January sets tone for Blue Jackets success
Ten wins. A franchise-record eight straight victories. Twenty points earned in the standings of a possible 28. January was statistically one of the best months in Blue Jackets franchise history, as they rose in the ranks from seventh in the Metropolitan Division to 58 total points--good enough for fourth place--and with games in hand on divisional opponents such as the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals.
The points and wins were not the only headline-making numbers for the Blue Jackets in January 2014. What were some of the other notable statistics from the historic month? Let's break it down.
Scoring and shooting
Going into January, the Blue Jackets' scoring-by-period breakdown was as follows: 33 goals for in the first period, 30 goals in the second period and 43 goals in the third. The team had a plus-1 goal differential on the season (57-56). Through January, the Jackets outscored opponents 48-36 in 14 games, averaging 3.43 goals per game, which was third best in the NHL for the month.
The first period was also the most productive period for the Blue Jackets in January. Quick starts were key to the Blue Jackets' success, as they outscored opponents 17-8 and outshot opponents 136-125 in the first 20 minutes. The Blue Jackets also outshot opponents by a total of 443-439 in those 14 games. Their shots per game average of 31.6 was eighth-best in the NHL in January.
It's no secret that the Blue Jackets' goaltending duo was stellar throughout January. Curtis McElhinney started the month off with a 2-0 shutout win in Phoenix, stopping 34 shots and finished the month 2-2-0 with a 0.909 save percentage. Sergei Bobrovsky received the bulk of the assignments in January and stepped up to the challenge. His eight wins that month were third-best in the NHL. In his 10 games played, Bobrovsky recorded one shutout, a 2.31 goals-against average and a 0.926 save percentage. Together, the goaltenders combined for a save percentage of 0.918 (9th in the NHL) and a goals-against average of 2.57 goals per game (11th in the NHL).
Special teams success
Though the Blue Jackets' special teams play was fairly consistent for the majority of the season, their special teams statistics in January put them top-8 in the NHL. Their power play scored 12 goals on 52 chances for a 23.1 success rate--good enough for seventh in the league. Their penalty kill shut down 46 of 54 (85.2 percent) chances for opponents, a total bested by just seven other teams. The Blue Jackets were much more disciplined in the month of January, too, as they sat in the penalty box for an average of 11.1 minutes per game as opposed to the season-high 12.5 minutes they averaged through November and December.
Nathan Horton's debut
In his first game as a Blue Jacket on Jan. 2 against the Phoenix Coyotes, Horton scored the game-winning goal on the power play to set the tone for the team's impressive January. He totaled four goals and three assists for seven points in his 14 games played, and the Blue Jackets won all six games in which he recorded a point. Horton saw success as he consistently played with Boone Jenner and Artem Anisimov throughout the month.
Individual standout performances
Several Blue Jackets players had career-best totals during the month of January. For the forwards, Cam Atkinson had seven goals and four assists for 11 points in 14 games, which was the first time in his NHL career that he recorded ten points in a single month. Brandon Dubinsky matched Atkinson's 11 total points in 14 games with five goals and six assists of his own. He also lead the Blue Jackets in faceoff-win percentage for January with a 56.0 percent success rate in the circle. Dubinsky was also second on the team in hits with 44, which was seven behind rookie forward Boone Jenner, who registered 51 for the month. Mark Letestu also saw a successful month with six goals and three assists for nine points--including a career-best five game point streak.
The Blue Jackets' group of defensemen was strong in January, too. James Wisniewski led the team in scoring with three goals and ten assists (13 points), including an NHL-leading eight points on the power play (two goals, six assists). His partner Ryan Murray had 10 points in January, all of which were assists. That total put him at the top of the NHL in points for rookie defensemen. After he found out he did not make the U.S. Olympic team, Jack Johnson had his best month of the season with nine points (one goal, eight assists) and a plus-5 rating. Fedor Tyutin had a team-leading plus-minus rating of plus-6 for January, his best monthly rating this season.