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Reviewing December 2022: Coal in the stocking

A bad ending to a rough 2022

Columbus Blue Jackets v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Previously: October, November

RESULTS

W 4-1 @ WPG
L 2-4 vs. DET
L 1-4 @ PIT
L 4-9 vs. BUF
W 3-1 vs. CGY
W 6-5 (OT) vs. LAK
L 0-4 @ FLA
L 1-4 @ TBL
L 2-4 @ BOS
L 1-2 vs. DAL
L 3-5 @ PHI
L 2-5 @ CHI
L 1-2 @ NYI
W 4-1 vs. CHI

After an improved November, the Columbus Blue Jackets had a December whose record looked like October’s. They were 3-7 in the first month and 4-10 here. It was the start of a road-heavy schedule for the team and they earned just one victory on the road.

Todd Richards got fired in 2015 after seven straight regulation losses. Brad Larsen survived the same, though he had a couple that were by a single goal. These games were less competitive than the score indicated, however.

Credit, I suppose, for three victories over quality Western Conference opponents. That one in Winnipeg feels like it was ages ago.

STANDINGS

Still firmly in the basement of the Metropolitan Division, nine points behind seventh-place Philadelphia. In the Bedard Sweepstakes, Chicago is comfortably ahead with a points percentage of .278. Columbus is third at .343, tied with Anaheim at 24 points but with two games in hand.

STATS

December 2022 Stats

Stat December November October 2021-22
Stat December November October 2021-22
5v5 CF% 46.53 (27th) 44.21 (31st) 46.6 (25th) 45.5 (26th)
5v5 FF% 45.90 (27th) 44.91 (31st) 46.3 (26th) 45.1 (27th)
5v5 Save % 91.18 (21st) 90.72 (26th) 89.0 (30th) 91.5 (26th)
5v5 Shooting % 6.71 (25th) 7.75 (18th) 9.3 (6th) 8.5 (8th)
5v5 xGF% 43.40 (27th) 45.62 (27th) 45.5 (23rd) 45.5 (24rd)
GPG 2.43 (28th) 3.09 (16th) 2.78 (27th) 3.14 (14th)
GAPG 3.64 (24th) 3.82 (27th) 4.11 (30th) 3.62 (28th)
PP% 16.3 (30th) 29.6 (6th) 0.0 (32nd) 18.64 (24th)
PK% 78.0 (14th) 76.7 (19th) 82.76 (9th) 78.57 (20th)

A slight improvement in possession stats and even moreso in goaltending (more on that in a bit). With better defense, however, came an offensive cratering. In the seven game losing streak, just 10 goals total were scored.

The competent November power play went away, partly due to injuries to key PP players. There’s still enough talent on hand that it shouldn’t be THIS bad, however.

THREE STARS

Third Star: Jack Roslovic

This surprises me, too! I don’t feel like he’s been that impressive (that list isn’t very long this month, to be fair). Still, Roslovic was second on the team in scoring with 13 points (2G/11A). He also had a positive plus/minus (+4). The underlying stats aren’t as favorable, however. In fact, they’re nearly inverse: At 5v5, he’s on ice for 3.09 GF and 1.37 GA, but 1.83 xGF and 3.01 xGA.

Second Star: Kirill Marchenko

The big Russian winger made his long-awaited NHL debut on December 6 at Pittsburgh, and has scored five goals in 12 games. Typical of Larsen’s deployment this season, he’s playing just 12:38 per game, but he’s making the most of it. He also is +4.

First Star: Joonas Korpisalo

Korp is 2-2 in seven games (six starts) but has a .932 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average (fifth and tenth in the league among goalies with multiple games). He’s been legitimately good, and even after missing time with injury he didn’t skip a beat.

So where do we go from here? Do you ride him as the #1 goalie for now? Do you still consider trading him at the deadline?

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Johnny Gaudreau

He’s still the point leader for the month, and over a point per game player (2/13/15 inn 14 games) so it feels weird to put him here, but...

Johnny Hockey is in the midst of an eight game goalless drought. During the seven game losing streak, he had just four assists and was -12. I’m not worried, but the team is in a rough spot when the best player can’t provide a spark.

Sean Kuraly

I had him as one of the three stars last month, but Kuraly has had a much rougher go of it this month. Some of it is bad luck: at 5v5 his line is producing a shooting percentage of just 1.52, and 0.4 goals for per 60 vs. 2.37 expected goals. But he’s -10 for the month and as just two points to show for it. He’s far from the weak link here but it’s a sign that the increased role is starting to overwhelm his abilities.

Line chemistry

Due to both injuries and coaches’ decisions, the lines have been in a constant state of flux. Injuries finally got Kent Johnson a shot at center — which has worked out — but he hasn’t gotten much time with the same set of wings. Young players like Marchenko and Emil Bemstrom are constantly moved up and down. Who does this help?

On the other end of the bench, we’ve seen far more stability with the defensive pairs, and I think we’ve seen improvement there. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Even regular punching bag Erik Gudbranson looks better with rookie Tim Berni. Jake Christiansen looked awful with Gudbranson, but passable with Andrew Peeke.

You can’t expect consistent play when you don’t give players a consistent routine/environment in which to perform.