The Columbus Blue Jackets’ lengthy winning streak has ended, but their season-high point stretch is still intact.
Looking to run that point streak to 10 games, the Blue Jackets aim for a fourth consecutive home victory Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Despite a bevy of injuries, including ones to key contributors Cam Atkinson (21 points) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (23 points), Columbus continues to play some of the best hockey in the NHL. The Blue Jackets’ season-high five-game winning streak ended with a 2-1 overtime loss at Washington on Friday, but the result left them 6-0-3 since losing four in a row from Nov. 30-Dec. 7.
“It’s a team that has a little bit of belief in it as far as all the new bodies,” Columbus coach John Tortorella told NHL.com. “I think it can show us some things as far as if you play hard as a team and care just about the team and not thyself. I think you can get some things accomplished.”
The Blue Jackets have accomplished plenty during their longest point stretch since a 10-game winning streak in March 2018. Most notably, allowing an average of 1.9 goals and keeping opponents to 4 of 28 on the power play. They’ve also outscored their last three home opponents 11-3.
Joonas Korpisalo has been brilliant while posting a 1.61 goals-against average and .946 save percentage during his 6-0-2 run as a starter. Backup Elvis Merzlikins (0-4-3, 3.41 goals-against average) was pulled after yielding two goals on eight shots during his only start in Columbus’ last nine games, a 4-3 overtime loss at Ottawa on Dec. 14.
Merzlikins made 30 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss at Chicago on Oct. 18.
Jonathan Toews scored the winner, Alex DeBrincat also had a goal and Robin Lehner made 37 saves for the Blackhawks in that contest. Toews and DeBrincat each scored Friday, and Lehner stopped 38 shots in a 5-2 home win over the New York Islanders.
Though situated near the bottom of the Western Conference and dealing with its own injury issues to the likes of forward Brandon Saad (ankle) and defensemen Brent Seabrook (shoulder, hips) and Calvin de Haan (shoulder), Chicago has won three of four and will aim for a season-high third consecutive road victory this weekend.
“Right now, we’re just really trying to focus on getting wins,” Lehner, who has a 2.25 goals-against average while winning four straight starts, told the Blackhawks’ official website.
“We played good (Friday night), worked hard. We’re just playing the right way and good things happen.”
Lehner is 3-1-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average as starter for his career at Columbus. Corey Crawford, meanwhile, has an inflated 4.61 goals-against average during his current four-game losing streak.
Chicago star Patrick Kane has recorded 11 of his team-leading 47 points over the past seven games. He has four goals and nine assists in his past six versus Columbus. Toews has goals in two straight against the Blue Jackets, while DeBrincat has recorded two goals with two assists in his past three versus Columbus.
Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois scored one of his 12 goals against the Blackhawks this season, and he has three with two assists in five career games versus Chicago. Dubois’ four-game point streak (two goals, four assists) ended on Friday.
–Field Level Media