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January 2020 Month in Review

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Let the good times roll

New Jersey Devils v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

Previously: October, November, December

RESULTS

W 2-1 (OT) @ BOS
L 2-3 vs. SJS
W 4-2 @ LAK
W 4-3 @ ANA
L 1-3 @ SJS
W 3-0 @ VGK
W 3-0 vs. BOS
W 3-2 vs. CAR
W 5-0 vs. NJD
W 2-1 @ NYR
W 4-3 vs. WPG

December ended with an 11 game point streak, and January kept the Columbus Blue Jackets trending upward. Only two inexplicable regulation losses to the Sharks kept January from being a perfect month. As the Jackets return from their bye week, they have an active six game win streak. They’ll have to keep it up because the schedule is packed in February and March and a razor-thin margin in the standings.

STANDINGS

December’s run didn’t get the team that much closer to contention, but nine wins later the Jackets have leaped from five points back of the second wild card to holding the first wild card position, one point ahead of Carolina (who has a game in hand) and one point behind the Islanders for third place (they have two games in hand). At this point, it looks like five teams are battling for three playoff spots: Islanders, Blue Jackets, Hurricanes, and Flyers, chasing the third Metro spot and then battling whichever of the Panthers and Maple Leaves finishes fourth in the Atlantic for the two wild cards.

STATS

January 2020 Stats

. October November December January
. October November December January
Goals For/60 2.55 (26th) 2.47 (25th) 2.79 (23rd) 3.00 (14th)
Goals Allowed/60 3.54 (27th) 2.55 (10th) 2.21 (2nd) 1.64 (1st)
Power Play % 13.2 (25th) 26.7 (5th) 11.4 (30th) 20.0 (17th)
Penalty Kill % 75.7 (24th) 86.8 (4th) 80.9 (10th) 85.7 (4th)
5v5 Shooting % 7.14 (24th) 5.95 (27th) 7.20 (22nd) 9.8 (8th)
5v5 Save % 91.61 (18th) 92.05 (17th) 93.71 (5th) 95.6 (1st)
5v5 Corsi For % 49.49 (17th) 50.16 (14th) 50.85 (11th) 42.5 (31st)
5v5 Fenwick For % 50.70 (13th) 54.52 (7th) 53.90 (7th) 43.3 (31st)
5v5 xG% 51.54 (9th) 55.36 (2nd) 54.50 (5th) 41.72 (30th)

No surprise that the story of the month is goaltending, as the Jackets were the league’s stingiest team for the month. A nice bonus is the offensive stats picking up, with the team finally averaging three goals per game and shooting at a high rate. Can they keep it up?

One suggestion that they are due to regress is having one of the worst xGF percentages of the month. This comes after having one of the best xGF% over the first three months but only .500 hockey to show for it. The possession stats took a dramatic nosedive as well, though it reveals something about the new style of hockey adopted in light of the high number of injuries to offensive players. The Jackets surrendered lots of shots, but limited the number of quality shots, second chance shots, and breakaways. The xGA/60 (2.67) is 15th best in the league, so even more human goaltending wouldn’t cost the team their wins.

With goal scorers like Cam Atkinson and Oliver BJORKSTRAND back and contributing, plus Josh Anderson possibly returning soon, will the team once again flip the possession numbers? That’s the number one thing I’m looking for in February.

Stats courtesy of NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick.

THREE STARS

Honorable Mentions

Pierre-Luc Dubois’s 11 points (2 goals, 9 assists) lead the team for the month ... Oliver BJORKSTRAND is tied for the team lead with four goals - and he only played in two games! ... Cam Atkinson for five points in his four games back from injury (3 goals, 2 assists), and joining BJORKSTRAND and Gabriel Carlsson as the only Jackets with a CF% over 50% for the month ... Matiss Kivlenieks saved 31 of 32 shots faced to earn a win in his NHL debut.

Third Star: Zach Werenski

Z ended 2019 with a New Year’s Eve hat trick. He stayed hot through the start of 2020 with two two-goal games in the first four games of the year. His 15 goals leads all NHL blue liners this season.

Second Star: Nathan Gerbe

Gerbe Baby scored two goals and four assists and earned the love of the fans, respect of his teammates, and trust of his coaches. He won’t be going back to the Cleveland Monsters any time soon. He also serves as a representative for all of the other injury call-ups who fit in seamlessly. He also provided one of the best tweets of the season:

First Star: Elvis Merzlikins

Who else, right? The Latvian rookie clearly got the monkey off his back by beating the Panthers on New Year’s Eve. Since then he’s been playing like a Vezina winner, with an 8-2 record, .948 save percentage, and 1.72 goals against average. He recorded three shutouts in a four game span. Any concerns we had about the team winning without a hot Joonas Korpisalo (I certainly had them) have been put to rest. Now it remains to be seen how the workload is divided between the goalies when Korpi returns. Obviously Elvis won’t again have to wait two weeks between appearances.

3.6 ROENTGEN: Not great, not terrible

Injuries

The team is slowly getting healthier, with Atkinson, BJORKSTRAND, Emil Bemstrom, and Markus Nutivaara returning to the lineup. Josh Anderson and Joonas Korpisalo could return in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, Dean Kukan (meniscus tear) and Alexandre Texier (lumbar stress fracture) joined the ranks of the wounded, and each is out indefinitely.

Alexander Wennberg

Not to start yet another debate about the mercurial center, but he’s put together a decent month. He’s tied for second on the team in points with seven (3 goals, 4 assists). In the last few games, he’s formed an unlikely shutdown line with Atkinson and Gus Nyquist. They neutralized Winnipeg’s Connor/Scheifele/Laine line and the Rangers’ Fast/Strome/Panarin line.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Boone Jenner

MrSwift wrote about it earlier this week. Not only is he not as effective defensively as his deployment would suggest, he also hasn’t been productive on the other end. He has just one point this month (an assist).

Fourth Line

Torts has professed his love for the Jakob Lilja/Riley Nash/Eric Robinson line. Sadly, the numbers do not support his affection. Even in a defensive role, their defensive numbers are bad. Keeping this group together is not worth keeping Sonny Milano in the press box. Milano has his issues, sure, but I’d rather have a defensive liability who can spark the offense rather than players who don’t excel on either end. (I do think Nash and Robinson have merit to their games, but deployed in different ways with different linemates).

Poll

Who is the non-Elvis MVP for the month of January?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    PLD
    (22 votes)
  • 6%
    Wenns
    (5 votes)
  • 43%
    Z
    (36 votes)
  • 20%
    Gerbe
    (17 votes)
  • 2%
    Other (Share your choice in the comments)
    (2 votes)
82 votes total Vote Now