We’re ten games into the NHL season, the first checkpoint where we can really start grading the team’s performance overall. Let’s take a look at how the Blue Jackets look so far.
After last night’s thrilling win against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Jackets reach the ten game mark with an even 4-4-2 record (10 points). They sit fifth in the Metropolitan division, two points back from Carolina and the New York Islanders; and one point ahead of the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers.
It’s easy to calculate their points-per-game pace because they’re averaging exactly one – which means that if they were to play out the thread as they have, the Jackets would finish the season with 82 points. The NHL is a long season, but if you break it down into ten game segments, playoff contenders come away with roughly 11.5 points for every ten game stretch. From that perspective, the Jackets are pretty close; but you can quickly see how every game matters.
Comparing their start to last season is pretty interesting. Last year, they went 3-7-0 through their first 10 games. They were essentially out of contention for a playoff spot by Thanksgiving. That almost certainly won’t be the case this year, unless they have a serious collapse. Even though a lot of us have been disappointed in some of their performances so far, they’re actually playing pretty much right at the pace we predicted in the preseason.
The difference between last year and this year? Goals against. Remarkably, this team has actually scored one fewer goal (26) than last season’s Jackets did through the first 10 games (27). Last year they gave up 43 goals in that span; but so far this year they’ve surrendered just 32. Attribute that success to much improved goaltending, which comes on the back of a deeper, more experienced defense corps – as well as a new and improved system that keeps shots outside of the high danger areas.
Impressively, the Jackets didn’t get an easy schedule to start the year, either. The teams they’ve played so far have a combined record of 50-36-13. They’ve knocked off teams like the NY Rangers, who have only two losses so far this season; as well as the Tampa Bay Lightning. They’re playing pretty well consistently, which is something we could not say for last year’s team.