After the loss of some supposedly good players in the offseason (can’t remember their names at the moment), expectations were low for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Per head coach John Tortorella,
#CBJ coach John Tortorella: “We’re supposed to suck this year."— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) October 22, 2019
Instead, the Jackets have proven that their core can still be a competitive team on most nights. It’s harder to put a positive spin on things considering they ended the month on two bad losses, but there are still a lot of positives here. They earned points in seven games out of twelve. A string of eight straight games were decided by one goal. There are things that need to be fixed, but there are some things that are working.
Through the games of October 30, the Blue Jackets sit in fifth place in the Metropolitan division, one point ahead of Philadelphia but four points behind third place Islanders and Pittsburgh. The Jackets are two points out of the second wild card, currently held by...Tampa Bay? lol. The important thing is to stay within striking distance for as long as possible. The good news is that teams like the Devils and Rangers don’t appear to be threats yet. But the top of the division from last year don’t look poised to fall off yet.
Goals For: 31 (t-24)
Goals Allowed: 43 (t-23)
Power Play %: 13.2 (25)
Penalty Kill %: 75.7 (24)
5v5 Shooting %: 7.14 (24)
5v5 Save %: 91.61 (18)
5v5 Corsi For%: 49.49 (17)
5v5 Fenwick For%: 50.70 (13)
5v5 xG%: 51.54 (9)
A whole lotta mediocrity there, made worse by the first two and last two games of the month. The good news is they’re mostly holding their own at even strength. The bad news is special teams is terrible.
Third Star: Sonny Milano
When Frank is on the ice at 5v5, there are more goals scored per 60 minutes than any other Jackets skater.. This despite averaging just 8:53 of 5v5 ice time per game. Plus he’s scored a couple of really nifty-looking goals. He’s still prone to a bad turnover or penalty on occasion, but has earned a longer look with his play.
Second Star: Alexander Wennberg
Has Wennberg been the best player of the month? No. But he’s been a contributor and that is huge for him. He’s actually shot the puck, and that’s resulted in two goals. That may not sound like much, but it matches his goal total for all of last season. He is the third most used forward, so clearly the coaches are satisfied with his play.
First Star: Pierre-Luc Dubois
PLD has been a one man wrecking crew. He leads all CBJ forwards in GF% while also having the second most 5v5 minutes (behind BJORKSTRAND). He uses the full extent of his strength and large frame to bully his way to where he needs to be. The concerns that he would struggle without Panarin have been eased.
It was really difficult to figure out which three players to recognize here. Feel free to share who YOU think the three stars should be.
A new feature for when I have to talk about something that is “not great, not terrible.”
Goaltending was the biggest question mark entering the season, and for awhile it appeared that it would not be a liability. Joonas Korpisalo had a great camp and seized the starting job, earning the call in ten of twelve games in October. Unfortunately, giving up ten goals in his final five periods of the month hurt his overall numbers. He had a stretch of seven consecutive starts where he went 5-1-1 and never allowed more than three goals.
Elvis Merzlikins, in contrast, had a rough camp and then began his NHL career in inauspicious fashion with a 7-2 loss in Pittsburgh. Due to his struggle and Korpi’s success, he had to wait nearly two weeks for his next appearance. That was much better, only allowing two goals to Chicago in regulation. Last night he made a surprise appearance in relief of Korpi and managed to keep a clean sheet for 35 minutes.
I had defended Korpi’s usage on a game by game basis, but thanks to the last two games I think it’s time to share the wealth and go to a more even split of starts.
There’s not much more to say at this point. The power play is still bad, like it has been bad for several years. It’s baffling the coaches and players have not found a way to fix it. There was a glimpse of hope last night, as a retooled lineup produced a goal on their first attempt. Then they had a two minute 5v3 later and reverted to their hapless ways. Why change up anything from the roster and system that succeeded earlier?
Don’t let the PP woes obscure the fact that the PK has been pretty bad as well! I’m less concerned about this in the long term because it was so good last year and, unlike Brad Larsen, Brad Shaw has shown the ability to fix it when it has struggled.
Twelve games in and Cam has yet to score a 5v5 goal. I know he is a streaky player but going an entire month without that kind of goal is not good. Hopefully his career-low shooting percentage of 6.7% creeps up closer to last year’s 13.9, or at least his career average of 11.7.
Grade the Columbus Blue Jackets for the month of October 2019
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