Blue (Curtain) Jackets: Columbus Is Allowing the Least Goals Per Game in the NHL

By Chris Pennington on February 5, 2020 at 1:45 pm
Elvis Merzlikins and Vladislav Gavrikov
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Curtain Jackets? Eh? We'll work on it.

Regardless, move over, Steel Curtain. The Columbus Blue Jackets are the new name-holders for a sports team with a menacing, lock-down defense.

Keeping pucks out of the was supposed to be a problem for the Blue Jackets this season. With two goalies between the pipes that had never been full-season starters for an NHL team, it looked as if the floodgates were open before anyone could even probe them. 

The defensive unit was expected to be a lockdown, though. Led by all-stars Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, the blue line in Columbus ran eight or nine deep. Their first two out could easily be a bottom-six pair on most other NHL teams.

So, yes, the Blue Jackets were expected to limit chances. But what would happen on odd-man rushes, breakaways or back-door passes? Were Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins really going to bail the team out?

Spoiler: yes, yes they did.

As we finish rounding the corner to the final stretch of the season, the Blue Jackets find themselves ranked justly according to their labor. The club has allowed the least amount of goals for any team in the NHL (135), and are also averaging the league goals allowed per game (2.5). This second statistic is important, meaning even teams that have played fewer games than Columbus still don't match them in regards to preventing goals. 

Elvis Merzlikins, after a shaky start to his NHL career, has caught fire. The Latvian rookie is tied for first in the league in SV% (.929), fifth in GAA (2.30) and tied for first in shutouts (four). This, my friends, is not normal.

All-Star Joonas Korpisalo is not to be a second thought, though. Carrying the weight of a depleted and uninspired Blue Jacket team at the start of this season hurts his numbers a bit, but Korpisalo was a lights-out MVP for the Blue Jackers in December. He is still ranked in the top-20 in the league in SV% (.913) and GAA (2.49), to boot.

Back to the defensive unit. Even with Ryan Murray out of the lineup still, and Andrew Peeke, Markus Nutivaara and Zach Werenski missing stretches of games, the blue line in Columbus has been shutting down opponents' chances in elite fashion. 

They have been getting plenty of help from their two netminders, but they are also keeping opponents away from quality shots with the best of them. 

The Blue Jackets' offense is still only ranked 24th in the league, meaning their defense and goaltending is bailing them out a bit. Come playoff time, who knows what this will become - so the Blue Jackets should look to get creative in scoring strategy (or at the trade deadline?) to not completely exhaust their back end in April. 

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