What We Learned: Cam Atkinson Breaks Out, Lukas Sedlak Returns

By Kyle Morrison on November 26, 2017 at 12:15 pm
Cam Atkinson salutes the crowd after being named the game's first star in a Blue Jackets win over Ottawa
USA Today – Aaron Doster

Folks, the Jackets are (still) hot.

A six-game win streak has Columbus in second place in the Metropolitan Division – one point behind the New Jersey Devils – and sporting the best goal differential in the division. That streak is the longest active one in the league, and they’ll try to push that to seven tomorrow night.

For now, though, we’ll take a look back on the last week – and on what we learned.

Camsanity Cometh

Cam Atkinson broke his nine-game goal-less drought on Friday night, potting two goals on Ottawa netminder Craig Anderson, including the game-winner in the third.

Not that anyone doubted Atkinson’s ability after signing his seven-year extension, but those two goals were beauties and served as reminder that Atkinson is a star in this league. Maybe he won’t perennially match last year’s 35-goal mark, but he’s got speed and skill and one hell of a shot – plus Tortorella’s full trust in defensive situations.

His first goal of the night, though, was the more impressive one that showed off his full range of talents. He read and intercepted a blue line pass, created his own breakaway, raced to the puck and deked out Craig Anderson at the other end to get the Jackets on the board.

Sergei Bobrovsky: Still Elite

We certainly say this a lot around here, but it rings true every time: Sergei Bobrovsky is elite. He’s won all six games on this streak, including two shutouts and an incredible .966 SV%.

He’s been the class of the NHL so far, leading the league in save percentage (.936%), goals against average (1.91) and tied for first in shutouts (3). Last year, the Jackets rode a Bobrovsky hot streak (and one ridiculous performance from Curtis McElhinney) to a 16-game win streak. Bob clearly hasn’t lost a step – despite what a few hot take artists had to say during last year’s playoffs – and he’s the foundation of this Jackets team. That bodes well for a playoff run this year.

Bottom Six Shored Up

Welcome back, Lukas Sedlak.

The 24-year-old Czech center was never a highly-regarded prospect – he surprised the world when he made the Jackets opening-night roster last season – but he’s evolved into a key part of John Tortorella’s lineup. He plays a smart, physical game, kills penalties and, most importantly, shores up one of the center spots.

With Alexander Wennberg on the shelf and the Nick Foligno center experiment showing mixed results of late, the Jackets desperately needed some help up the middle. They got it when Sedlak returned.

Sedlak got his feet wet in the overtime win over Calgary on Wednesday, playing just under nine minutes and winning most over 70% of his draws. Friday’s game was much better – he played 9:51 and got on the scoresheet with an assist. He also hit two career highs.

He finished Friday’s game as a +3 (granted that plus/minus is a flawed stat) and registered four shots on goal. The shot total matched a career high he put up earlier this season – and he’d never hit either of those marks in a game last season.

There are still a lot of question marks at that position for the Jackets – our experts have been beating the “go trade for another center” drum for a while – but a healthy Sedlak takes away a big question mark at that position.

Better yet, he’s carrying his line now. Last year, he had the luxury of having established veterans Scott Hartnell and Sam Gagner on his wings. This year, it’s been a revolving door of journeymen and rookies. Nevertheless, he’s been up to the challenge.

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