Are the 2018-19 Columbus Blue Jackets a Better Road Team than Home Team?
Is this merely an illusion, or are the 2018-19 Blue Jackets dramatically better on the road? Or is there an underlying statistic that can explain this discrepancy?
The 2018-19 Columbus Blue Jackets are a study in duality: in one game, the team can look like world beaters, in another they can look like an AHL roster matched up against the defending Stanley Cup champions. Often, these games appear to come on a home/road split, but not in the way conventional wisdom may suggest - this year’s Blue Jackets seem to perform better on the road than they do in the confines of Nationwide Arena. Is this the case? Is there a reason we can point to?
Let’s dive in and take a look.
2018-19 Blue Jackets Home Performances
(*note - these records were compiled before the Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, 12/11)
7-6-1, 15 points (15th most home points in the NHL), 7 ROW, 50.74% CF%, 51 goals for, 50 goals against, 11.02% shooting percentage, .882% save percentage
Columbus, record aside, seem to be a strong home team. The team has a positive goal differential (dragged down by the Washington and Calgary games of last week, where the team went -7 over two games), and has an above average CF%.
One number stands out, however - the save percentage.
At home, Sergei Bobrovsky has posted a pedestrian 5-6-0 record at Nationwide Arena with an .893 SV% and 3.26 goals against average. At the same time, Joonas Korpisalo has won two of his starts at home (2-0-1), but has posted a .871 SV% and a 3.81 GAA. Neither goaltender is playing up to even NHL average levels at home (this season, the average SV% is .908 and average GAA is 2.88). For whatever reason, this appears to be the biggest hurdle the team must overcome going forward at home.
The Blue Jackets are also not taking advantage of high danger chances at home. To date, the team has 131 high danger chances for to 119 against at even strength, but have scored goals on just 21 of those chances while allowing 22. Columbus going forward must better capitalize on scoring chances.
2018-19 Blue Jackets Road Performances
9-5-1, 19 points (9th most road points in the NHL), 9 ROW, 47.65% CF%, 49 goals for, 48 goals against, 10.36% shooting percentage, .899 save percentage
Despite the shinier record, Columbus’ road performance is undermined by the number that lay just beneath the surface. Columbus’ road CF% puts them 24th in the league in the league on the road. The goaltending has been better, with Sergei Bobrovsky approaching league average - he has a .903 SV% and a 3.03 GAA to go along with his 6-4-0 record. Joonas Korpisalo at the same time is 3-1-1 with an .896 SV% and with a 3.40 GAA. Neither of those numbers are good, but they are an improvement over his marks in Nationwide Arena.
As far as scoring goes, Columbus has notched 156 high danger chances on the road while allowing a whopping 172 such chances. Columbus has scored on 21 of them while allowing 25 goals on those same chances.
While the record may show that the Blue Jackets are a better team away from Nationwide Arena, a deeper look at the underlying statistics shows the team is actually better at home - they are just not getting even league average goaltending from either netminder. If this trend reversed itself, Columbus’ home record could turn around to reflect seasons past under this coaching staff, where the team has won frequently (last season, for example, the Jackets were 26-12-3 at home).
A team is only as good as its goaltender, and Sergei Bobrovsky has struggled mightily this season behind a defense that is doing him no favors on a night to night basis. For the Blue Jackets to go anywhere this season, they must get the defensive zone organized quickly - the calendar flips to 2019 soon, and the trade deadline is fast approaching.