The DTFR Podcast is back from hiatus as Nick provides a State of the Podcast, reviews a few things from the last couple of months and delves into all of the transactions leading up to the 2020 NHL trade deadline.
Three players scored their 4th goal of the season as the Columbus Blue Jackets shutout the Boston Bruins, 3-0, Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.
Elvis Merzlikins (6-6-4 record, 2.53 goals against average, .921 save percentage in 18 games played) made 34 saves on 34 shots against for his 2nd consecutive shutout– becoming the first rookie Blue Jackets goaltender since Steve Mason to record back-to-back shutouts in consecutive appearances (Dec. 27-31, 2008).
Meanwhile, Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (17-4-6, 2.27 GAA, .925 SV% in 28 games played) was injured 1:12 into the action after Emil Bemstrom delivered an elbow to Rask’s head.
Rask sustained a concussion on the play and was replaced by Jaroslav Halak (10-5-6, 2.49 GAA, .925 SV% in 27 games played), who made 24 saves on 27 shots faced for an .889 SV% in the loss.
Boston fell to 27-9-12 (66 points) on the season, but remained in 1st place in the Atlantic Division, while Columbus improved to 23-16-8 (54 points) on the season and remained steady in 6th place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Bruins also fell to 12-7-3 on the road this season.
The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee) and Connor Clifton (upper body) on Tuesday night as Boston visited Columbus for the first time since defeating the Blue Jackets in Game 6 of their 2019 Second Round matchup.
Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his forwards, but replaced Matt Grzelcyk with Steven Kampfer on the blue line alongside John Moore on the third defensive pairing.
Par Lindholm and David Backes joined Grzelcyk as healthy scratches for the B’s in Columbus, while David Krejci tied Terry O’Reilly for the 7th most games played as a Bruin in franchise history (891 games).
Rask was replaced by Halak at 1:12 of the first period after Bemstrom struck the Bruins goaltender with an errant elbow.
Moments later, Pierre-Luc Dubois was sent to the penalty box with a cross checking infraction, yielding the first power play of the night to Boston at 5:53.
The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Almost midway through the opening frame, David Savard thought he scored a goal when he crashed the net and bumped into Halak, but the play was blown dead and there was no goal as a result due to goaltender interference that occurred.
Some harm, no foul– in a way. No goal, but no minor penalty either.
Past the midpoint of the first period, Alexander Wennberg (4) let go of a weak shot that slipped through Halak’s five-hole and reached the back of the twine– giving the Blue Jackets a, 1-0, lead.
Wennberg’s soft goal was assisted by Vladislav Gavrikov (5) and Nathan Gerbe (4) at 13:27.
Late in the period, Charlie McAvoy was guilty of holing against Gustav Nyquist and Columbus received their first power play opportunity at 18:59.
The Blue Jackets did not score on the resulting advantage, despite the fact that the power play overlapped into the second period.
After one period in Columbus, the Blue Jackets led the Bruins, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 9-7, in shots on goal.
The B’s led in takeaways (2-1), hits (11-7) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while the Blue Jackets had the advantage in blocked shots (5-4).
Both teams had two giveaways aside and were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.
Boston announced that Rask would not return to the game in a tweet after the puck dropped on the second period.
Midway through the middle frame, Gavrikov held Anders Bjork and was sent to the sin bin with a minor infraction at 9:36 of the second period.
Boston’s power play was powerless as Columbus killed off Gavrikov’s minor with ease.
A few minutes later, Joakim Nordstrom tried to engage Bemstrom in response for his elbow to Rask’s head that knocked Boston’s starting goaltender out of action, but Dubois stepped in between the two skaters and both Nordstorm and Dubois ended up receiving roughing minors at 12:35.
After two minutes of 4-on-4 action, the two teams resumed full strength play for the remainder of the period.
Through 40 minutes at Nationwide Arena, Columbus still held onto their, 1-0, lead over Boston and a, 22-21, advantage in shots on goal– despite the Bruins leading in second period shots alone, 14-13.
The Blue Jackets led in blocked shots (14-6), takeaways (7-1) and giveaways (7-3), while the B’s led in hits (19-14) and faceoff win% (56-44).
