Oliver Bjorkstrand can't stop scoring goals.
The Danish winger scored his 20th goal of the season in Saturday's 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators, as he continues to blow by his prior career-high 11 goals.
He's riding a four-game goal streak, in which he's tallied five goals, and the Blue Jackets not-so-coincidentally went 4-0-0. The sniper leads the team with six goals since the trade deadline.
A notoriously streaky player, Bjorkstrand started the year with just three goals in his first 30 games (3-5-8). In the 43 games since then, he's been on a tear, scoring 17 times with essentially the same amount of ice time. That pace puts him at a 30+ goal season, and it's certainly not out of the question that he could become that player going forward for the Blue Jackets.
His success is not a fluke. The recent decision to play Alexander Wennberg with Boone Jenner has paid huge and immediate dividends. In thirteen games together since the trade deadline, the line has found its groove. At 5v5, the trio has been spectacular, as they've out-shot their opponents 56-38 (59.57%), out-chanced them 31-20 (64.15%), and outscored them 5-2 (71.34%).
Playing on the third line, Bjorkstrand sees more advantageous defensive matchups. Teams have to account for the Blue Jackets stacked top two lines, and simply don't have the resources to play their top defensemen against the third line.
He's also shooting more. From Alison Lukan at The Athletic:
Bjorkstrand has upped his game in the last 16 contests. Compared with the balance of the season, the Dane has 1.86 more shots, 1.48 more attempts from the dangerous areas and 3.48 more scoring chances per 60 minutes of play since the trade deadline. He’s also seen a nice little bump in his shooting percentage (plus-7.76) to help his effort result in reward as far as the puck getting in the net — he’s up over a goal per 60 minutes of play compared with before the deadline.
But more than anything else, Bjorkstrand simply seems to be playing with a huge amount of confidence. Goal-scorers need to see the puck go in the net to feel good about themselves. Bjorkstrand can contribute in other ways, but unlike his linemates, it's really his calling card. Jenner and Wennberg can play an effective game but not generate many scoring chances. Bjorkstrand's game goes invisible when he feels like he's not contributing on the scoresheet.
That doesn't make him unique. Cam Atkinson went through a similar stretch in the past weeks, having gone seven games without a goal, before potting an empty net in a 4-0 win over the New York Islanders. Two games later, he explodes for two goals, six shots on goal, and a penalty shot.
Bjorkstrand's importance to the team - now and going forward - cannot be overstated. He gives the Blue Jackets a 20-goal scorer on a bottom six line. Not many teams can boast that type of offensive threat that low in the lineup. If he can keep scoring, the Blue Jackets are that much more dangerous.
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