Cannonball: Preview of the Predators

Tomorrow the Jackets travel to music city to visit Ryan Johansen and the Nashville Predators (6-3-1 in last 10). The Jackets have hit a bit of a skid as of late (5-5-0 in last 10) and have not looked good even in the games we have won as of late. With all-star weekend providing a much needed break to most of the team (except for Jones, Bobrovsky, and hopefully Atkinson now that Malkin is out) which may be just what they need. Not to sound like a grade school coach, but it just doesn’t look like they are having much fun out there right now.

The last three meetings between the Predators and Jackets have not been all that exciting with Nashville taking two out of three games played and all three were won by four goals. Both teams enter this game with a new marquee defender on the roster Nashville via trade (Weber for Subban) and the Jackets via draft (Werenski) and both enter Thursday sporting injuries on defense (Josi for NSH, Savard and Nutivaara for CBJ – Savard may be available).

Here is a quick team stats comparison:

Offense Ranking:   CBJ: 3rd  NSH: 12th

Defense Ranking: CBJ: 4th  NSH: 10th

Power play ranking: CBJ: 1st  NSH: 16th

Penalty Kill Ranking: CBJ: 8th  NSH:10th

Goals per Game AVG: CBJ: 3.30  NSH: 2.75

Goals Against AVG: CBJ: 2.32  NSH: 2.52

PIM per Game: CBJ: 9.1  NSH: 9.8

Shot Differential per Game: CBJ: .32  NSH: .92

Player Highlight:

For the CBJ Cam Atkinson just keeps scoring goals (second in the NHL only to some guy named Crosby) and has done so in the last two games even with being taken off the NHL’s #1 power play unit.

For NSH while former Jacket Ryan Johansen leads the club in points (36), Filip Forsberg has been coming on over the course of the last 15 days after a tumultuous start to the season. He is currently 15-17-32 with a -4 +/-.

Game Insight:

The current question is who will start in goal for the CBJ? Korpisalo has not been strong in his last full showing giving up six in a win against Ottawa (though he did stop the bleeding against NYI once Bobrovsky was pulled after giving up four), and Bobrovsky is coming off a game in which he was pulled (his third this season, Boston, Washington, New York Islanders). Bobrovsky has been the winning goalie in each start following being pulled thus far this season. With Bob’s selection as an all-star, I have to believe he starts against Nashville and then sits against the Rangers immediately following the all-star break. If Bob is in, we most likely win – rhyme optional.

Our vets have to get going. Brandon Saad is on a cold streak that has to end (right?), Dubinsky has been strong in the faceoff circle but only possesses a 7.7% shooting percentage, and Boone Jenner has been invisible for the majority of games this season. On the young guy side of the roster, no one has emerged as dependable in the faceoff circle with both Karlsson (44.8% face off wins) and Wennberg (46% face off wins) continuing to struggle. Luckily, the predators face a similar issue with their 3rd and 4th line guys struggling to get the puck off the dot too (Ribeiro 41.2% and Sisson 48.9%).

For me, this game is less about the Predators and more about the Blue Jackets getting back to better play. Our ten game record does not accurately reflect how poorly we have been defending or that we have gone back to primarily dumpling and chasing rather than possessing into the offensive zone. This involves playing more than one period per game well. We will be a playoff team this year and we have to start gearing up for that level of play.

Worthless stat:

So far this season, Nashville wins 65% of its home games and Columbus wins 65% of its away games

Interesting stat:

The Blue Jackets currently have ZERO players that have played in 10 games or more with a negative +/-. Even lifting the 10 game criteria only two are negative (Milano -1, 2 GP and Bjorkstrand -1, 5GP).

Let’s Go Jackets!

Cannonball: Corsi Be Damned

Tortorella hates corsi. Everyone has reported on it because if our record was reflective of our corsi average, it would look a lot more like last year’s record. Today, Down Goes Brown (on THN.com), lists us as a confusing team that is punching above its weight, but will come crashing to earth soon enough. I disagree. No, I strenuously disagree.

