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December 2018: Month in Review

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Closing out the year in style

Ottawa Senators v Columbus Blue Jackets

Previously: November, October

RESULTS

L 2-3 @ NYI
L 6-9 vs. CGY
W 4-3 (OT) @ PHI
L 0-4 vs. WSH
L 2-3 vs. VAN
W 4-1 vs. LAK
L 1-2 (OT) vs. ANA
W 1-0 vs. VGK
W 2-1 vs. NJD
W 4-3 @ PHI
W 3-0 @ NJD
W 4-3 (OT) @ NYR
L 2-4 vs. TOR
W 6-3 vs. OTT

After a rocky start to the month, the Columbus Blue Jackets bounced back in a big way to finish with an 8-5-1 record. A six game homestand started poorly with a blowout loss to Washington and a frustrating comeback loss to Vancouver on a handful of weird goals. Fortunately they made the most of those remaining home games, earning points in all 4. That led to a road trip with four huge divisional wins.

STANDINGS

The good news is that some teams in the Metropolitan division have started to drop in the standings. The bad news is that the teams around Columbus have been as hot or more hot. Washington leads the division and is two points ahead of Columbus with a game in hand. Pittsburgh has also played 39 games and is one point behind. The Islanders remain a surprise and are in fourth place just two points behind the Penguins with a game in hand.

Something to keep an eye on: the all important “ROW” tiebreaker. The Jackets lead the division with 23 wins in regulation or overtime, while the Capitals have 21 and the Penguins 20.

STATS

December 2018 Stats

. October November December
. October November December
Goals For 39 (8th) 49 (6th) 41 (17th)
Goals Allowed 43 (29th) 36 (6th) 39 (11th)
Power Play % 13.6 (26th) 21.1 (15th) 5.1 (31st)
Penalty Kill % 71.4 (26th) 85.0 (4th) 82.3 (12th)
5v5 Shooting % 9.9 (5th) 9.0 (12th) 9.6 (9th)
5v5 Save % 89.0 (29th) 93.7 (5th) 90.9 (22nd)
5v5 Corsi For % 51.34 (11th) 46.63 (27th) 51.12 (13th)
5v5 xG% (cumulative) 51.76 (11th) 50.8 (14th) 51.04 (12th)

Scoring went down this month, but the trade off was a drop in goals allowed in the second half of the month, including a couple of shutouts. (But there was that 9 goal stinker to Calgary, the second game this season in which Sergei Bobrovsky surrendered 8 goals)

After a good November for the power play, things got worse. Much, much worse.

THREE STARS

Third Star: Health

Quick, everyone who is reading this should knock on wood immediately. I’m doing so while writing it. Last year, December was the month in which several major injuries occurred. We avoided that this December. Only 19 skaters had to dress this month. Let’s hope this continues.

Second Star: Defense

The blue line remains a strength of this team. Seth Jones was second on the team this month with nine assists. Zach Werenski - despite a reduction in minutes - is second on the team with five goals, as many as Artemi Panarin in that timespan. All six defenders earned points and even Hott Scarrington tallied four assists.

After a team meeting on that homestand, and assistants Brad Shaw and Brad Larsen returning to coaching defense and forwards, respectively, we saw improved defensive play from the forwards as well.

First Star: First Line

Panarin was my first star of October. Cam Atkinson was my first star of November. I could have put Pierre-Luc Dubois here this time, but it’s worth acknowledging what the entire line has produced. Atkinson and Panarin lead the team in points in December with 16 a piece. Cam leads with eight goals, and is on pace to break Rick Nash’s franchise record for goals in a season. Panarin leads in assists with 11. Even when he doesn’t score, he is able to set up his teammates to make plays. PLD is the glue holding that line together and he put up four goals and eight assists of his own that month. Most importantly, he could be a reason that Panarin chooses to stay in Columbus long term:

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Power Play

Folks, it’s bad. Really, really bad. In 14 games, the Jackets had 39 power play opportunities and scored just TWO power play goals. In those 39 power plays, they have just 18 high danger shot attempts for...and have allowed 6 against!

Larsen is in charge of the power play, and has been for years. Even if he’s not the problem, he’s clearly not the solution. I don’t believe that he’s coaching the players to be too slow and tentative to shoot. But he obviously hasn’t figured out how to get them to play differently.

Since the start of the 2015 seasons, the Blue Jackets have 140 power play goals. That is dead last in the league (not including Vegas, who has 79 with two fewer seasons played in that time).

Anthony Duclair

Duke was the first star of October, but he has practically disappeared. He was a healthy scratch for five games this month and didn’t earn any points in the games he played.

Riley Nash

The other scoreless skater this month was Riley Nash. I don’t think it was fair to expect him to be a top 6 forward - and I don’t think the team expected that when they signed him. But even from a bottom six forward I want to see more. He’s only winning 44.0% of his faceoffs this season, worst among Jackets centers. He has a $2.75M cap hit and is only playing 11:05 per game. Is he controlling possession, at least? No. His Corsi For % is 48.48, 15th among Columbus skaters. I want to see him do more for this team in 2019.