Columbus was 0/1 and Boston was 0/2 on the power play heading into the second intermission.
Early in the final frame of regulation, Sonny Milano slashed Charlie Coyle at 1:34 of the third period and presented the Bruins with another power play that did not yield a goal on the advantage.
A few minutes later, Brad Marchand caught Gavrikov with a high stick at 4:41 and presented Columbus with a skater advantage.
About a minute into the ensuing power play, Kevin Stenlund (4) blasted a one-timer over Halak’s blocker side and gave the Blue Jackets a two-goal lead with a power play goal.
Nick Foligno (14) and Bemstrom (7) notched the assists on Stenlund’s goal at 5:46 of the third period and Columbus led, 2-0.
Three seconds after resuming play, Eric Robinson interfered with Bjork off the ensuing faceoff and was sent to the penalty box at 5:49.
Midway through the third period, Riley Nash (4) capitalized on an individual effort and gave the Blue Jackets a, 3-0, lead on an unassisted goal over Halak’s blocker side at 13:05.
At the final horn, Columbus had won, 3-0, despite trailing in shots on goal, 34-27.
Though Boston had held the advantage in third periods shots on net alone, 13-5, the Bruins failed to find the back of the net on any of their shots.
The Blue Jackets finished Tuesday night with the advantage in blocked shots (19-8) and giveaways (10-7), while the B’s left Nationwide Arena with the advantage in hits (28-17) and faceoff win% (55-45).
The Blue Jackets went 1/2 on the power play on the night and the Bruins finished 0/4.
Columbus handed Boston their first shutout of the season as the Bruins fell to 1-4-3 when trailing after one period and 4-7-4 when trailing after two periods this season.
Boston finished their three-game road trip (1-1-1) and returns home for a home-and-home series with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday at TD Garden and Sunday in Pittsburgh at PPG Paints Arena.
After the Bruins swing through Pittsburgh, the B’s finish their game action before the All-Star break with a home game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 21st.
The Columbus Blue Jackets came back to beat the Boston Bruins, 2-1, in overtime at TD Garden on Thursday in their first meeting with Boston since being eliminated by the Bruins in the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Elvis Merzlikins (2-4-4 record, 2.92 goals against average, .905 save percentage in 12 games played) made 25 saves on 26 shots against for a .962 SV% in the win for Columbus.
Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (15-4-6, 2.30 GAA, .923 SV% in 25 games played) stopped 31 out of 33 shots faced for a .939 SV% in the overtime loss.
Boston fell to 24-7-11 (59 points) on the season, but remained atop the Atlantic Division, while Columbus improved to 19-14-8 (46 points) and remained in 6th place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Bruins also fell to 14-1-9 at home this season and are now on a two-game losing streak.
Boston was without the services of Kevan Miller (knee) and Connor Clifton (upper body) on Thursday. Miller has yet to make his season debut and Clifton was ruled out of the two-game homestand after being injured against Buffalo on Dec. 29th.
That was the only bad news for the Bruins heading into Thursday night’s matchup with the Blue Jackets as Torey Krug (upper body), Charlie McAvoy (lower body) and David Krejci (lower body) all returned to the lineup.
McAvoy was a game-time decision, but took part in full practice on Thursday and was on the ice for warmups– indicating that his return was imminent.
Due to all the returns, Jeremy Lauzon was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Wednesday and Anton Blidh was assigned to Providence on a long-term injury conditioning loan.
Blidh was injured in the second-to-last preseason game for Boston and has yet to make his season debut within the Bruins’ organization (Boston or Providence).
Bruce Cassidy made some changes to his lineup against Columbus since Tuesday’s, 3-2, shootout loss in New Jersey, moving Charlie Coyle to the second line right wing slot with Jake DeBrusk and Krejci, while bumping up Sean Kuraly to center the third line with Anders Bjork on his left side and Danton Heinen on his right side.
The fourth line comprised of Joakim Nordstrom at left wing, Par Lindholm at center and Chris Wagner at right wing.
On defense, McAvoy and Krug went back to their usual roles while Matt Grzelcyk slid over to the right side of the third pairing with John Moore on his left.
