Boone Jenner celebrates with William Karlsson, Ryan Murray and Kevin Connauton (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Unless he’s putting home an empty net goal on a breakaway, Blue Jackets winger Boone Jenner isn’t going to score many goals as easy as his tally Sunday. Jenner was the triggerman on a perfect tic-tac-toe play by Columbus and he had a wide-open net thanks to some passing brilliance.
Blue Jackets fans may have been upset with Sunday’s result, but there’s no denying that Columbus appears to be steadily improving under coach John Tortorella. And the offense seems to be gelling, too.
In Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the red-hot San Jose Sharks, the Blue Jackets took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission thanks to a beautiful three-way passing play between Brandon Saad, William Karlsson and Boone Jenner. Jenner, who capped off the play, couldn’t have missed the net had he tried. That’s how good the rush and subsequent setup was:
The drive to the net by Jenner opens up a huge passing lane for Saad to get the puck to Karlsson, and Karlsson’s on-the-tape pass to Jenner sneaks perfectly past Sharks defenseman Justin Braun and out of the reach of goaltender Alex Stalock’s pad.
While the Blue Jackets dug themselves a big enough hole at the start of the season that it seems they’re unlikely to fight all the way back, the club is actually above .500 since the hiring of Tortorella and one major reason is the offensive turnaround. The Blue Jackets were scoring less than two goals per game under coach Todd Richards to start the year, but in the 15 outings under Tortorella, Columbus has scored 42 goals — an average of 2.8 per game. On defense, they’ve improved, too, allowing only 2.5 goals against under Tortorella, which is a vast improvement over the 4.4 goals against per game under Richards.
Eventually the numbers under Richards would have levelled out, but Tortorella has done a good job in Columbus thus far. In their past 10 games, the club is 6-4-0 and are only sitting in the basement of the Metropolitan Division because Carolina and Philadelphia have been able to pick up overtime and shootout losses.
There’s still time for the Blue Jackets to make a push for the post-season. It’s going to be difficult, but if the offense can keep producing moments of brilliance like Sunday night’s tic-tac-toe goal and Tortorella can further shore up the defense, the wins could start coming in bunches.