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Inside a streak: How the Blue Jackets went into Christmas strong

A look inside the eight-game point streak Columbus rides through break

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

The Blue Jackets' Christmas present to their fans was delivered over 15 days from Dec. 9 to Dec. 23. 

In that span, the team played eight games, won six and earned points in each. In all, Columbus earned 14 of a possible 16 points in that span, an eight-game point streak that may well have saved the team's season. 

There's still plenty of ground to be made up if the Blue Jackets are to make a fourth straight playoff appearance, but the streak has pushed the team to 17-14-6 and back to a point where there's plenty to play for when everyone gets back from the Christmas break for Friday's game at Washington. 

So how have the Blue Jackets done it? Here's a look at the streak by the numbers to this point.  

26: The Blue Jackets have iced 26 different skaters over the eight-game stretch. Considering a team dresses 18 skaters in each game, that is an incredible amount of turnover during such a short stretch, with nearly half the lineup turning over in two weeks. That, of course, is because of the tremendous amount of injuries the team has, with seven players currently on injured reserve and two others unable to play going into the holiday because of injuries. There was some good news near the end of the streak -- David Savard returned from illness Monday at the Islanders and Sonny Milano practiced that day, seemingly portending a possible return -- but this will still be a shorthanded team for the coming weeks. The good news is just how quickly a number of new players have been able to assimilate into the lineup, a reality driven home in the win over New York that featured goals from Kevin Stenlund and Nathan Gerbe, two players who have spent most of the season with AHL Cleveland. 

8: A full eight different rookies have played during the stretch, a list that includes Stenlund as well as Alexandre Texier, Eric Robinson, Vladislav Gavrikov, Andrew Peeke, Ryan MacInnis, Gabriel Carlsson and Elvis Merzlikins. It's almost felt like there's been another NHL debut or first NHL goal every other night during this season, but it's been fun to watch a number of the youngsters not just fill bigger roles but excel in them. In the last eight games, those players have combined for seven goals and 10 assists, including an all-rookie goal Saturday against the Devils when Gavrikov scored off passes from Robinson and Texier. It was just the third such goal in franchise history.  

27: Columbus has scored 27 goals during the eight-game stretch, and that's included a shutout at the hands of Pittsburgh in an overtime loss Dec. 12. After the team just couldn't buy a goal the first two months of the year, the Blue Jackets have averaged 3.4 goals per game since then. The injured Oliver Bjorkstrand (6-2-8), Pierre-Luc Dubois (2-6-8) and Gustav Nyquist (2-6-8) each have eight points in the eight-game stretch while Texier is right behind with a 2-5-7 line. Add in a 1-5-6 line from Seth Jones and the players who have to contribute to the goal-scoring efforts for the Blue Jackets are doing just that. 

15: The Blue Jackets have allowed just 15 goals in the past eight games, meaning Columbus is plus-12 in that time span in goal-scoring, an edge of 1.5 goals per game. The defensive number is quite impressive, though, and has driven home that the Blue Jackets have one of the better defensive teams in the NHL. The advanced numbers show a team that limits scoring chances for the opposition, and on top of that, Joonas Korpisalo is showing he has what it takes to be a No. 1 goalie. Any success the team was going to have this year was going to be from the back to front, and the team has played excellent defense of late. 

8: In the team's eight-game point streak, Korpisalo has played in all eight games. The plan was to give him a game off at Ottawa, but Merzlikins didn't have his game early and Korpisalo had to go in. There might also have been a plan to give Merzlikins the net last Tuesday at Detroit in the second half of a back-to-back, but with points at a premium, the Blue Jackets chose to ride Korpisalo to the end. He's certainly been fantastic, but Tortorella has admitted he needs to find starts for Merzlikins in the second half. How soon that happens bears watching, but it's been fun for the Blue Jackets and their fans to see Korpisalo turn into a standout.  

2: The Blue Jackets have dropped the gloves twice over the last eight games, and head coach John Tortorella has pointed to those moments as something that has helped bring the team together. The first came Dec. 14 at Ottawa when Josh Anderson dropped the gloves after Mark Borowiecki's awkward hit against Sonny Milano that left the latter prone on the ice and out of the lineup since then (along with Anderson, who got injured during the fight). A game later, Tom Wilson delivered a high hit against Gavrikov late in the Jackets' 3-0 win, and Savard didn't hesitate to go after him. Tortorella grew up in days that were much more rough and tumble, and while he's said he doesn't see the point of going after opponents just to go after them, he's more than happy to see his players stick up for one another. That's what he liked about the actions of both Anderson and Savard, with the head coach pointing to that as a key thing that can bring a team together.  

4: Columbus has four wins against Metropolitan Division opponents during the stretch. Columbus got the best of New Jersey on Saturday night, which is what you have to do against one of the lower teams in the NHL standings, but the Blue Jackets also have a pair of wins against Washington in the point streak as well as the Festivus win over the New York Islanders. That's three wins in the last eight games against two of the better teams not just in the division but in the NHL, victories that show the Blue Jackets can go toe-to-toe with the best.  

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