Breaking Down 2010-2011 Pt. 1: Enemies and Neighbors

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 08: Matt Calvert #11 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against Cody Franson #4 of the Nashville Predators on April 8, 2011 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

This is going to be another mini-series of stories here at The Cannon looking at the past season. This time, we're going to take a look at who the Jackets beat (or didn't beat) in repeat engagements (Divisional opponents, conference play, and repeat games against cross-conference opponents), and what they did well, or what they need to do better if we're going to see playoff hockey back at Nationwide. 


We're going to compare the Jackets against the 7 and 8 seeds in both conferences, just to see what it takes, and we're going to start with what (unsurprisingly) is a big foundation for a season - the games within your own division.

So, we're looking at Columbus, Chicago, LA, Buffalo, and the New York Rangers

First, the teams from the East.

New York Rangers (Atlantic Division)

Opponent

# of Games

Home Record

Road Record

Overall

Points

Playoff Team?

Devils

6

2-1

2-1

4-2

8

No

Islanders

6

2-1

1-2

3-3

6

No

Penguins

6

1-1-1

3-0

4-1-1

9

Yes

Flyers

6

2-1

1-2

3-3

6

Yes

(Yes, I'm having fun with spreadsheets again.)

The Rangers averaged 7 points from each divisional opponent. Interestingly, their big push came from the road sweep of the Pens. Remember how narrow a thing it was for the Rangers to make the playoffs this season. If they'd had a little less luck on the road...

The Atlantic is also a pretty decent comparison division for the Central in the West, because you have three perennial teams making the postseason, and two teams that tend to push the others, with the occasional breakthrough. 

For that matter, you have to wonder if Torts is sitting at home this morning wishing to god he'd gotten matched up with the Pens in the first round.

Regardless, though - an average of 7 points from their divisional games. Remember that.

Buffalo Sabres:

Opponent

# of Games

Home Record

Road Record

Overall

Points

Playoff Team?

Bruins

6

2-1

2-0-1

4-1-1

9

Yes

Canadiens

6

1-2

2-1

3-3

6

Yes

Leafs

6

2-1

1-2

3-3

6

No

Senators

6

2-1

3-0

5-1

10

No

The Sabres, on the other hand, took an average of 8 points from their divisional games - and their biggest advantage was their road play against Boston and Ottawa. Ottawa is less of an issue, but if I'm the Bruins, and you beat the Habs, you'd better hope that if Buffalo advances, Washington knocks them out. 

Now let's look at the Western Conference, starting with the 8 seed, our good friends the Chicago Blackhawks.

Opponent

# of Games

Home Record

Road Record

Overall

Points

Playoff Team?

Blue Jackets

6

1-2

3-0

4-2

8

No

Blues

6

3-0

1-2

4-2

8

No

Predators

6

2-1

1-0-2

3-1-2

8

Yes

Red Wings

6

1-2

2-1

3-3

6

Yes

Like Buffalo, the Hawks took 8 points, on average (OK, 7.5, but round with me here, people. This is the New Math.)

If I'm Scott Arniel, I'd suggest watching a lot of game film for how the Hawks play St. Louis and Nashville, particularly the road games in Music City. Those OT wins don't seem like a lot, but keeping up that higher average of points in the division appears to be crucial. Also note that while Chicago took a losing record at home vs. the Jackets and the Red Wings, they regained serve on the road, particularly against Columbus.

Does every playoff team have to have at least one divisional opponent that they dominate? Not necessarily, but it sure helps, particularly if you can keep a solid footing at home.  It's worth noting that so far, each of the teams we've looked at has won at least 7 out of their 12 home games. 

Finally, let's take a look at LA, the #7 seed for the West, and see how they did.

Opponent

# of Games

Home Record

Road Record

Overall

Points

Playoff Team?

Sharks

6

2-1

1-2

3-3

6

Yes

Ducks

6

1-1-1

1-2

2-3-1

5

Yes

Coyotes

6

2-1

1-2

3-3

6

Yes

Stars

6

2-0-1

2-1

4-1-1

9

No

LA took 6.5 (or 7) points from divisional games, which is impressive considering that four of the five Pacific teams made the post-season. The Pacific really replaced the Central as the toughest division in Hockey, and I'd go so far as to suggest that LA's appearance in the post season was founded on the strength of their home record within the divsion, because they got worked around pretty good on the road with the exception of Dallas.

So, it's certainly looking like 6.5 (or more) points per divisional opponent was the cutoff line if you wanted to play post-season hockey. With that in mind, what did Columbus look like?

Opponent

# of Games

Home Record

Road Record

Overall

Points

Playoff Team?

Blues

6

1-1-1

1-1-1

2-2-2

6

No

Blackhawks

6

0-2-1

2-1

2-3-1

5

Yes

Predators

6

2-0-1

0-3

2-3-1

5

Yes

Detroit

6

1-2

1-1-1

2-3-1

5

Yes

With a 5.25 average, it isn't pretty, but it's actually not as bad you might have feared. The Jackets actually did a pretty good job of squeezing some charity points out of their division, but the big letdown was the home record against Chicago, and the road record against Nashville. Adding as few as two wins would raise the bar to 6.25 points, and converting one of those OT / SO losses to Detroit or St. Louis suddenly bumps the Jackets up to 7.25 points, and likely in the hunt, if not above the bar.

There are a lot of reasons to think the Jackets can improve this next season, particularly with improvements to their defense as planned in this offseason.

Next up, we'll circle back and take a look at the rest of our home conference play, and see how the Jackets stack up in that regard. See you then! 

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