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Balance, youth, business: keys to Jackets' success

Columbus' hot start the product of four-line attack & strong goaltending

by Rob Mixer @RobMixer / BlueJackets.com

You may have heard, but the Blue Jackets are doing something unprecedented right now.

They've won 16 straight games, a feat equaled by only one team in the 100-year history of the National Hockey League. That team, the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins, was a powerhouse boasting some of the game's top talent and was coming off back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.

That's not to suggest these Blue Jackets are on the same level as that Penguins team - they haven't even played half of their regular season schedule - but their early season success has them in rarefied air while regularly knocking down previous franchise records along the way.

On Thursday night in Washington, D.C., they will attempt to tie the Penguins' all-time record with a win over the Capitals. Columbus is coming off an unbeaten December in which Sergei Bobrovsky racked up 12 wins and was named the league's player of month, but on top of that, they had several key players step up and help lead this thrilling charge. They are 27-5-4 with 58 points in 36 games, sitting alone atop the NHL standings.

Video: 15 great plays from the Blue Jackets' historic streak

Let's look back at their record-breaking December, shall we?

Sergei Bobrovsky

Behind every successful NHL team is a quality goaltender. The Blue Jackets feel they have one of the game's best in the 28-year-old Bobrovsky, whom they acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers for a few draft picks back in 2012. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2013 as the NHL's best goaltender, and this season, he appears to have found that form once again, establishing himself among the top goaltenders in the business. As mentioned above, he did not lose a game during the Blue Jackets' 14-0-0 run through December, and he made another bit of history on Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers: Bobrovsky's 14 consecutive wins are tied for second-most in NHL history. Ironically enough, the number to beat is 17.

Video: EDM@CBJ: Bobrovsky makes two impressive saves

Balance and depth

The Blue Jackets have been successful because they are the sum of their parts. They're a well-constructed team that has four solid forward lines, three good defense pairs laden with talent, and of course, a top-notch goaltender. Usually, those three things added up yield quality results, and these Blue Jackets are being driven by their role players in addition to having productive skill players. Columbus has four players with 10 goals and seven players with at least 20 points, making them one of the more balanced teams in the NHL. They are the ONLY team in the NHL with four players in the top-25 in league scoring: Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Saad and Nick Foligno.

Youthful, yet businesslike

What's most exciting about this Blue Jackets team is that their young players are playing key roles. Zach Werenski has stepped in and quarterbacked the league's best power play at only 19 years old, and he's a big part of a Columbus defense corps that was the youngest opening night blueline (23.7 years old) since the 1996-97 New York Islanders. The Blue Jackets are the only NHL team that has a .700 winning percentage at home (15-3-1) and on the road (12-2-3), which is a testament to their focus and preparation even in the midst of a history-making winning streak.

Here's what Tortorella had to say about their approach: "They deserve it. I just want us to keep our head down and I want us to play. They've accepted the thought of coming to work every day and worrying about that day; not worrying about what happened or what's ahead of us. We're becoming pretty good pros."

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