What Can we Really Make of Five Games?
It’s fun to get too high, and it’s easy to get too low after a handful of games in the NHL regular season. Remember, it takes times for the trends to really play out.
The NHL season is just about two weeks old and your Columbus Blue Jackets have participated in five of their first 82. We’re just at that part in the season where overreactions run rampant as you wait to see just what exactly plays out during the course of a regular season.
As the Jackets kickstarted the 2018-19 campaign with an overtime win at the Red Wings, you might’ve overlooked the lackadaisical second period, shrugged off the Wings tying the game and instead focused on winning the opener, their seventh-straight over Detroit since 2015-16. The power play showed flashes of great promise in the first period, converting on its first chance. Joonas Korpisalo put together a solid showing on the road in a rare start.
Undoubtedly looking ahead to the home opener a night later, the pesky Hurricanes played spoiler, and the Jackets never looked comfortable. The kind of loss you can shrug off as one in 82, but the kind of performance that leaves coaches and players anguished. And maybe it was just the kind of wakeup call they needed, with three off days to follow and intense practices dialed up in wake of that flat performance. A reinforcement of what they needed to do to up their compete level to a full 60-minutes against the Avalanche for their following game and beyond.
The early trends continued at the Panthers, where a fast start and 2-goal lead was cut in half inside the final minute of the first, and vanquished completely in the second before a furious rally to overcome and push the win-loss record to 3-1. The biggest test of the season to date, an Eastern Conference favorite in the Lightning, the type of team used as a measuring stick, shrugged off a game in which they gave up four third-period goals to the Canucks and broke out in a big way against Columbus, lighting up the Jackets for eight goals.
While it was the first period that Tampa Bay dominated, and the second period that saw Columbus start to mount their comeback, at one point reducing the three-goal deficit to one, the striking blow of the Lightning was just too much to overcome.
Take what you want from any of the 15 periods and change of hockey this season. The 3-2 Jackets have shown the ability of starting games the right way, instilling speed and quickness to jump on opponents first. But the second period has been the face of adversity, where leads evaporate almost immediately.
Looking to overcome a down season in 2017-18, plagued by injury and career-lows in terms of point production on the ice, Dubinsky used his own on-ice turmoil to get into better shape for this season. In the two games before he suffered a latest oblique injury that will sideline him 4-6 weeks, he had one goal, one assist.
That brings to mind Nash. Coming to the Blue Jackets to provide the type of depth and scoring potential they need at center, Nash’s role already increased upon the absence of Dubinsky, and similarly to the type of situation he faced with the Bruins last season when Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci went down for extended periods of time. He’s only taken three shots this season, one a piece in three of the teams’ five games.
Wennberg’s offensive production nosedived last season, immediately following a career-season and big extension. Wennberg was the second star of the game against the Avalanche following his two-assist performance.
Same ole special teams?
The Jackets are 21st on the power play (17.4%). On the bright side they are only five games in and couldn't possibly be worse than last year, right?
Anthony Duclair has had the opportunity in recent days to have his say about that. Prior to their game in Florida, the club practiced 25 of the 40 total minutes of practice on the power play, and Duclair had his role expanded to the first power play line against the Panthers, where he notched a power play goal, his first goal of the season. The penalty kill (29th, 64.7%) has seen better days, but the numbers are a bit skewed after four Tampa power play goals Saturday.
Joonas Korpisalo, who has won both of his starts so far, should be in net Thursday, following Saturday’s ugly outing, and simply because he’s earned that as Sergei Bobrovsky continues to shake off the rust in the early portion of the season. And John Tortorella is just keen on finding out what we have wondered about Korpisalo all along, urging more playing time for the young goalie.
So in gathering what we can so far from this 2018-19 club, I would say there’s no use getting too high (by the way, check out how high The Athletic places Columbus among their projections: subscription required) or low just yet. But where would the fun be in that?