Brett Ritchie, David Backes and Steven Kampfer were all healthy scratches for Boston on Thursday night.
At puck drop, B’s captain, Zdeno Chara, became the 12th player in NHL history to play in at least one game across four decades.
San Jose Sharks forwards, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau became the 13th and 14th players in league history to do the same thing upon puck drop between the Sharks and the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Gustav Nyquist thought he scored off a rebound 17 seconds into the game, but Cassidy used a coach’s challenge to review the call on the ice (goal) on the basis that Rask was actually interfered with as Boone Jenner appeared to be in the crease before the puck crossed the blue paint.
Upon review, it was determined that Jenner did, in fact, more than just encroach Rask’s territory, but had actually bumped into the goaltender– impeding his reaction to the play and thereby causing goaltender interference.
The call on the ice was overturned and the score reverted back to, 0-0.
It was the first time the Bruins challenged a call this season, as well as their first successful coach’s challenge this season.
Boston has had five calls overturned on six prior challenges against them thus far, which leads the league.
After Nyquist had a goal overturned, nothing else happened for the rest of the first period. Seriously.
There were no goals and no penalties called in the opening frame and both teams spent the last 7:10 span of the period uninterrupted.
Through one period of play on Thursday, the Bruins and Blue Jackets were tied, 0-0, with Columbus leading in shots on goal, 9-8.
Columbus also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-1), takeaways (3-2), giveaways (6-4) and hits (14-9), while Boston led in faceoff win percentage (67-33).
Early in the middle frame, Nick Foligno hooked Brad Marchand and was assessed a minor penalty at 4:48 of the second period.
The Bruins did not convert on their first power play of the night, but got a second chance on the skater advantage at 11:02 when Dean Kukan tripped DeBrusk.
This time around, however, Boston capitalized on the power play five seconds into the skater advantage– winning the ensuing faceoff back to the point, then sliding a pass over to David Pastrnak (30) for the one-timer that went off Blue Jackets forward, Riley Nash, and over Merzlikins’ glove to give the B’s the first lead of the night.
Krug (22) and Patrice Bergeron (19) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s power play goal at 11:07 of the second period and the Bruins led, 1-0.
With his 30th goal of the season, Pastrnak became the first Bruin in franchise history to score 30 or more goals in four of his first six seasons, as well as the fastest Bruin to score 30 goals (in 42 games) since Cam Neely scored 30 goals in 27 games in the 1993-94 season.
Almost 90 seconds later, McAvoy was caught interfering with Kevin Stenlund and subsequently sent to the penalty box at 12:36, but the Blue Jackets couldn’t muster anything on the power play.
Columbus had one more chance on the skater advantage at 19:15 as Chara cut a rut to the sin bin for holding against Nyquist, but the Blue Jackets didn’t capitalize on the power play once again– even though the skater advantage was split over the course of the final seconds of the second period and the opening minute of the third period.
The Bruins have killed off 21 consecutive penalties as a result of killing off Chara’s minor.
After 40 minutes in Boston, the Bruins led the Blue Jackets, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite Columbus maintaining the advantage in shots on goal, 23-20– including a, 14-12, advantage in the second period alone.
The Blue Jackets also led in blocked shots (12-1) and hits (23-15) entering the second intermission and the Bruins led in takeaways (6-5), giveaways (10-6) and faceoff win% (70-30).
As there were no more penalties called for the rest of the night, Boston finished 1/2 on the power play and Columbus went 0/2 on the skater advantage.
Early in the final frame of regulation, Sonny Milano (4) pounced on a turnover by Coyle, then fired a shot with purpose from the goal line along the boards that deflected off of Grzelcyk and dipped through Rask’s five-hole– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.
Nathan Gerbe (2) and Alexander Wennberg (12) tallied the assists on Milano’s goal at 2:06 of the third period and there were no more goals scored until overtime.
At the end of regulation, the Blue Jackets led in shots on goal, 32-26, but were even on the scoreboard with the Bruins, 1-1.
Columbus held the advantage in blocked shots (15-2) and hits (32-25), while Boston led in giveaways (13-8) and faceoff win% (65-35).
Both teams had six takeaways aside heading into overtime.
