The Columbus Blue Jackets' Win Streak is Enough to Give You Whiplash
The Blue Jackets' win streak is probably not indicative of the team's overall talent. But that's OK.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Miles Teller has an extensive body of work at this point in his acting career. There's a book on him. You know what to expect. He's probably playing a character that is unexplainably cocky or cool in a way that defies everything you're seeing or hearing on screen.
His stardom is unexplainable. If it's not a predictable, post-apocalyptic teen drama, no one is going to see his movies. If you do see them, you wonder why his career is going so well. Then someone says, "You have to see him in Whiplash. He's outstanding."
"Wait, the guy from the Footloose remake?"
"The guy from that horrible Fantastic Four reboot?"
"The same one."
"Isn't he the guy who's in some movie about a one night stand and another one with Zac Efron that's all about one night stands? That guy?"
"Yes, yes. I know. His track record gives you no reason to believe what I'm telling you, but check out Whiplash."
Then you watch Whiplash, and you can't believe it. He's great in it! The movie is great! The whole thing! How can someone so average and forgettable in every way deliver such a thoroughly terrific effort despite his lack of talent and abilities? Where did that performance come from?
The 2016-17 Columbus Blue Jackets are Miles Teller in Whiplash.
By all rights, the Blue Jackets should suck this season. They have arguably the worst coach in the league in John Tortorella, are coming off a 76-point season, and nothing about their offseason indicated a 30-point turnaround. Yet, somehow, they have won 15 consecutive games. How are the Blue Jackets, much like our pal Miles, doing something good out of the blue?
Here's the trick—you can put together a run like this if you're the Blue Jackets, or a movie like Whiplash if you're Teller, and still be bad. The Blue Jackets have won 15 straight and Whiplash took 19 days to film; anyone can put together one successful month under the right circumstances.
And boy, have the circumstances been great for the Blue Jackets during their winning streak.
Seven victories have come against six of the nine-worst teams in the NHL—Colorado, Arizona (twice), Detroit, Vancouver, Winnipeg and the New York Islanders. You can only beat the teams the schedule puts in front of you, but if you want to classify the Blue Jackets as an elite team because of this streak, it should be noted that nearly half of the victories came against teams that were almost all but eliminated from postseason contention at Christmas. An eighth win came against Steven Stamkos-less Tampa Bay, which isn't in a playoff spot now.
That still leaves seven wins against teams in postseason spots, including a 7-1 dismantling of Pittsburgh and a 4-2 victory against Minnesota on New Year's Eve that snapped the Wild's 12-game winning streak. The Blue Jackets' score-adjusted Fenwick in their 15 straight wins is 54.1 percent, an impressive number and fourth-best mark since the streak started.
But just how good is it?
It's really easy to inflate your score-adjusted Fenwick over the course of a month when you're devouring the NHL's weak links. The Blue Jackets out-Fenwick'd the Avalanche 41-19 and the Coyotes 89-52 combined in their two contests, good for a raw Fenwick of 64.8 percent and a whopping 68.8 percent when using Natural Stat Trick's score- and venue-adjusted numbers.
Against everyone else during the streak, the Blue Jackets' raw Fenwick is 49.3 percent. The Blue Jackets are slightly in the black in score- and venue-adjusted Fenwick at 51.2 percent, a solid number but far from what you'd expect from a team with a 12-game winning streak.
Against the seven teams in playoff spots, the Blue Jackets' score- and venue-adjusted Fenwick is a very poor 48.3 percent.
Considering everything we know about the predictive nature of shot attempts and the Blue Jackets themselves, should we determine that the team has found the cypher that cracks the code of shot attempts and is now good? Or have they taken advantage of a soft schedule while catching lightning in a bottle against the NHL's top teams?
The answer, of course, is the latter. The Blue Jackets have put together a few excellent performances during the streak, but mostly they've benefited from a high shooting percentage, excellent goaltending, and from playing a handful of teams that probably have decided that tanking is their best strategy with three months to play.
That last paragraph and ones like it have been pissing off Blue Jackets fans pretty much all season. It's a yearly ritual in hockey that one team will surprise everyone—even that team's fans. When that team greatly exceeds expectations, nobody wants to hear, "Actually, it's mostly luck that's causing this," even though those same fans understood the logic completely when applied to other teams.
That's fine. It's your right as a fan. You're basically Miles Teller's agent. You're going to blindly back your boys and extol their virtues to anyone who will listen in the hopes they will be taken seriously. You want them to be respected and receive any award they can win because you get a small piece of the action. I get it. Piss and moan in every comments section you can find.
And this win streak, especially, is your Whiplash. Savor it. Instead of going to the Oscars, you're going to attend playoff games. Even when the Blue Jackets have years of disappointing follow-ups that result in people not believing this same franchise was capable of winning 15 straight, you can whip out the 2016-17 schedule and show everyone all those Ws.
Try explaining to someone five years from now this win streak was engineered by Tortorella.
"Wait, the guy from the Canucks that tried to fight the other coach?"
"The guy from that coached Team USA at the World Cup?"
"The same one."
"Isn't he the guy who ran Ryan Johansen out of town and talks endlessly about grit, jam, and going about his business?"
"Yes, yes. I know. His track record gives you no reason to believe what I'm telling you, but check out this 15-game winning streak."
And even knowing it happened and seeing it with your own eyes, you still won't believe it. It doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy it.
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