Amato takes a look at Columbus’ surprising run at a playoff spot
When the Columbus Blue Jackets traded Rick Nash last summer it signaled the end of an era. The skilled winger had spent his entire nine year career in Columbus, was the team captain, and the face of the franchise. His highlight reel goals and presence as one of the league’s elite players gave Blue Jacket fans a sense of pride.
Despite the efforts of Nash, Columbus could not escape being one of the lowliest franchises of the past decade. The Blue Jackets have only exceeded 90 points in a campaign once and have had more than 40 wins just one time in a season. The team has made the playoffs just once in their entire existence, but still hasn't even won a post-season game thanks to a sweep at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings.
That’s why losing Nash looked to be so devastating. If Columbus was this bad with him, what lows could they sink to without him? They were able to obtain Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon, and a first-round pick. Not a terrible group by any means, but also no difference makers and no one ready to make an impact right away. Looking up and down at the 2013 roster, even the most loyal of Blue Jackets fans would have been questioning just where the points were going to come from.
Columbus, however, has avoided going into a tailspin and has given everyone around the greater Ohio area a reason for optimism. After getting off to a bit of a rocky start, the Blue Jackets now have points in 12 of 13 games. One of the main factors for the improved play has been a better team concept, but the true impact player is someone they acquired quietly during the off-season, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Bobrovsky has been so good as of late that up until a rough outing on Saturday against Nashville; Yahoo ranked him the number one fantasy performer over the last 30 days. He came in just ahead of some guy named Sidney Crosby. In eight of his last 11 appearances, Bobrovsky has given up one goal or less and he is now up to a .927 save percentage and down to a 2.17 goals against average. His save percentage ranks third in the NHL behind only Ottawa’s Craig Anderson and Boston's Tuukka Rask. Bobrovsky is on pace for career highs in just about every statistical category.
Bobrovsky’s strong play is even more surprising when you consider the amount of rubber he has faced so far this season. The Blue Jackets are giving up almost 28 shots per game when Bobrovsky is in net, and that puts him in the top 10 among starters. That’s almost two shots more than he was getting per ga