On more than a few occasions this season, John Tortorella has been asked if he knows what type of team he has.
He has, on more than a few occasions, politely declined to answer the questions because he didn't yet know. Tonight, after his team made NHL history and won its 16th consecutive game, he relented just a little.
During this winning streak, which began Nov. 29 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Blue Jackets have found a multitude of ways to win games. They've outscored teams, they've used special teams, they've relied on their goaltender, and so on. Tortorella's main concern is that it "doesn't get good to them," but he said tonight that he's been proud of how they have handled the hoopla and hype surrounding what they're doing.
This 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers in front of 17,169 at Nationwide Arena was one of their most efficient and tidy games in recent memory. They allowed 22 shots on goal, carried 5-on-5 play with 53 percent of shot attempts, and played with pace through all three zones.
Next up is a date with the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at Verizon Center. Should the Blue Jackets win that game, they would tie the NHL's all-time longest winning streak (17), set by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins.
Yes, they're chasing history, but their plan is to stay focused on the present and employ the approach that got them to this point.
"We're a group of businessmen as far as I'm concerned," Tortorella said. "We're becoming really good pros."
Video: Torts reacts to the Blue Jackets' 16th straight win
Here's what we learned:
PACE, PACE, PACE: The Oilers are a fast team. Rather than let them get their legs going and dictate how the game would be played, the Blue Jackets came out with a strong first period and took control of the game right away. They out-shot the Oilers 12-4 in the first period, 13-7 in the second period, and pinned Edmonton in its own end for lengthy shifts, which were mostly spent trying to keep up with the cycle. Maintaining their pace and maintaining their style of play was a big reason why the Oilers had little to nothing going in the third period until they got Cam Talbot on the bench with 1:40 to play, and even then, they managed a mere handful of shots on Bobrovsky.
"I thought we played really fast, especially in the first period," said William Karlsson, the game's No. 1 star. "We were a little slow in the second, but got better again in the third."
Video: EDM@CBJ: Karlsson rips a one-timer for PPG
ANOTHER NIGHT, ANOTHER HERO: Brandon Dubinsky sensed his team was losing steam in the second period, so he decided to drop the gloves with Edmonton's Patrick Maroon. While he was in the box serving a five-minute major, the Blue Jackets put Karlsson in his spot on the second power play unit - and he didn't look the least bit out of place. In the late stages of a holding penalty to Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson, Brandon Saad curled high in the left circle and found Karlsson on the opposite side for a one-timer, and Karlsson beat Talbot through the legs for the go-ahead goal, a tally that would stand up as the game-winner. The ability to slot a versatile player like Karlsson into a crucial situation and have him deliver was, as Tortorella said, another testament to the Blue Jackets' depth. Captain Nick Foligno scored a huge insurance goal in the third period, giving him points in six straight games.
Video: EDM@CBJ: Foligno intercepts puck, scores top shelf
POWER PLAY STAYS HOT: It's beyond the point where we can call what the Blue Jackets are doing on the power play "impressive." Over the past few weeks, players have made note of how much confidence they have when given a man advantage, almost as if they expect to score a goal. Tortorella echoed that in his post-game presser, saying the energy is palpable, particularly with the No. 1 unit. Columbus got goals from both power play units tonight with Atkinson scoring in the first period and Karlsson in the second, going 2-for-4 on the night to add a little boost to their already-NHL-best percentage.
Karlsson's goal was the first power play goal of his career. He said the last power play goal he scored came back when he played for HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League.
"I thought the power play was a big reason why we were successful tonight," Tortorella said. "The power play…you can almost sense it a little bit when they go out there that they're going to score. The second (goal), it springboards us toward playing a solid game. It wasn't fancy, it wasn't wide open, but we played a really good game."