Last season Columbus had a record-breaking campaign in which they won 50 games, went on a franchise record winning streak of 16 games and qualified for the playoffs with 108 points. Their fairytale season ended in the opening round of the playoffs – but a marker had been set for what Jackets fans can expect under the stewardship of Tortorella.
This season has been tougher on Columbus with the side failing to hit last season's lofty standards. But as we come to the business end of the season Columbus is showing that they mean business this year.
Is this year's team for real, though?
Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are the two pillars that keep this Columbus team going defensively. The best thing about these two players is their ability to play solid defense while contributing regularly to the offense.
These two players have contributed 80 points between them while they both play over 22 minutes per night. Simply put, Columbus has two bonafide elite defensemen.
Add David Savard, Jack Johnson, Ryan Murray, and Markus Nutivaara to the fold and we can see that Columbus possesses one of the best d-cores in the entire NHL.
While Columbus possesses the best defense in the entire Metro Division, their offense feels underwhelming. Artemi Panarin has 62 points and the next closest forward to him is Pierre Luc-Dubois with 37 points.
The Jackets are one of six teams in the Eastern Conference with less than 200 goals and one of the two sides occupying playoff spots that have a negative goal differential.
While this team is a defensive side, if they have any aspirations of kicking tires in the playoffs, they need to get more offense from this group of forwards. John Tortorella needs to get players like Alexander Wennberg, Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner, Josh Anderson, Nick Foligno, Matt Calvert and Thomas Vanek to start firing or this team will not get past the first round again.
Two-time Vezina winning goalie Bobrovsky is again proving his worth to this team with some excellent displays. To think Columbus picked up Bobrovsky for a second and two fourth round picks from the Flyers.
This season Bobrovsky has seen a dip of .010 in his save percentage. But that still leaves him with a .921 which is exceptional. Columbus can always consider themselves within a fighting chance of going far in the playoffs with Bobrovsky between the sticks.
Can they do it?
Well, if they finish in the first wildcard spot, they will likely play Washington or Pittsburgh. Really, the only way of avoiding either of those teams is to finish in the last wildcard spot but that would mean a match up with Tampa Bay.
So in all honesty I can't imagine Columbus getting out of the first round because of the difficulty of their opponents. Last season the Jackets lost in five games to Pittsburgh and they never really looked like hurting them.
If you were to be brutally honest, it is hard to see how the Jackets can go on a run this year as they seem to lack the firepower that their rivals have. But crazier things have happened and their defense core is the envy of most sides in the Eastern Conference.
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