The defense as a whole has been better …
Still really thin on the back-end, the Jackets have seen improvement basically across the board here. Part of this is because guys aren’t trying to do too much with the puck, which has led to turnovers and odd-man chances against all season.
Erik Gudbranson has finally stepped up and started eating up minutes in his own way – blocking shots and keeping opposing players honest in front of the net. Nick Blankenburg, Andrew Peeke, and Tim Berni have become minute-munchers as well, while Gavin Bayreuther has been steady in a depth role.
The defense has improved overall with Vladislav Gavrikov being held out awaiting a trade. Everyone seems to have slotted into a comfortable role, and they understand the assignment: just play simple hockey. But, one player has really stood out here of late, and his play has probably helped other guys settle in: Adam Boqvist.
A key part of the Seth Jones trade, Boqvist finally looks to be spreading his wings and showing the skill that saw him taken 8th overall at the draft. Injuries have slowed his development and forced us to remain patient with his game. At one point, he even found himself a healthy scratch on a defense corps that was missing two top-six mainstays.
But after being held scoreless through his first six games of the season, Boqvist has quietly been dynamic for this team. He has 2 goals and 15 points in his last 19 games, and is currently riding a four game point streak (2g, 3a).
He’s helped improve the struggling power-play, giving the team a legitimate quarterback that they’ve been so desperately seeking since Zach Werenski went down early in the season. And, to all of our surprise, he’s actually been pretty good defensively. Boqvist seems to be establishing his game, which is really encouraging for this team’s long-term potential. And, his play is helping the team win games now.
This is the kind of development we have to look for out of the younger players on this team. We’ve talked all season long about the team having a late stretch of success, lessening their odds of drafting first overall; and that’s exactly what we’re witnessing here. But, I would argue that having a competitive environment for any high draft pick they land this summer, is also a very important thing for this club in the long run.