season.  Johansen’s role model growing up?  Joe Thornton.   The problem with this, from a Buffalo Sabres standpoint?  The 6’3″ Johansen is starting to PLAY like Thornton.  He even wears the same number: 19.   He’s going to be a problem tonight; you wait and see.

Of course, if the Sabres can manage to keep Johansen in check for a second-straight game, they still have to worry about Brandon Dubinsky (34 pts.).  And Nick Foligno (27 pts.). And Cam Atkinson (27 pts.) or R.J. Umberger (26 pts.).  Ah – you get the picture.

And what if Buffalo gets lucky and keeps most of those scorers in check?  Well, the Sabres will still have to get the puck past goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy-winner.   Bob’s 2.58 GAA and .916 save percentage are not as good as his numbers last year, but he is still a top-20 goalie who is undefeated in his last nine starts, dating back to November 29.   Seriously, I’m a little depressed now.

So!  Fear the Blue Jackets, Sabres fans.  They’s is awfully good.




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