Cassidy started Krejci, Pastrnak and McAvoy for the B’s and Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella, opted for Nyquist, Jenner and Seth Jones for the opening faceoff before quickly replacing Jenner with Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Just 52 seconds into the ensuing extra frame, Dubois and Jones entered the attacking zone on a 2-on-1 and made McAvoy look foolish before Jones sent the puck to Dubois (14) for the one-timer goal from close range.
Jones (19) had the only assist on Dubois’ game-winning overtime goal and the Blue Jackets took home the, 2-1, win in Boston.
Columbus finished the night with the advantage in shots on goal (33-26), blocked shots (15-2) and hits (33-25), while the Bruins ended Thursday’s effort with the lead in giveaways (14-8) and faceoff win% (66-34).
The Bruins fell to 5-1-6 when tied after one period, 13-0-5 when leading after two periods and 17-5-7 when scoring the game’s first goal this season. The B’s also fell to 2-5 in overtime this season.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets improved to 6-6 in ovetime this season and 11-5-3 when tied after one period.
Boston concludes their two-game homestand (0-0-1) against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday before traveling to Nashville to face the Predators next Tuesday.
The Bruins return home for a Thursday night (Jan. 9th) matchup with the Winnipeg Jets before venturing on the road to visit the New York Islanders on Jan. 11th, the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 13th and the Blue Jackets on Jan. 14th.
Nick, Cap’n and Pete mourn the Columbus Blue Jackets, review the Vegas Golden Knights front office moves, Ken Holland to the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers new assistant coaches. Finally, the guys preview the 2019 Eastern Conference Final matchup between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, as well as the 2019 Western Conference Final matchup between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.
Nick, Cap’n and Pete assess the Detroit Red Wings hiring of Steve Yzerman as General Manager and Executive Vice President, as well as recap the trio of Game 7s in the First Round and preview the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Boston Bruins silenced the cannon at Nationwide Arena with a, 6-2, win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
Tuukka Rask (27-12-5 record, 2.42 goals against average, .915 save percentage in 45 games played) made 32 saves on 34 shots against for a .915 SV% in the win for the Bruins.
Blue Jackets goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky (36-24-1, 2.59 GAA, .913 SV% in 61 GP) stopped 19 out of 23 shots faced for a .913 SV% before being replaced by Joonas Korpiaslo (9-7-3, 3.00 GAA, .895 SV% in 26 GP) after allowing four unanswered goals.
Korpisalo made three saves on five shots against for no decision in relief of Bobrovsky.
Boston improved to 48-23-9 (105 points) on the season and clinched 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while Columbus fell to 45-31-4 (94 points) on the season and 5th in the Metropolitan Division.
The Bruins also improved to 19-15-6 on the road this season.
Bruce Cassidy made one adjustment to his lineup heading into Tuesday night’s action as Danton Heinen (illness) was not ready to go. Instead, Chris Wagner slid in on the third line right wing while Marcus Johansson remained on the left wing of Charlie Coyle.
Almost two minutes into the action, Jake DeBrusk (26) flung the puck off the top of the net– yes, the top of the net– and hit the rear crossbar before the puck bounced back towards Bobrovsky, off the Blue Jackets goaltender’s back and into the twine to give the Bruins the lead, 1-0.
With the primary assist on the goal, Krejci tied his career-high in assists (51) and points (70) set in the 2008-09 season. Krug also set a career-high in assists (46) with the secondary assist on the goal.
Late in the period, Coyle generated a rebound off Bobrovsky that Johansson (13) buried to give Boston a two-goal lead. Coyle (22) and Wagner (7) tallied the assists on Johansson’s first goal as a Bruin to make it, 2-0, Boston at 17:27 of the first period.
After one period, the B’s led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 11-8, in shots on goal. Boston also led in blocked shots (5-0) and face-off win percentage (52-48), while Columbus led in takeaways (1-0) and hits (9-6).
Both teams had one giveaway each and neither team had seen any time on the skater advantage.
Both teams spent the next 1:48 at 4-on-4 before the Bruins had a brief abbreviated power play. Neither team converted on the special teams action.
Late in the middle frame, Brad Marchand (36) made it, 3-0, for the Bruins with an unassisted effort as he followed up and never relented on the play at 15:14.
