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October: Month in Review

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Columbus was desperate for a good start to the season. How did they do?

NHL: Boston Bruins at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

RESULTS

L vs. Boston 3-6
L vs. San Jose 2-3
W vs. Chicago 3-2
W @ Dallas 3-0
OTL @ Los Angeles 2-3
L @ San Jose 1-3
W @ Anaheim 4-0

It was well publicized how the Blue Jackets had struggled to start their seasons well, since...well pretty much for their entire history. After last year’s wretched 0-8 start it was imperative that they start better this year so we wouldn’t face another lost season.

At first it appeared that this would not be easy. After blowing a lead to Boston with a disastrous third period in the home opener, then losing a close but ultimately outmatched battle to San Jose, the Jackets were in an 0-2 hole with the always-tough Blackhawks and a 4 game road trip looming. Credit to the coaches and players for their “one game at a time” approach as they made the most of a 5 game break and came out with a statement win against Chicago. They then won 5 of a possible 8 points in the West Coast swing.

STANDINGS

Entering October 31, the Jackets are in 7th place in the Metro Division with 7 points. However, they have played the fewest games in the Eastern Conference. The Wild Card spots are held by Ottawa and New Jersey with 10 points a piece, but Columbus has a game in hand on each.

As long as Columbus can continue keeping pace like this, they can put themselves in a real good position when the schedule eases up.

STATS

Goals: 18 (28th)
Goals Allowed: 17 (t-3rd)
Power Play: 33.33 (2nd)
Penalty Kill: 86.96 (7th)
Shooting: 9.2 (15th)
Save: .940 (2nd)
PDO: 101.8 (7th)

There’s a lot to like with these numbers. The defense and goaltending (more on that below) has been much improved this season, with Columbus near the top of the league in penalty kill, goals allowed, and save percentage. The power play has been strong but even strength scoring has room to improve.

THREE STARS

Third Star: Nick Foligno

How great is it to see The Captain bounce back like this? At the start of the year, many of us were expecting him to have a bottom 6 role. Instead, he has been playing like a man unburdened compared to last year, and has become a steady hand on the top forward line. His most common linemates have been Brandon Saad and Alexander Wennberg and they’ve created many great scoring opportunities. Foligno leads the team in points with 1 goal and 7 assists.

Second Star: Sergei Bobrovsky

Bob is back! He has started all 7 games for Columbus and has saved 94% of shots while allowing just 2.02 goals per game. He’s gotten more help from his teammates this year - especially on the blue line - but he has also done his part to keep this game in games. On the penalty kill especially he has stood tall.

First Star: Zach Werenski

I’m awarding this mostly on who the Cannon readers seem to talk about the most. Werenski has been arguably the best defenseman for this team, all while being a 19 year old making his first 7 NHL starts. He looks extremely comfortable out there and his high skill level is very apparent. His most common partner has been Seth Jones and they’ve done great work moving the puck up ice and creating scoring opportunities. He has 2 goals, 4 assists, and a CF% of 54.8. Can this Calder Cup winner add a Calder Trophy to his mantle?

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Even as the resident optimist I admit it can’t all be good news. There are some players who would like to put October in the past:

Ryan Murray

Maybe this isn’t fair, as he’s been hurt. That’s not his fault, obviously. Still, it’s a huge blow to a player with something to prove this year. He lost his spot on the top pairing to Werenski. He’s had a reputation as being an injury-prone player and this could be another lost season. I hope he comes back with a chip on his shoulder, because having him on the ice - even on the second pairing - makes the defense deeper and takes pressure off of the Werenski/Jones pairing.

Brandon Dubinsky

Dubi has just one point (an assist) on the year despite having the third highest ice time among Columbus forwards. He is tied with Josh Anderson for the team lead with 11 PIM. Clearly Torts still trusts him because he gives him minutes, and he gives him many defensive zone faceoffs. Still, this team needs more balanced scoring and that has to come from Dubinsky and linemates like Atkinson and Jenner, who have also struggled to get the puck in the net.

Oliver BJORKSTRAND

I hate to say it, but I’m close to having to cease capitalizing his name. The Great Dane was anything but in his first 3 games, earning himself a demotion to Cleveland. In 5 games there he has scored just once. Hopefully he can continue working and get back to Columbus.