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November: Month in Review

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So, uh, that didn’t suck...

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning
One of many postgame celebrations in November
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Previously: October Month in Review

RESULTS

W(OT) 3-2 vs. DAL
W 10-0 vs. MTL
L(OT) 1-2 @ STL
W(OT) 3-2 vs. ANA
L 2-5 @ BOS
W 8-4 vs. STL
W(OT) 2-1 vs. WAS
W 4-2 vs. NYR
W 3-2 @ WAS
L(OT) 2-3 vs. COL
L 0-2 vs. CAL
W 5-3 @ TBL
L(SO) 1-2 @ FLA
W 5-1 vs. TBL

That’s a 9-2-3 record in 14 games. 21 points. Best November in franchise history, which is huge for a team that has historically struggled in the early season. +19 goal differential. Highlights were blowout wins over Montreal, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay (all good teams) and a 3-0 start in divisional play.

STANDINGS

Speaking of Metro...Columbus ended the month in 4th place in the division, 6th place in the Eastern Conference, and 9th in the league. What a far cry from being deep in last place as of Thanksgiving last season.

STATS

(October stats and rankings in italics)

Goals: 49 (2nd) 18 (28th)
Goals Allowed: 30 (7th) 17 (t-3rd)
Power Play %: 25.0 (1st) 33.33 (2nd)
Penalty Kill %: 81.3 (21st) 86.96 (7th)
5v5 Shooting %: 9.3 (6th) 9.2 (15th)
5v5 Save %: .933 (12th) .940 (2nd)
5v5 PDO %: 102.6 (6th) 101.8 (7th)
5v5 CF: 50.52 (16th) 47.88 (22nd)

The power play numbers declined slightly, but are still the best in the league. The PK numbers declined even more. The 5v5 numbers, however, have all improved. We’re seeing the Blue Jackets control the pace of play and set up shop in the offensive zone. The stats are reflective of the “eye test” so I think there’s reason to be confident that this is sustainable.

THREE STARS

For this section, I’m going to try to avoid repeats from last month, though guys like Werenski (NHL Rookie of the Month!) and Bobrovsky were still great.

Third Star: David Savard

To say that last season was a disappointment for Savard would be an understatement. He battled injuries and looked out of sorts when he was cleared to play. This season, however, he looks far more comfortable in his role. For November, he led the team with a +/- of 8, a CF% of 58.11, and 23 blocked shots. He’s still laying his big hits, but he’s getting caught out of position less often. I’ve noticed good stick work by him to keep the puck in the zone on offense. He’s done this while also seeing more defensive than offensive zone faceoffs.

Second Star: First Line

Is this cheating? Whatever, I gotta give all three of Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Saad, and Nick Foligno credit. Saad was moved to the Dubinsky/Atkinson line for a couple games, but has since returned to this line. They seem to combine for at least one goal per game. All have a CF% above 52 for November. Foligno has 7 goals, Saad and Wennberg have 9 assists each, and Wennberg - not known as a shooter - tallied 2 game winning goals in the month. This is a bona fide first line in this league now.

First Star: Cam Atkinson

I’ve long been a Cam Atkinson fan. I thought he was a true breakout star last season, when he blossomed into an all-around player under the tutelage of Torts. He has continued to grow this season. He led the team in points in November, with 6 goals and 10 assists. 2 of those goals were game winners. Highlights: a goal with 6 seconds left to tie Colorado and salvage a point; a shorthanded goal in Tampa where he sniped a goal after stealing the puck on the forecheck.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Such a strong month requires contributions from every player, and Columbus did get that. So I feel bad criticizing anyone. But, these players can do more:

Ryan Murray

Last month, it was perhaps unfair that I put him this section, because he had been hurt. In November, however, he has been healthy but still less effective. His CF% is 47.09 and his ice time has dipped to 19:37 minutes per game. He’s been demoted to the third pairing with rookie Markus Nutivaara. This is not what any of us expected from a player who was supposed to be a building block of this defensive corps.

Jack Johnson

Speaking of the blue line, JJ was one of the more popular targets during game threads here on The Cannon. The prevailing opinion seems to be that we’d be content with Johnson being selected by Vegas in the expansion draft. He had a CF% of 49.59 and led all Jacket defensemen with 7 giveaways. He is not shooting as much as he used to and he only produced 3 assists and 0 goals in November.

Lukas Sedlak

As Jeff Rimer is fond of pointing out, the Czech rookie has yet to score his first NHL goal. He hasn’t really played poorly, but he has seen his ice time dip to just 9:13 minutes per game this month. Playing mostly with Sam Gagner, he has only earned 2 assists. He’s had scoring opportunities but a lot of bad puck luck. Hopefully he’ll get his first goal soon, and several more soon thereafter.