Just 46 seconds later, DeBrusk (27) added his second goal of the night on a breakaway at 16:00 of the second period.
Karson Kuhlman (2) and Krejci (52) tallied the assists on DeBrusk’s goal, leaving Krejci with new career-highs in assists (52) and points (71).
After DeBrusk made it, 4-0, for Boston, Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella, pulled Bobrovsky in place of Korpisalo.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 4-0, on the scoreboard and, 24-17, in shots on goal. The B’s also led in blocked shots (10-4), while Columbus led in takeaways (2-1), giveaways (3-1), hits (16-13) and face-off win% (51-49).
Both teams were 0/1 on the power play entering the third period.
Bergeron (47) and Marchand (64) had the assists on the goal and the Bruins led, 5-0. Marchand’s secondary assist was his 100th point of the season, making him the first Bruin since Joe Thornton to reach the 100-point mark (Thornton notched 100 points in 2002-03 for Boston).
No. 63 for the black and gold also became the 10th player in franchise history to amass 100 points or more in a season.
He followed up his historical marker with an interference penalty against former Bruin, Riley Nash, at 4:13 of the third period.
Columbus capitalized on the power play when Bjorkstrand (22) unloaded a shot from the face-off circle to the left of Rask as Nick Foligno screened the Boston goaltender.
Less than a minute later, Charlie McAvoy caught Anderson with a high-stick and drew some blood at 6:24, yielding a four-minute double-minor penalty.
Boston killed off the first half of the double-minor with ease, but Matt Duchene (31) snagged a power play goal at 9:14 with a shot from close range as Rask dove across the crease behind the play.
About a minute later, Kuhlman (3) pounced on an odd puck bounce and answered back in a hurry after DeBrusk whiffed on a one-timer and pocketed the puck in the twine behind Korpisalo while the Columbus netminder was out of position.
DeBrusk (14) and Krug (47) had the assists on Kuhlman’s goal at 10:28 of the third period and Boston led, 6-2.
At the sound of the final horn, the Bruins had won, 6-2, and awaited the eventual Carolina Hurricanes’, 4-1, victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto to clinch home ice in the First Round matchup with the Leafs.
Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots (17-5), while Columbus ended Tuesday night’s action with the advantage in shots on goal (34-28), giveaways (5-2), hits (22-17) and face-off win% (54-46).
The Blue Jackets went 2/4 on the power play on the night, while the Bruins went 0/1.
With the win, the B’s improved to 33-6-5 when scoring first this season and 30-3-3 when leading after two periods.
The Bruins are now 1-1-0 on their three-game road trip.
Boston visits the Minnesota Wild on Thursday in their last road game of the regular season before hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday to close out the regular season at home.
It’s past the quarter mark of the 2018-19 regular season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but thanks to the way the calendar (and life) works out, I’m a few games behind on presenting my latest forecast for Columbus.
Thankfully, the Blue Jackets have a couple of days between their game on Monday (a 7-5 victory against Detroit) and their next matchup against Minnesota on Thursday.
As such, here’s a quick look at what to expect through the remaining 58 games this season.
Keep in mind, there’s many unknown variables that will change what’s to come due to injury, lineup changes, roster moves and whatever else Microsoft Excel doesn’t already know. My degree is in communication– not math– and I’d like to keep things as brief as I can in John Tortorella fashion so you can look things over, get a gist of it and go back to watching the game.
If a player meets the forecasted stats I’ve updated, they’ve met the latest expectations. If they do better, they’ve exceeded expectations. Of course, if they do worse– they just didn’t live up to expectations– it’s that simple. Well, either that or they missed a lot of action due to injury or something.
Anyway, you can’t forecast puck luck, but you can indicate general trends and estimated hunches based on what the scoresheet indicates each night.
Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 24 Games (58 Games Remaining)
Good news, Blue Jackets fans, Artemi Panarin should reach the 80-point plateau this season. Bad news, Blue Jackets fans, Panarin’s still a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end and still doesn’t seem intent on sticking around in Columbus.
