It's hard to make an under .500 record through a team's first few weeks look pretty.
And we won't try and make it look that way - because it was not pretty as a whole for the 2-3-0 Columbus Blue Jackets. It was a roller coaster that makes you feel like you want to throw up after, even if it had some good loops and drops. It made your head hurt and left you confused, too.
A 4-1 opening night loss. An embarrassing blowout against a 'rival' on their ice the next night. And a sputtering offense in the third loss to cap it off.
In the mix of that was a thrilling first victory over the somehow-hot Buffalo Sabres, with the power play notching two goals and Alexandre Texier scoring the winner. In their most recent game, the team traveled to an unfriendly away environment in Raleigh and beat the previously undefeated Carolina Hurricanes in regulation.
Figuring out these Blue Jackets will take some time, and context will be important.
When they hit 0-2-0 and 1-3-0 records on the season, they were thought of as the league's worst team (well, aside from New Jersey).
When they hit 1-2-0 and 2-3-0, though, they were thought of as a young, new team still figuring themselves out, who just need some time.
Which is it? Just keep enjoying the ride, folks - and again, keep an eye on context:
In these first five games, the Blue Jackets have played five teams with current winning records. They're all stacking up in the top-tier in the league right now, in a number of statistical categories. Here are the numbers, and where they rank amongst the rest of the league.
|Toronto Maple Leafs||3-2-1||7 (12th)||24 (T-2nd)||21 (T-22nd)||22.73 (15th)|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||4-2-0||8 (T-6th)||25 (1st)||16 (T-11th)||26.09 (11th)|
|Buffalo Sabres||5-0-1||11 (1st)||24 (T-2nd)||13 (T-8th)||42.86 (1st)|
|Anaheim Ducks||4-2-0||8 (T-6th)||13 (T-20th)||10 (T-4th)||0.00 (T-28th)|
|Carolina Hurricanes||5-1-0||10 (T-2nd)||23 (T-3rd)||16 (T-11th)||25.00 (12th)|
These five teams have a combined record of 21-7-2. The only losses that Carolina and Buffalo have suffered have been at the hands of Columbus. 2-3-0 for the Blue Jackets still isn't super encouraging, but when you look at who they've played so far, maybe they deserve to be cut some slack. They have had the second-hardest schedule in the league so far for crying out loud, per hockey-reference.com
Thankfully, the club doesn't have to repeat this schedule for the whole year. Here's how their opponents through this weekend have faired thus far:
|Dallas Stars||1-5-1||3 (T-26th)||13 (T-20th)||23 (T-26th)||4.55 (27th)|
|Chicago Blackhawks||1-2-1||3 (T-26th)||12 (T-25th)||13 (T-8th)||22.22 (16th)|
|New York Islanders||3-3-0||6 (T-13th)||15 (T-18th)||17 (T-15th)||27.7 (T-7th)|
The playoffs mean you only play the cream of the crop, but hey, we're in October, everyone. Let's cross that bridge later.
The Blue Jackets get to play the 'cupcake' teams above in the next few contests (and hopefully prove they aren't one, themselves). Capitalizing against competition like this will be crucial. Come April, they'll want these points from the fall.
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