The Blue Jackets Are Totally Comfortable Playing (And Winning) One-Goal Games

By Nic Hendrickson on February 7, 2020 at 1:45 pm
Zach Werenski
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

There are plenty of storylines surrounding the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.

From the play of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins to the emergence of Pierre-Luc Dubois as a top center, and even the amount of man-games lost, there's always something with this team. But one of the more interesting angles is the number of one-goal games the Blue Jackets have been involved in – and their success in those games.

For those who haven't followed too closely, the tally of one-goal games stands at a staggering 33 out of the Blue Jackets' 54 games. This is the most in the NHL. In these games is where disciplined play, defense, and goaltending become so pivotal, and when taking into account that the Blue Jackets have the best defense in the league, you start to understand why they hold an 18-6-9 record over those 33 games.

Breaking down that record further, that's a 45 point-pace for an average of 1.36 points per game or 111.52 over the course of an 82-game season. After analyzing what the cutoff for points to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs would be, this would be 15 more than the Blue Jackets would theoretically need to make it into the postseason – a number that bodes well for the Jackets down the stretch.

Head coach John Tortorella showcased his confidence in one sentence regarding one-goal games on Sunday, after beating Montreal 4-3.

"We play in a lot of one-goal games, we're in a lot of situations like that and I think that we are pretty good about playing in it."

Going back to defense, goaltending, and discipline being the key to winning one-goal games, the numbers continue to favor the Blue Jackets. Only one team (Boston, 130) has allowed fewer goals this season than Columbus' 133; the Blue Jackets are third overall in even-strength defense and they allow only 30.2 shots per game, which is 10th-best in the league. 

Between the pipes, the Blue Jackets have benefitted from strong play of their two main goaltenders. Korpisalo was selected as an All-Star and led the league with 17 wins when he went down with a knee injury. And since then, Merzlikins has been lights out; the Latvian-born rookie has gone 11-2-0 with a .951 save percentage, 1.62 goals-against-average and four shutouts since Dec. 31, and it's no surprise why the Blue Jackets have been able to go on the run they have.

Last but not least is discipline, another strength of these stingy Blue Jackets They are shorthanded the fifth-lowest amount of time among NHL teams (7:10 PIM per game) and have taken the second-fewest penalties (166), all the while their penalty killing continues to improve. 

With the continued success of the goaltending, defensive depth and an improved commitment to discipline, this trend of winning one-goal games isn't going away anytime soon. And when you are in the playoff position the Blue Jackets currently hold, this is going to be a pivotal point in their favor come playoff time.