Other than that, Cam Atkinson is expected to amass 62 points this season (35 expected goals, 27 expected assists) and lead the team in goals, while Pierre-Luc Dubois sits one goal shy of reaching 30 this season.
Newcomer Anthony Ducliar continues his career revival with respectable 19-18–37 expected totals and Zach Werenski should lead all defenders in expected goals (14), assists (32) and points (46).
Meanwhile, noted top-pairing blue liner Seth Jones, should amass 10-28–38 totals from the point with Werenski beating out Jones in goals from the blue line by four.
Scott Harrinton’s expected 18 points fit perfectly behind Ryan Murray (30), Markus Nutivaara (25) and David Savard (24) as the Blue Jackets defensive corps continues to improve at moving the puck out of their own zone and into quality scoring opportunities.
Other than Panarin’s uncertain future, the only other concern for Columbus revolves around the franchise’s stability in net.
Sergei Bobrovsky‘s expected goals against average has worsened after the first quarter of the season. It’s now set to be a 2.46 GAA by season’s end. Yeah, that’s not great.
In fact, it would be Bobrovsky’s worst GAA since he posted a 2.75 in 37 games played in 2015-16. To begin with, he’s at a 2.74 currently with a .912 save percentage in 16 games this season.
At least Bobrovsky’s save percentage is expected to improve to a .920 SV% by the time 2018-19 wraps up.
Backup netminder, Joonas Korpisalo should end up with a 2.61 GAA and .919 SV% by season’s end, which would be significant improvements from last season’s 3.32 GAA and .897 SV% in 18 games.
As is it, Korpisalo has a 3.73 GAA and .886 SV% through nine games played this season, so things can only get… better? That’s the hope anyway.
Columbus has to work on suppressing shot attempts against, let alone shots on goal, since they’re evidently overworking their goaltenders and it’s showing (remember, a goalie has to move around and “make the save” regardless of whether or not the puck actually hits the net as an official shot on goal).
It’s either that or maybe Bobrovsky isn’t worth as much as some might think he is (because he’s also a pending-UFA in July)– especially in a contract year.
Somehow the Blue Jackets find themselves 2nd in the Metropolitan Division with 30 points on the season and a 14-8-2 record on the season and a plus-six goal differential.
So has Columbus been under the radar and quietly good? Or are they just quietly lucky and surviving in a volatile division (whereby the Pittsburgh Penguins– remember them? they won back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017– are currently 6th in the division outside the playoff picture)?
Time will tell or @capncornelius and/or @vanekatthedisco might fill you in on their outlook sometime.
Hello Columbus Blue Jackets fans, I’m not Cap’n Cornelius, but since we know each other and I visited your wonderful city in August, I was determined to deliver some Blue Jackets forecasted stats throughout the season.
Alas, the regular season started almost a month ago, but I promised I’d have some forecasted stats for Columbus’ entire roster for the entire season by the end of the month and I have finally gotten around to it.
These things take time when you’re transferring data into a new system and trying to watch every game on TV, as well as exist on Earth among its people.
For now, let’s pretend the season hasn’t started or that we’ve all jumped into a time machine and gone back to October 1st. How would things play out for the Blue Jackets this season?
Based on last season’s results– a 45-30-7 record, good enough for 97 points on the season and 4th place in the Metropolitan Division as the first wild card team in the Eastern Conference– Columbus is poised for a bit of a bounce-back in the division standings.
Why? Because the other teams ahead of them got worse– namely the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals.
The Flyers are
off to their usual slow start (wait, I forgot, we’ve time travelled back to the beginning of October) just overall worse and the Capitals look to be dethroned by the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Metropolitan crown at the end of the regular season.
Last season’s Blue Jackets won two playoff games on the road against the eventual Stanley Cup champions, then lost the next four games to extend Columbus’ misery as the only NHL franchise without a playoff series win.
That’s the major storyline to the Blue Jackets this year– will it be one last hurrah or will Panarin and/or Bobrovsky leave the city in the dust among the cornfields on its outskirts in what might become the franchise’s greatest departure(s) since trading Rick Nash to the New York Rangers in 2012?
If this season is a failure, is it head coach, John Tortorella’s fault, a roster problem or General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen‘s inability to construct the necessary components of a successful organization?
