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Reviewing April 2022: Bloody but unbowed

Things didn’t go their way, but they didn’t quit

NHL: APR 26 Blue Jackets at Lightning Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Previously: October, November, December, January, February, March

RESULTS

L 2-5 @ BOS
L 2-3 vs. BOS
W 4-2 @ PHI
L 1-4 vs. PHI
W 5-4 (OT) @ DET
W 5-1 vs. MTL
L 1-2 @ LAK
L 4-6 @ ANA
L 2-3 @ SJS
L 1-2 (SO) vs. OTT
W 5-2 vs. EDM
L 1-4 @ TBL
W 5-2 vs. TBL
L 3-5 @ PIT

5-7-2 for the month, which feels like a microcosm of the whole season. Wins over good teams, like Edmonton and Tampa! Losses to bad teams, like Philadelphia and Ottawa! The California trip was rough, but at least there were those two last home wins even after being formally eliminated from playoff contention.

STANDINGS

No change, as the Jackets remained where they had been for a few months, in sixth place in the Metro, slightly behind the Islanders. They finished a total of 19 points out of a playoff spot in the East.

In the draft lottery, the Jackets have the 12th worst odds, and can move up to the second pick at best with their own selection. Chicago is the sixth worst, but if they move up in the lottery they keep their pick, and we’ll get their first round pick in 2023 instead, with no further lottery protection.

STATS

CBJ Stats through April 2022

Stat April March February January December November October 2020-21
Stat April March February January December November October 2020-21
5v5 CF% 49.45 (19th) 47.42 (24th) 47.17 (25th) 45.81 (27th) 47.88 (23rd) 49.47 (19th) 47.36 (25th) 46.51 (27th)
5v5 FF% 46.69 (26th) 46.68 (24th) 47.95 (22nd) 44.72 (27th) 45.96 (27th) 49.35 (20th) 45.56 (31th) 47.03 (27th)
5v5 Save % 91.45 (13th) 90.77 (29th) 91.28 (20th) 88.86 (29th) 92.14 (15th) 88.92 (31th) 93.95 (8th) 91.28 (22nd)
5v5 Shooting % 8.88 (14th) 9.14 (4th) 10.85 (6th) 9.39 (11th) 10.85 (2nd) 8.92 (10th) 7.02 (20th) 7.19 (30th)
5v5 xGF% 45.19 (28th) 45.19 (30th) 46.83 (24th) 41.94 (29th) 44.41 (28th) 50.61 (13th) 44.77 (30th) 46.09 (26th)
GPG 2.93 (22nd) 3.00 (18th) 3.90 (8th) 2.93 (15th) 3.00 (14th) 3.91 (3rd) 2.75 (16th) 2.39 (29th)
GAPG 3.14 (13th) 4.07 (31st) 3.40 (20th) 4.36 (31st) 3.56 (23rd) 3.36 (26th) 2.75 (12th) 3.29 (25th)
PP% 19.1 (12th) 23.4 (16th) 26.1 (6th) 8.6 (32nd) 6.3 (32nd) 19.4 (14th) 25.0 (9th) 15.4 (27th)
PK% 83.3 (9th) 65.1 (30th) 85.7 (9th) 83.0 (11th) 58.8 (32nd) 90.0 (4th) 77.8 (21th) 79.0 (20th)

Well how about that, actually some improvement on defense and goaltending! Not a lot, but it’s something. Offense dipped to January levels, though the power play didn’t dip quite that far.

Three Stars

Third Star: Nick Blankenburg

There was lots of hype for Kent Johnson, last summer’s fifth overall pick, to make his debut once his college season finished. He was fine (led the team in 5v5 CF%, FF%, and xGF%) but not necessarily a gamechanger. Instead, it was his college teammate who got our attention. Blankenburg was an undrafted free agent signing, but due to injuries and ineffective play he found himself thrust into a second pair role, and even got minutes on special teams and in overtime. He was third on the team in hits per 60 minutes for the month, and second in blocks per 60. He also managed to score an assist in his first game, and in another game scored a game winning power play goal. The 5’9” right-handed shot has earned the inside track to be at least the sixth defenseman at the start of training camp.

Second Star: Elvis Merzlikins

It was a rough season for Elvis, but he ended it very well. After Joonas Korpisalo was placed on season-ending IR, Brad Larsen said Elvis would start every game for the remainder of the season. As it turns out he did get one game off, but rather than showing fatigue, he put up his best numbers of the season; numbers which we had hoped for when he signed his contract extension to be the go-to goalie for the foreseeable future. He was 5-6-2 in April with a 2.55 GAA and .926 save percentage.

First Star: Jack Roslovic

At midseason, I wasn’t sure if Roslovic had a future with this team. I thought it prudent that he be dealt at the deadline or in the summer, and wasn’t sure how much trade value he had left. Well, after seeing what he did as the first line center, the situation has completely flipped. He scored a whopping TEN goals on the month, including three game-winners. He scored in multiple ways, with goals at even strength, the power play, and in overtime. That accounted for nearly half of his season goal total, in just 14 games.

He also improved away from the puck, as he was fifth on the team in expected goals allowed for the month (2.47 per 60 at 5v5). Does he solve the team’s 1C problem? No. Is he a very useful player as a middle 6 center who can score and can play in all three phases of the game? Apparently!

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Injuries

I think I’ve written about this a lot, but it remains true. Boone Jenner, the heart and soul of the team, playing the best hockey of his career, missed the entire final month of the season with a back injury. Patrik Laine, also seeing a career resurgence, also missed the final seven games. Zach Werenski missed six games in the month at various points, and complained/joked at the end of the season about taking hits to the head. In addition to two concussions, he suffered an injured jaw at one point, and finally had his season end early with another puck to the nose.

Those are three extremely significant players, and while the power play was finally clicking at midseason, it struggled for long stretches when any one of those guys was missing.

Injuries happen to every team, so perhaps what needs to be here is...

Depth

You can’t completely replace a guy like Laine or Werenski; they are elite players at their position. But you do need players down the lineup who can step up if forced to play bigger minutes. Roslovic stepped up to fill Boone’s shoes, but did any winger step up to score goals in Laine’s absence? No. BJORKSTRAND had four, but you need him to score anyway. Justin Danforth had four, but he was playing some center as well as wing.

No defenseman matched Werenski’s scoring. Jake Bean had a respectable six points and +1 rating on the month, but that’s not enough on its own. Adam Boqvist should be Werenski Lite, but he missed five games in the month himself.