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October 2018: Month in Review

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This team is too good to be bad and too bad to be good

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at St. Louis Blues Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

RESULTS

W 3-2 (OT) @ DET
L 1-3 vs. CAR
W 5-2 vs. COL
W 5-4 @ FLA
L 2-8 @ TBL
W 6-3 vs. PHI
L 1-4 vs. CHI
L 1-4 vs. ARI
W 7-4 @ STL
W 5-4 vs. BUF
L 3-5 vs. DET

It’s been a roller coaster of a season. A 3-1 start was followed by a 1-3 stretch that included a runaway third period in Tampa and a lackluster effort against Arizona. Two strong offensive games were followed by a choke job against the worst team in the league.

STANDINGS

Through the games of 10/30, the Blue Jackets sat in fifth place in the Metro (1 point behind third place Carolina) and 2 points behind Buffalo for the final Wild Card spot (with a game in hand). The silver lining to the Jackets treading water is that they’re still in the thick of the standings. The last thing they want is to end up in a hole by the end of November.

STATS

Goals For: 39 (8th)
Goals Allowed: 43 (29th)
Power Play %: 13.6 (26th)
Penalty Kill %: 71.4 (26th)
5v5 Shooting %: 9.9 (5th)
5v5 Save %: 89.0 (29th)
5v5 Corsi For %: 51.34 (11th)
xG %: 51.76 (11th)

The good news is that the even strength offense has been clicking outside of 3 one goal efforts at home. The bad news is the defense and goaltending have struggled to keep the puck out of the net. The very, very bad news is that the special teams are once again at the bottom of the league. More on that in a bit.

THREE STARS

Third Star: Joonas Korpisalo

I had this picked before he gave up 3 goals on 7 shots in 13 minutes last night. Still, Korpi has surprised everyone by compiling a 4-0 record in 5 starts (yes, I know goalie wins are a bad stat). As Sergei Bobrovsky has had his own struggles (more on that later), Korpi brought some stability to the goalie position. He has earned the trust of John Tortorella, and appears to have the trust of his teammates as well. Expect to see more of Korpi this year than we did last year. We need to know whether he can be a long term starter for this franchise. But to do so he must allow fewer than 4 goals per game (he only did that in his first start) and save more than 90% of shots faced (only did that in the first two starts).

Second Star: Anthony Duclair

Duclair was a bargain bin signing in the offseason and he has proven to be a steal already. He leads the team with 2 power play goals and has put up 4 goals and 2 assists in 11 games while shooting 20%. We knew he had offensive skill, but what has surprised is his two-way play and his physicality. He has brought a spark to whatever line he gets put on.

First Star: Artemi Panarin

Of course the first star for the first month goes to the team’s best player. Bread picked up where he left off and leads the team in assists (10) and points (15) and is second in goals (5, one behind Josh Anderson and linemate Cam Atkinson). Despite his looming contract situation, Panarin seems happy to be here and has on- and off-ice chemistry with Atkinson. There is no concern about him tanking his way out of town, unlike...

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Sergei Bobrovsky

Woof. The other Russian with an expiring contract has NOT been making the most of his walk year. His .882 save percentage is 4th worst of the 30 goalies with at least 7 appearances. His 3.58 goals against average is 3rd worst of that group. The combination of his struggles and Korpi’s success meant Bob lost the starting job for the last three games of the month.

It’s not just his on-ice troubles that worry me. His demeanor has changed, too, starting with his media scrum at the start of training camp. Is it possible it is having an adverse effect in the locker room? If there is no future relationship between Bob and Columbus beyond this season, it may be worth trading him sooner rather than later. I would never dream of saying this if Vezina Bob were playing, but instead we’ve been seeing Playoff Bob.

Nick Foligno

The Captain has continued to disappoint. Unlike last year where some of his underlying stats were good, now he has the worst Corsi For % of Columbus forwards, at 44.29. He does somehow have 3 goals and 4 assists, but those positive plays have only come in short bursts. It may be a good idea to scratch him for a game to send a message to the rest of the team.

Special Teams

I’m saving the most important for last. The power play and penalty kill are both near the bottom of the league, just as they were last year. That’s not a fluke; that’s a trend. Assistant coaches Brad Shaw and Brad Larsen had their positional duties swapped, but each remained in charge of the special teams unit he directed the last two seasons. Why not switch those roles as well? And if not, then should either be safe in his job?

The frustrating thing is that many of us questioned the logic in signing Larsen to a new contract this summer. Obviously something was not working last year. Why not bring in someone new to provide a different voice and a fresh perspective?

There is too much talent on the roster to be this ineffective on the power play. There are plenty of players who can pass and shoot well. But somehow it all falls apart when they have a man advantage. There is too much passing, and it happens too far away from the goal. All five players are cursed with indecision. Rather than crisp one-time passes and shots, everyone holds the puck and allows the penalty kill and goalie to adjust and reset. I don’t want to watch another 5 months of this crap.