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Reviewing November 2021: Right in the thick of it

The Blue Jackets are staying in the playoff hunt

Columbus Blue Jackets v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Previously: October

RESULTS

W 5-4 (OT) @ COL
W 4-2 vs. COL
L 3-4 vs. WSH
L 3-5 vs. NYR
W 5-3 vs. DET
W 5-4 (SO) @ ARI
L 2-3 @ VGK
W 7-4 @ BUF
W 3-0 vs. WPG
W 4-2 vs. VAN
L 3-6 @ STL
L 0-6 @ NSH

After a back-and-forth October, the Columbus Blue Jackets followed it up with a more streaky November. The end result was the same, however: two more wins than losses. The month started out with a bang with an unlikely sweep of Colorado (while they were still facing some major injuries, to be fair). The month ended with three straight lackluster efforts.

STANDINGS

By points, the Jackets are one point out of the playoffs, with a game in hand on Detroit. By points percentage, they are eighth place in the league, and fifth in the Metro. Most pundits still expect the Jackets to fall out of playoff contention, but as long as they are right there in the thick of it, they have a shot if they can keep winning at this pace. They’re on pace for 98.4 points, which is over 20 points ahead of their over/under prior to the season.

STATS

CBJ stats for November 2021

Stat 2020-21 October November
Stat 2020-21 October November
5v5 CF% 46.51 (27th) 47.36 (25th) 49.47 (19th)
5v5 FF% 47.03 (27th) 45.56 (31th) 49.35 (20th)
5v5 Save % 91.28 (22nd) 93.95 (8th) 88.92 (31th)
5v5 Shooting % 7.19 (30th) 7.02 (20th) 8.92 (10th)
5v5 xGF% 46.09 (26th) 44.77 (30th) 50.61 (13th)
GPG 2.39 (29th) 2.75 (16th) 3.91 (3rd)
GAPG 3.29 (25th) 2.75 (12th) 3.36 (26th)
PP% 15.4 (27th) 25.0 (9th) 19.4 (14th)
PK% 79.0 (20th) 77.8 (21th) 90.0 (4th)

Despite getting shut out last night, this team can score goals. Stopping them? Not so much. The defense has been sloppy at 5v5 (but remarkably good on the PK, go figure) and the goaltending has been shaky as well. Giving up six goals in the last two games dropped their rank five spots and cost them two percentage points off their save percentage, but even before that the stats weren’t great. Elvis Merzlikins at least earned his first shutout of the season, against Winnipeg. That was cool.

The power play isn’t red hot but it’s still productive. The underlying stats at 5v5 have improved enough that the actual results aren’t that fluky.

THREE STARS

Third Star: Vladislav Gavrikov

Gavrikov has been relied upon as a shutdown defenseman since he entered the lineup in 2019. In November, he contributed on offense as well. His nine points (2G/7A) were tied for second among Columbus skaters. That tied Zach Werenski, the defenseman who we expect to score. It hasn’t cost him on the defensive end, as he had a +3 rating for the month, tied for best on the team.

Honorable mention: Another scoring defenseman who had a great month was Adam Boqvist. He missed time to illness, but has scored six points in the eight games since his return, including four goals.

Second Star: Alexandre Texier

Texier was invisible for most of October, much like he had been for most of the 2021 season. He went from being the top line center on opening night to being a fourth line winger. Once demoted, however, his offensive game took off. He had four goals and three assists in 12 games in November, and had earned a promotion to higher line. Is he a center or winger? Middle six or bottom six? Or is he just a Swiss Army Knife (French Army Knife?) forward who can be placed on any line after the other 11 spots have been filled?

Personally, I prefer to keep him with Sean Kuraly and Eric Robinson. That line provides energy, can match up defensively against the opponents’ top lines, and can produce enough offensive chances themselves to bring some balance to the lineup.

First Star: Jake Voracek

The homecoming honeymoon continues for the former Jackets first round pick. In November he had 11 assists in 12 games, and even added a goal of his own. He’s been a good on-ice mentor for his rookie linemates.

3.6 ROENTGEN: Not great, not terrible

This reference is probably too outdated. Any suggestions for a new title for this section?

Yegor Chinakhov

The Russian rookie is finally getting regular playing time with other skilled linemates, but the results just aren’t quite there yet (four points in 12 games in November). He’s getting his shots, but they’re not going in. I feel like he’s close to a real hot streak. In the meantime, he has coughed up the puck a few times, and he’s getting outscored at 5v5 (7 GF, 11 GA in November). That one goal was an absolute beauty, at least:

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Joonas Korpisalo

Last month he was in the above section, and I wrote “His 1-2-0 record and 3.27 GAA aren’t good, but his .913 save percentage is good enough. He has not played well enough to challenge Elvis for the top spot, but in each game he has played well enough to keep the Jackets in the game.” In five games (four starts) in November, his GAA was 4.39 and his save percentage had plummeted to .864. He still managed to split his starts (2-2-0), which is a miracle considering the stats.