Exactly one month ago today, folks, the Columbus Blue Jackets were dead in the water.
11-14-4. 26 points. Third-to-last in the league.
The team was scoring at a franchise-low rate. Neither goaltender could find a rhythm. Special teams were a nightmare.
It looked like the critics were right. With the departures of key free agents - the Blue Jackets were officially in rebuild mode. Mail in the season. Get a good draft pick. Stock up for the future. Right?
Then, the injuries happened.
Not just to the Emil Bemstroms of the team. But the Cam Atkinsons. The Zach Werenskis. The Oliver Bjorkstrands. Now, the season was officially over.
What was to follow is one of the most unprecedented and improbable runs in Blue Jacket history.
Columbus has ripped off a 9-1-4 record in the last 14 games, to put them just two points out of a wild card spot in the playoffs. Sergei Bobrovsky's Florida Panthers and the Philadelphia Flyers hold the tiebreaker and are one point ahead currently of the Blue Jackets.
How on earth, will the early season struggles, and the injuries to follow, did the Blue Jackets do this? As a team!
An incredible 23 of the 28 skaters who have played in the last 14 games for the Blue Jackets have registered a point, with 16 different players finding the back of the net.
It's not just the scoring, either. The No. 1 and 2 goaltenders for the club have been on fire. Joonas Korpisalo, before his knee injury, put up a 6-0-3 record during the games he played (ten) in that 14-game span, with a .942 SV% and 1.70 GAA.
Elvis Merzlikins, who was then throw to the fire as a starter, surprised many by putting up a .945 SV% and 1.75 GA en route to a 3-1-0 record this past week.
For the past two seasons, the Blue Jackets depended on Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin for nearly all of their success, or at least to push them over the edge as a playoff team. Need a goal in a 2-2 game? Throw 'Bread' out there. Need someone to slam the door shut in a 1-0 game? Can always count on 'Bob'!
Now, both are gone. No more reliance. This shook the Blue Jackets to start the season, for sure. Now they're adapting. And they're starting to look good while doing it.
As the injured players begin to fill up the roster again, the focus for Columbus will need to stay team-centered in order to continue their success the past month. The playoff is a different beast, where superstars shine, but to even get there for a fourth-consecutive season, it will need to be a group effort.
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