Is it time to get excited?
About what, you ask?
There is the elephant in the room so if you're busy following the larger win that looms for the Columbus Blue Jackets franchise over the long term, you could certainly be excited about that possibility with the May 8 NHL Draft Lottery.
Not to state the obvious, there have been very few on-ice victories this season, and with last Friday's loss to the Anaheim Ducks, the Blue Jackets became the second team officially eliminated from playoff contention—after they eliminated the San Jose Sharks with last Tuesday's overtime win—and this is actually the earliest the club has been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.
But there is a nice positive playing out of late.
Since Feb. 10, when the Blue Jackets resumed second-half play, their power play is tied for seventh in the league with the Nashville Predators (12-for-49, 24.5%). For the month of February, they were 17th (5-for-27, 18.5%). Since Feb. 24, the power play is first in the league (9-for-29, 31.0%).
For the month of March, they're third in the league (7-for-22, 31.8%) trailing the Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche.
Is it a mirage?
This is happening without Zach Werenski running the point.
Even with Werenski back in the lineup next season, can you really expect the success to translate over into next season, let alone for the rest of this season over the final month?
Patrik Laine leads the club with eight power-play goals, and six since February, with Boone Jenner and Kirill Marchenko just behind (six), and Kent Johnson next up with four.
Then Johnny Gaudreau, Emil Bemstrom, and Cole Sillinger have two, followed by Jack Roslovic, Yegor Chinakhov, Marcus Bjork, and Jake Voracek, each with one.
As good as Gaudreau is, and has been this season, there's more to his game. Such as on the power play, where he does lead the club with 17 assists and 19 points.
And yet, there's still plenty of room for improvement as he adjusts to a whole lot of change and builds rapport with his teammates and the systems in place.
Coby Maeir interviewed Blue Jackets associate head coach Pascal Vincent in February, in which the coach provided insight on the power play, and getting the critical off-season addition comfortable and up to par:
(Gaudreau) played with the same people for years in Calgary. So he had that kind of chemistry with those people. But the other thing is [that] he was on [the left] side as a lefty. He could go downhill. He could attack the middle. He could just curl and attack. So you had the weak side close to the boards. He could attack inside the dot lane. But, he was used to [being on the left side]. With [Laine], that's his position, so he needed to adjust there.
From Feb. 28 through Mar. 14, a stretch of six straight games, Columbus had a power-play goal. Once that streak ended against the Los Angeles Kings on Mar. 16, they potted two more against the Ducks last Friday night for a stretch of seven power-play goals in eight games, and eight of 10 overall.
It's the eighth time in franchise history the club has recorded at least one power-play goal in six straight games and the franchise record is eight straight games from Oct. 10, 2002, through Oct. 27, 2002.
Below are some key contributors to the power play success since February.
|Marchenko - Jenner - Gaudreau - Laine - Boqvist||GP||TOI||GF||GA||xGF||xGA|
|Power Play Since Feb. 10||15||47:15||4||1||7.91||1.32|
|Natural Stat Trick|
|Bemstrom - Johnson - Sillinger||GP||TOI||GF||GA||xGF||xGA|
|Power Play Since February||17||17:07||3||0||2.22||0.02|
|Natural Stat Trick|
For the season, they're at an 18.6% clip (25th). Since Jan. 21, the Blue Jackets have had a top-five power play (17-for-64, 26.6%).
The Blue Jackets were 0-for-2 against the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday but will look to get back on the board on Tuesday when they finish their five-game road trip at the Washington Capitals.
Who knows if this newfound success will finally stick and carry over beyond this initial hot stretch. But it's about time that it does.