Critics will be sure to point out all the flaws that mar the franchise, but one thing’s for certain– there’s a lot of expectations.
One way to generate an unnecessary buzz about expectations is to believe your educated guesses about how players should perform this season makes any difference to what actually goes on the ice.
Fear not, for I am about to do just that.
Before I do, however, I’d like to remind those of you in the audience that are familiar with my roster forecasts before and inform those of you that are new here for the first time of my actual area of expertise.
It’s words. My degree is in communication.
There’s nothing that I will present here that you cannot do yourself, better and/or read anywhere else. All of this is an educated guess– an educated expectation– thanks to one of my sport management classes from college.
A player who performs better than their expected outcomes here is merely exceeding these presented expectations. A player who doesn’t meet the expectations could’ve been injured, a healthy scratch or on a chronic cold streak that’s technically unpredictable.
Anything else is just an error outside my expertise and/or Microsoft Excel’s fault.
That, or there’s a little gut-feeling added for players with substantially fewer career NHL games played than the rest of the data shows (basically, if someone’s projected to score 100 goals and has only played in nine games, I might tweak the result until they’ve played a quarter of the season and have either proven themselves as Wayne Gretzky 2.0 or nothing like “the Great One”).
Take a look at the charts below as though everything were to fall in line and nothing bad could ever happen– an utopian view, if you will. Some things may pan out, some things may not– it’s just a suggested (expected) outcome in a sport that’s highly unpredictable thanks to its collective nature and sheer puck luck.
Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 0 Games (82 Games Remaining)
As has been the custom since his arrival via trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, Artemi Panarin is expected to lead the Blue Jackets in points with 30-49–79 expected totals. The next best player on the team? Cam Atkinson.
Atkinson’s bound for 27 goals and 24 assists (51 points) this season, while the third best forward on the team, Pierre-Luc Dubois, is expected to match his rookie season totals with another 48-point season, at least.
In the meantime several other forwards fall within the 40-point range, while free agent signing, Riley Nash isn’t expected to break into the 30-point plateau after amassing a career-high 41-point season with the Boston Bruins in 2017-18.
Werenski’s expected totals tops Jones (9-28–37 expected totals) by seven points and is in a league of his own compared to his teammates on the blue line.
In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky is looking for redemption with an expected goals against average of 2.37 and an expected save percentage of .923 over the course of 2018-19. Backup netminder, Joonas Korpisalo seeks to provide healthy competition with an expected 2.68 GAA and .917 SV% prior to puck drop on the season.
Of course, now that we’re a month into the regular season, it’ll be time to update this entire forecast once Columbus is about a quarter of the way through their 82-game schedule.
The 2018-19 Columbus Blue Jackets are a riddle. Wrapped in an enigma. On paper, this is the best team the organization has ever put on the ice. Its top line features two wings capable of putting in over 30 goals and perhaps the first true top-line center the Blue Jackets have ever had in their history. On defense they feature a top defensive pairing that, arguably, has two Norris Trophy candidates (albeit one will start the season on the IR). In goal, they have a two-time Vezina winning goaltender. Is there another team in the league that can say this? No.
Yet, if you have read the season previews of the experts, you would come away thinking that this Jackets team was appreciably worse than the one that made the playoffs the last two seasons. The Jackets continue to be the Rodney Dangerfield of hockey, grabbing at their red tie, searching for some respect. Certainly, their playoff performances have not helped. All-world goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, has yet to put in a performance equal to his Vezina-winning status in the playoffs. The Jackets offense went missing after going up 2-0 on the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the Washington Capitals.
So, it isn’t surprising that few of the experts were willing to go out on the limb and predict great things for the Blue Jackets in the 2018-19 season. Further complicating matters are the contract situations of the aforementioned Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin. The situations, particularly Panarin’s, received more off-season attention from the hockey media than the additions of Riley Nash and Anthony Duclair to a forward group that was already quite deep. There has been a lot of gnashing of teeth over the Jackets not moving Panarin in the off-season. However, any trade of Panarin will be a trade the Jackets lose in the short term. Therein lies the problem.
