The Columbus Blue Jackets have been on the hottest of all hot streaks for the past 20 or so games, but it could have come to an end on Sunday night – had it not been for the heroics of Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Bjorkstrand, who had missed the previous 13 games due to a rib/oblique injury suffered on December 21 against the New Jersey Devils, scored twice in his return to the lineup, giving the Blue Jackets their fifth straight win, this one over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The Danish winger scored twice on Rangers' defensive breakdowns, both beautifully placed snapshots that are now well-known around the NHL.
In both instances, Bjorkstrand recognized he would have time to unleash his wicked snap shot and masterfully used the Rangers' defenseman as a screen.
In the first video, go to the 0:57 second mark and watch how the sniper waited for the last second, when Jacob Trouba completely took away the eyes of rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin. In the second video, go to the 0:38 point and watch Bjorkstrand terrorize Brady Skjei in the exact same manner. It's a shot that only a select few players on the Blue Jackets can consistently execute, let alone twice in a period.
John Tortorella has – and will continue to have – difficult roster decisions regarding recently-healthy players returning to the lineup. At the risk of disrupting chemistry, this makes total sense, but there was never a doubt that Bjorkstrand would go back into the lineup when he was healthy enough to do so. In his past five games (dating back to Dec. 16), he has a staggering 7-2-9 stat line.
In his first game action in nearly a month, he led the Blue Jackets not just in goals, but also in shot attempts (8) and was second in scoring chances (4).
A year removed from a career-high in goals (23) and career-low in average TOI (12:20), Bjorkstrand seems to have found a successful formula in 2019-20. He's up to 17:18 per game this season, and while his 10.9% shooting percentage (all situations) this year is in line with his career average, his point production (25 points in 37 games) is way up. Had he not been injured, a 30-goal campaign was plausible. It'll be a tougher hurdle now, but even with some regression expected, he could certainly still challenge that milestone.
While the Blue Jackets may consider adding an impact forward to bolster their lineup at next month's trade deadline, they may have found that player when Bjorkstrand returned to the lineup.