Month in Review: Bruised
The Blue Jackets came into the season knowing they would have to make up for some injuries, but a very good start has been wiped out by even more injuries.
The Columbus Blue Jackets entered the start of the season knowing they would have to deal with some injuries. Nathan Horton was not (and still is not) skating, with rumors swirling about the end of his career due to a degenerative back. Brandon Dubinsky was flown to Philadelphia and became the SEVENTH Blue Jacket to have abdominal/hernia surgery in the last 18 months. Boone Jenner had broken his hand during practice at training camp. Ryan Murray was not quite fully recovered from a second surgery on his knee. Some thought that Ryan Johansen may have some rust after missing all of training camp trying to lock down a new contract.
October started out pretty well, but with the injuries piling up the team lost a bit of its momentum. The hockey gods still seem to be upset, apparently. In counting the November 1st loss as part of October, the CBJ exit the month on a five-game losing streak.
The season did start out well - almost a sense of coming together amidst the injuries. Ryan Johansen teamed up with Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno on the top line and the trio played well together for a few games. They were the catalysts in the team's first two wins, on the road at Buffalo 3-1 and then against the Rangers at home 5-2. Rookie Marko Dano notched his first career NHL goal in that home win against New York.
The Jackets then ran into a bit of a buzz saw - a highly-talented and winless Dallas team came into Nationwide motivated to get their first W and the Jackets got down early. Johansen picked up a couple goals but it wasn't enough as the dream for an 82-0-0 record fell.
Columbus then hung on for a 3-2 win against Calgary before embarking on a four-game road trip. Curtis McElhinney made his first start of the season in Ottawa only to get injured midway through the game. The team lost 3-2 and headed out for the dreaded California swing.
In perhaps their best effort of the year, the Jackets came back to shock the Sharks 5-4. The team was sitting at 4-2-0 and just a few points back from the top of the division. The next wave of injuries hadn't quite hit yet, but this is where things turned.
The NHL scheduling
idiots people, then made the CBJ play a back-to-back in Anaheim the next night (because, you know, Los Angeles and Anaheim aren't in the same metro area or anything...) and the Jackets were dominated 4-1. Cam Atkinson took a skate to the face in this one (he would miss the Kings game) and Adam Cracknell went down with an awkward looking injury but only missed a few shifts.
The final game of the road trip lost some meaning as Nick Foligno was taken off on a stretcher in a scary incident after colliding with a linesman. Thankfully, like Cam, he avoided serious injury. Foligno missed only a game with a "stinger" (no pun intended). The Kings went on to win 5-2 as the Jackets were shaken up after Foligno's injury.
Sitting at 4-4, it was time to come home and recalibrate and get some revenge on the Senators, right? Wrong. Bob had fractured his finger in practice. The team looked shaky in the 5-2 loss, and lost three more players to injuries (Letestu, Arty, and Wiz). The new-look AHL/NHL Blue Jackets were no match for Toronto, as they dropped that one 4-1.
The team put together a valiant effort in New Jersey as Anton Forsberg made his NHL debut in net, but some 50/50 calls went New Jersey's way in the 3rd and the Devils prevailed 3-2. And oh yeah, Cody Goloubef left with an injury.
The team now sits at 4-7-0 and perilously close to the NHL cellar. The upcoming home-and-home with Carolina could very well determine that fate by the weekend. But there is some good news as the Jackets try to shake off the bumps and bruises of October: as many as five regulars could be back by next week (Calvert, Anisimov, Jenner, Tropp, Bob). Brian Gibbons, now healthy, looked very good in his debut in the union blue and could be here to stay for awhile.
-Good PK gives way to bad PK. The penalty kill was perfect through fives games. It now sits at 26th in the league as opponents have scored at least one goal on the power play in the last six games. Special teams will kill ya.
-Goals allowed - this goes hand in hand with the PK, but the Jackets have allowed three or more goals in seven consecutive games. Losing Bob for a week or two won't help matters either, but he was in net for all the California games.
-Ryan Johansen. Beast. Has 13 points in the first 11 games. So much for that rust. On a team struggling to score, he has stepped up like a #1 center and is logging a lot of ice time with centers 2-4 all out.
-Scott Hartnell. He's brought an edge that has been a staple of his game for his entire career and is piling up the assists as well.
-Nick Foligno. What can you say? He has had a heck of a year, capped off by the scary scene in L.A. But he was back five days later and the guy brings it every night. Oh, and 4-7-11 in 10 games is pretty darn good, too. Please lock him up, Jarmo.
-Jack Skille. This was a clever waiver wire pickup just before the season started. Skille on Long Island didn't really work out, but he was more than happy to rejoin a familiar group in Columbus. Todd Richards has used him all over the lineup and he has netted three goals so far.
The Not-So Good
-Injuries. Seriously. Please stop.
-The defensive pairings. Richards tried to utilize righty/lefty combinations across all his pairings, but something just seems off on the back end. Of course, injuries to Murray (early), Wisniewski, and now Goloubef won't help with that. But for such a solid group the last couple seasons, their play has been disappointing through 11 games.
-The PK. See above.
As I mentioned, the team will try to shake it off (oh no, this was teed up way too easily for some T Swift gifs, but there you go) and get back in the win column against the lowly Hurricanes. Reinforcements appear to be on the way soon, depending on medical clearance. Who knows, maybe by the end of the month this team will be 90% healthy and back above .500? For now, they just need to hold the line and try to pick up points against a relatively easier schedule.