Final Push: The Blue Jackets Have Been Outstanding in the Third Period

By Jacob Nitzberg on February 7, 2020 at 1:47 pm
Feb 4, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (3) stick handles as Florida Panthers left wing Frank Vatrano (77) trails the play during the second period at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

It's never over 'til it's over.

The Blue Jackets certainly are familiar with that statement. They've been outscored 41-42 in the first period and 45-50 in the second, but when the third period comes around, the Blue Jackets dominate.

They're outscoring their opponents 51-34 in the third period. At Nationwide Arena, they're outscoring their opponents 26-12. 

But that's not all, folks. 

When leading going into the third period, the Blue Jackets are 12-1-3 overall, and 7-0-1 at home. When it's a tie game heading into the third, the Blue Jackets are 11-1-4 overall (!!) and 7-0-1 at home.

The Blue Jackets lead the NHL in many defensive statistics, including the fewest goals allowed per game (2.50). On average, they're only allowing .63 goals per game in the third period, which is a ridiculous number.

When trailing going into the third period, the Blue Jackets have salvaged 14 points from a losing position, going 6-14-2 — a respectable number given the situation. 

It's no secret what the strengths of this year's Blue Jackets are. Here's a hint: it's not offense. 

Although injuries have decimated defensemen, forwards, and goaltenders this season, the Blue Jackets have been able to rely on their blue line to lead the way forward. Established stars like Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, savvy veterans like David Savard and Vladislav Gavrikov, and young guns like Markus Nutivaara and Andrew Peeke help make up the best defensive unit in the NHL.

The Blue Jackets feel comfortable in the third period because of their trust in the blue line and whoever is net behind them. As a forward in John Tortorella's system, one has to be able to track back and play defense, but forwards certainly feel more comfortable going forward knowing Seth Jones and Elvis Merzlikins are behind them, should they make a mistake.

Tonight, the Blue Jackets will take on the Detroit Red Wings. Against the Red Wings this season, the Blue Jackets have outscored Detroit 5-1 in the third period.

Playing hard under John Tortorella isn't an option, and it's clear that he's getting everything out of his players — especially in the final 20 minutes.