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Game Preview #10 - Devil In The Details

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The Jackets look to win their second in a row by sticking to what brought them win #1 on Saturday. The red-hot Devils stand in their way.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The monkey is finally off of the back of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

/takes deep breath.
/exhales
/looks at record
/crap

But, though I stop short of giving John Tortorella any credit other than being there and thus pushing guys to make positive first impressions knowing that their ice time is at stake, the club *has* looked better these past two games. They're skating harder. They're working better in the corners and along the boards. They're getting traffic in front of opposing goaltenders.

There is, however, still plenty of work to be done. Passes need to be crisper. Clearing attempts need to be made with more conviction. Our goaltender's five hole needs to be closed with more aplomb.

But progress is progress. The losing streak is over. Time to start a winning streak.

The opponent tonight is a Devils team playing with supreme confidence right now, having won four straight with points in five straight after a dismal 0-3-0 start themselves. They've won all but one of those four on the road, though the first three wins came in OT or the shootout, and other than a 2-1 OT win over the Rangers none of the opponents have been fear-inducing.

Still, credit where it's due: they're 4-0-1 in their last five games. We could only hope to be that good right now.

When you look at these teams at Even Strength, however, two different pictures are painted. The Jackets are fifth-best in the league in CorsiFor % at even strength, and the Devils are middle of the pack. The Jackets are +10 in Scoring Chances, the Devils are -2. The difference? The Jackets' PDO is a league-worst 92.3 at even strength. That's why they're 1-8-0, or at least it's a big reason. This basically says: the Jackets are one of the better possession teams in the league, they generate scoring chances, but their shooting percentage and goaltending are terri-bad. Not a recipe for success.

At Even Strength, the Devils are what they are: mediocre. They're in the middle of the pack in CorsiFor% and Scoring Chances, and slightly "unlucky" in terms of PDO. Even during their 4-0-1 stretch, they aren't really blowing anyone away: their EV goal differential is just +1, and their PDO is a almost perfectly average 100.6. Their possession numbers are slightly improved, but not drastically so. That said, they've scored 14 goals during those five games compared to just five in their first three.

This is kind of what Columbus hopes to aspire to, right now. Solid Power Play buttresses an improving offensive attack, and some better puck luck results in a few more goals.

The big advantage in New Jersey right now is the goaltending. At EV, Cory Schneider is boasting a .941 sv%, whereas Sergei Bobrovsky languishes at .853. That is, how you say, a stark differential. That's why New Jersey stayed afloat and is now 4-3-1, and the Jackets are 1-8-0. That is why a team that is "better" at EV according to the metrics has three fewer wins and seven fewer points.

If Torts has brought anything thus far, it's been more of a collapse on defense to help Bob. But, if he keeps giving up one extra soft goal per game (sometimes more), it's going to be an ever more uphill climb. Columbus did a good job on Saturday night at tilting the ice in their favor for large stretches by outworking the Avs. They'll need to do the same again. For this team right now, the best defense is keeping the puck 200 feet away from their goalie.

Obviously, still no Ryan Johansen tonight. Hopefully he's feeling better--and is properly diagnosed--sooner rather than later.

Opponent's View

All About The Jersey Preview

Money Quote:

The Goal: Bomb the net. While Columbus must have felt absolute relief after that first win, one of their main causes of their abysmal start remained true: goaltending. Bobrovsky did have his best game in Colorado; his only game so far with a save percentage above 90%. Still, he allowed three goals and it was partially a function of how many shots he faced that the percentage was higher than most. I will be the first to say that he'll definitely get much better in time. He's been a career 91.7% goalie; he's way better than the 85.2% he's sporting. However, that time may not necessarily be tonight. Bobrovsky is vulnerable and so the Devils should challenge him whenever they get the chance. If they have a clear shot at an angle, take the shot and pounce on a rebound. If there's a lane from distance, challenge him with a blast from the point. And if it's not even Bobrovsky in net, then it'll be Curtis McElhinney, who has a dubious set of career numbers. He should be challenged. The Devils shooters have nothing to fear but missed opportunities, so I want them to make a special point of it of firing away tonight. If they can do that, then I think there will be goals and perhaps a fifth straight win.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(1-8-0, 2 Points; 8th division, 16th conference)

Brandon Saad Brandon Dubinsky Nick Foligno
Boone Jenner William Karlsson Matt Calvert
Scott Hartnell Alexander Wennberg Cam Atkinson
Rene Bourque Gregory Campbell David Clarkson
Jack Johnson David Savard
Ryan Murray Cody Goloubef
Fedor Tyutin Dalton Prout
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

New Jersey Devils
(4-3-1, 9 Points; 5th Division, 9th Conference)

Mike Cammalleri Adam Henrique Lee Stempniak
Jiri Tlusty Travis Zajac Kyle Palmieri
Brian O'Neill Jacob Josefson Jordin Tootoo
Stefan Matteau Stephen Gionta Sergey Kalinin
Andy Greene Adam Larsson
John Moore Damon Severson
Eric Gelinas David Schlemko
Cory Schneider
Keith Kinkaid