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November 2018: Month in Review

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Things are starting to click, finally

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Previously: October

RESULTS

W 4-1 @ SJS
L 1-4 @ LAK
L 2-3 (OT) @ ANA
W 4-1 vs. DAL
W 2-1 @ WSH
L 4-5 (SO) vs. NYR
W 2-1 @ DAL
W 7-3 vs. FLA
W 4-1 @ CAR
L 2-4 @ TOR
W 4-2 vs. TOR
L 2-4 @ PIT
W 7-5 @ DET
W 4-2 vs. MIN

After an inconsistent October, and a disappointing California trip to start the month, the Columbus Blue Jackets found their stride in November. This includes a 7 game point streak and wins over teams in the top half of the league in Toronto, Washington, Minnesota, Dallas, San Jose, and Carolina.

STANDINGS

Through the games of 11/29, the Blue Jackets topped the Metro Division with 32 points, one ahead of the Capitals and 4 ahead of the third place Rangers. I said last month “the last thing they want is to end up in a hole by the end of November.” They’ve clearly avoided that fate, thankfully. Now, the key is to avoid a slide like befell them last December and January.

STATS

(through 11/29)

November 2018 stats

. October November
. October November
Goals For 39 (8th) 49 (6th)
Goals Allowed 43 (29th) 36 (6th)
Power Play % 13.6 (26th) 21.1 (15th)
Penalty Kill % 71.4 (26th) 85.0 (4th)
5v5 Shooting % 9.9 (5th) 9.0 (12th)
5v5 Save % 89.0 (29th) 93.7 (5th)
5v5 Corsi For % 51.34 (11th) 46.63 (27th)
5v5 xG% (cumulative) 51.76 (11th) 50.8 (14th)

The offense continued to be one of the best in the league, and the defense finally caught up, thanks to some solid goaltending. Special teams had been awful at the start of the season. In November, the power play improved to average; I’ll take it! This includes a stretch of 4 straight games with a PPG. The penalty kill got significantly better. They were perfect in 8 games.

THREE STARS

Third Star: Boone Jenner

The alternate captain has exceeded expectations since being moved from wing (his usual position) to center (which he was drafted as, but has not played on a regular basis as a professional). He was tied for fourth on the team this month with 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists).

When he was first put on a line with Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno, the initial reaction here was to roll our eyes at John Tortorella relying too much on “grit” rather than skill. But a simple, down ice approach has served that line well. They crash the boards, keep the puck in the offensive zone, and score lots of goals around the net (7 high danger goals). Despite a 45.45 offensive zone start percentage, they have a Corsi For of 52.39% and Fenwick For of 53.51% in their 24 games together. They have 8 goals for at even strength to just 3 allowed.

Second Star: Sergei Bobrovsky

Bob is back! After an AWFUL October (3.58 GAA, .882 SV%), Bobrovsky returned to Vezina form in November. He went 8-2 in 10 starts, with a 2.11 GAA and .932 SV%. He allowed just 1 goal in half of those games, including a 4 start stretch against Dallas (twice), Washington, and Carolina. The skaters on this team are very good, but this team is still so much more dangerous with Bob at his best.

First Star: Cam Atkinson

The diminutive forward tied for 5th in the league in goals this month, alongside Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares. Not bad company, eh? He scored a goal in 7 straight games, which tied Geoff Sanderson for the longest such streak in franchise history. This streak included a hat trick at Carolina. His streak ended at Detroit, but perhaps a new one started last night against Minnesota?

Honorable mention goes to his linemates. Pierre-Luc Dubois tallied 8 goals and 8 assists, and while Artemi Panarin suffered the longest goal drought of his career (12 games), he led the team with 10 assists. He’s scored in the last two games; scorers like that are often streaky.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Zach Werenski

Werenski saw his minutes drop, as he was separated from Seth Jones and placed on the third line with Scott Harrington. Torts wanted him to work on the defensive side of his game. Still, he recorded 7 points and was reunited with Jones by the end of the month.

Oliver BJORKSTRAND

My boy had a month to forget and was scratched for 5 games. His only point of the month was a goal at Washington. In addition to improving the defensive side of his game, he needs to rediscover his scoring touch as well.

Depth Scoring

For now, the top two lines are carrying the team. Each line can be counted on to score every night. That’s enough to win more games than not, but in case of injuries or slumps, there are players in the bottom who will need to help out. Of the 49 goals, 34 were scored by the top two lines or the top defensive pair. The fourth line in particular has done little, but Riley Nash finally got his first Columbus goal last night and Markus Hannikainen has been better than expected. On the third line, Brandon Dubinsky and Alexander Wennberg each scored just once (but Wennberg earned 8 assists, which is a good sign for him).