If you are Jarmo Kekalainen and you look at this team and you know it is better than last year’s and you know that last year’s team had the misfortune to play the team that won it all in the first round, do you make a knee jerk move that makes the team appreciably worse in the short term? What if you think the team, as built, is capable of winning a Cup this year?
We know the answer, as we prepare for Panarin to take the ice on opening night for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets stuck to their guns, didn’t accept offers for Panarin that they viewed as too low to allow them to compete for a Cup in favor of staying the course and making a run for a title. Most of the experts expect Panarin to be dealt at the deadline, but many of the same people assumed he’d be moved draft weekend. There is always the possibility that Panarin is moved at the deadline, but this only happens if the Jackets are out of playoff contention, which seems unlikely given what we know about the team. Bobrovsky is even less likely to be moved given the limited value of goalies, even great ones, in trade. So, enjoy watching them play what may be their final seasons with the Blue Jackets.
The assumption seems to be that somehow the Panarin and Bobrovsky situations will be such a distraction that Columbus won’t be able to overcome this and will miss the playoffs after a trade deadline fire sale. This seems to ignore the fact that both Panarin and Bobrovsky will want to have great seasons to justify long-term contracts netting them $10 million per year or more. This is especially true for Bobrovsky who just turned 30. A bad season for Bobrovsky could damage his market value, regardless of the Vezinas on his resume as teams might question “is he starting to slow down.” Likewise, it would be in Bobrovsky’s best interest to play well in the playoffs for once.
Another factor lost in the supposed turmoil is the Jackets depth. The top line is a bona-fide top line when a year ago it was a serious question mark. Meanwhile, the depth the team lacked in 2017-18 has returned through a combination of underrated off-season moves and development of players in the Jackets’ organization. Oliver Bjorkstrand, who had a solid first, full NHL season last year is poised to put up better numbers this season and has landed on the second line where he should receive more ice time and be freed up to play a more offense-first role. Sonny Milano will start the season on the fourth line…but it is a fourth line featuring free agent additions Riley Nash and Anthony Duclair, which could quickly see its ice time increased if the third line struggles to find the net. Every line has two wings capable of putting in 20 plus goals. Every line has a bona fide NHL center, which has not always been the case for the Blue Jackets. The biggest question will be whether coach John Tortorella, fresh off a contract extension, will learn from ice time mistakes he made in the playoffs and truly adopt his own “safe is death” motto to allow players like Milano to learn from their mistakes without being stapled to the bench.
The next question is whether Alex Wennberg will actually earn the second line center position he has been gifted the last two seasons. There is no denying that he regressed last season–look at his game score numbers, look at his power play performance, which was a large part of the team’s struggles on power play. His pre-season performance was lackluster, at best. He’s already been demoted to the second power play unit. The Jackets making a run for the Cup will hinge, to some extent, on Wennberg performing to the level of play some would like to attribute to him or the Jackets finding a replacement at the deadline (hey there, Matt Duchene).
There is some question about the performance of what I will term the “Underperformer Line” featuring Boone Jenner, Brandon Dubinsky and Josh Anderson. It is probably unfair to Anderson to lump him in as an underperformer last season as he had to deal with injuries and bounced up and down the lineup without consistent line mates. Jenner and Dubinsky, on the other hand, struggled mightily. Particularly Dubinsky, who had to deal with scurilous rumors from the team’s road trip to Vegas. All accounts are that Jenner and Dubinsky were leaner at camp, but neither left an indelable impression in the pre-season games in which they appeared. If they struggle, it is probably less of an issue as the “fourth line” can easily replace them, but it would be best for the careers of all three players if they bounced back, if not to prior form, to something better than a typical third line.
With all of the above taken into account, despite the angst of the experts, the Jackets will likely make the playoffs. I also think that Bobrovsky will play the best we’ve ever seen in the playoffs to get them out of the first round–his next contract may depend on it. From there, it is up to Tortorella, Wennberg, Jenner and Dubinsky, in particular, to address the issues that held the team back last season or for the coaching staff and management to overcome those issues prior to the trade deadline.
There are plenty of reasons for anxiety if you are a Blue Jackets fan. But, like Slim Pickens at the end of Dr. Strangelove, you’re already riding the bomb down, might as well enjoy the ride.