When the NHL released a bevy of statistics describing the month of October in the league, one seemed to jump off the page.
According to the league, 67 of the first 140 games of the 2023-24 season – 47.9 percent – featured a team making a comeback win, tied with 1986-87 for the most in league history at that stage of a season.
That’s right, nearly half the games in the league through the first month featured a team overcoming a deficit to post a victory. It’s a surprising statistic, and it shows that no lead is safe as scoring goes up across the NHL.
So far, thorough 12 games, the Blue Jackets have four victories, and three of them have been of the comeback variety. Columbus nearly added a fourth on Monday night, and it would have been the best of the bunch, as the Blue Jackets overturned a 3-0 early deficit at Florida to take a 4-3 lead in the third period.
Unfortunately, the Panthers posted their own rally, scoring in the final minute and then tallying in overtime to take the 5-4 win. But what it did show is that as the Blue Jackets are building a team personality under first-year head coach Pascal Vincent, resiliency appears to be a key ingredient.
“We have that belief in here,” captain Boone Jenner said postgame. “When they were buzzing us there in the first, we know we know why – we just weren't playing. And we just had to man up and start playing and give ourselves a chance, and when we do that, we're a good hockey team. So obviously into the second and third, we were a lot better team.”
Of course, things would be a lot easier if they didn’t have to come back in the first place, but the reality is aversity is going to happen in a fast-paced, back-and-forth sport like hockey. Monday night’s contest in Florida was perhaps the most dramatic example of that, as the Blue Jackets were overrun in the beginning of the game, at one point watching as the Panthers racked up a 19-1 shot advantage in the first 15-plus minutes while creating their 3-0 lead.
It couldn’t have been much worse from a puck possession standpoint, which is why the Blue Jackets’ ability to fight back after that was so impressive. Columbus was able to get goals from Sean Kuraly and Boone Jenner before the first period ended, then added a tally from Kirill Marchenko in the second and a score from Alexandre Texier in the third to take the lead. More than that, the Blue Jackets carried play at times, posting a 6-2 edge in high-danger chances and 19-12 advantage in scoring chances in the final 40 minutes per Natural Stat Trick.
The Blue Jackets again have one of the youngest teams in the NHL, and facing a Florida team that went to the Stanley Cup Final a year ago, Vincent felt the early struggles were a bit of a result of those two scenarios colliding.
“I feel like we're never out of it, even with the first period,” Vincent said. “But it didn't feel that way (early), to be honest with you. We’re a young team, and sometimes when you face that kind of push, they're still trying to figure out how to manage it. It’s gonna come with time, but the desire to do well and to execute the right plays, I know it's there.
“When we play the way we can play, we can be very dangerous, and we just have to figure out how to manage those pushes and playing against older teams.”
Two seasons ago, the Blue Jackets set a franchise record and were sixth in the NHL with 23 comeback wins, a number that dropped to 14 a season ago. But this year’s squad seems to have recaptured a little bit of that magic, in particular Monday and in a 4-2 come-from-behind victory over Tampa Bay on Thursday night in which the Blue Jackets scored all three third-period goals after Vincent delivered an inspirational message about belief in the locker room after the second period.
“Great comeback,” Alexandre Texier said after the game Monday night. “I think we showed something. We talked to each other after the first and we came back pretty strong, played our game, simple game, and it works. So we just have to do it from the start the next game.”
For goaltender Spencer Martin, who went into the game after Florida’s third goal and nearly shut out the Panthers the rest of the way, he felt like he could see the rally coming.
“It didn't surprise me at all that we responded,” he said. “You know, I love the guys in this room so much. They battle. It seems like we've done that type of thing in a few games already.”