The NHL season is a long winding road, where to find success some things have to bounce your way. You can’t have key personnel constantly injured, you have to find a way to get a point on nights where it just isn’t going your way, and your players have to somewhat ham & egg it through the season to keep the wins coming. We are ham and egging it right now and winning games in the part of the schedule where we weren’t supposed to. That’s why this is so exciting. Boone Jenner, Scott Hartnell and Brandon Dubinsky have been mostly invisible. Ryan Murray has been really inconsistent. Saad was preordained as our goal leader, but has not taken up that mantle as of yet. BUT, Wennberg is tied for 2nd in the entire NHL with 13 assists, Foligno not far behind with 10 assists. Anderson and Gagner have both been big contributors (Anderson is 5th in the NHL with a 26.3% shooting average) and  Zach Werenski has been as advertised (not typical for us CBJ faithful). Prior to his injury Seth Jones was making it known that he belonged on that top pairing.

When Seth Jones got hurt, I thought we might be in for a rough stretch as he has been an integral part of our early success. It hasn’t been the case thus far. We definitely miss him, and are a better team with him, but we have still managed to find a way to continue to pick up points.

Our special teams continue to be special (Atkinson is tied 6th in the NHL with 4 power play goals), although our power play has diminished over the last few contests, and we still have yet to give up (or get for that matter) a short-handed goal to our opponents. The kill has been especially noteworthy and for the first time that I can remember as a fan, it doesn’t feel like taking a penalty is automatically giving up a goal or when we don’t give up a goal on the kill that there should be some type of special in arena giveaway.

Look, it doesn’t hurt that teams have been starting their reserve goalies when facing us. It doesn’t hurt that teams we have played have had key injuries when we faced them (hello, upcoming Steven Stamkos-less games), but we have beaten quality teams both home and away and won the first of many upcoming tough divisional games in what might be the toughest division in the NHL.

Next week will be telling with five games in a seven day span, and hopefully then others will begin to see that this team has the ability to be better than they are now – but continue to find ways to win.

Last time I checked they don’t determine the playoffs by corsi score, and everything I have ever read about corsi points to it not even being relevant until the home stretch of the season (even then, mostly as a signal that a team is getting hot at the right time). Early season, just win baby. The Jackets are doing just that and will continue to get better along the way.

Let’s Go Jackets. See you in the playoffs.

 

The list: Halloween/Superhero Edition

Periodically I am going to create a list involving the Blue Jackets roster. It is going to be total non-sensical fun. Remember that. It’s for fun.

For the preseason list I have taken a few members of the CBJ roster and tried to see which comic book superhero they most resemble or share attributes with.

The Hulk: Dalton Prout – This is a no-brainer, with the only difficulty being I can’t envision any aspect of Dalton Prout’s demeanor matching up with the mild mannered Hulk alter-ego Bruce Banner. Also, I doubt Dalton has the science chops of Bruce Banner. As for the green guy version of Bruce Banner, ole number 47 seems to do a pretty good hulk smash.

Ghost Rider: Brandon Dubinsky – While I don’t think Dubi has made any deals with the devil, I don’t think it would take much convincing to get people to believe he is possessed. He has that Johnny Blaze edge, with the nice-guy persona mixed in there too (who wouldn’t buy an engagement ring from Dubinsky’s jeweler of choice?). In my far too rampant imagination it would be awesome if his head burst into a skull of flames every time he began to lose it on the ice. Crosby is already a little scared of him. This might be unfair to the flightless bird’s captain.

Deadpool: Scott Hartnell – A foul mouthed, always under the skin of whoever is in front of them wise-ass – this just fits too easily. Can we all agree though that as much as we like Hartnell we will pass on seeing him in a red skin-tight spandex suit?

Captain America: Brandon Saad – While not the captain of the hockey team, to be Captain America you must actually be American (unwritten rule). He seems to always have a smile on his face (even after a puck tried to take most of his teeth last year) and even has that combed to the side hairdo like Steve Rogers. Leads the team in offense, leads the avengers in his spare time.

Beast: David Savard – Go to the team website. Go to google images. Go anywhere you can see a picture of David Savard. Tell me I am wrong.

Wolverine: Boone Jenner – Somewhat ill tempered, operates on his terms, is the guy that bring the team together. While I wish Boone had that adamantium skeletal system two years ago when we lost him to the back injury, he is currently the glue to the Jackets physical presence on both ends of the ice. I also would like to think that if he had Wolverine’s claws he would do us all a favor and use them on Pittsburgh fans.

Nightcrawler: Cam Atkinson – Quick, can show up out of no where thank to teleportation, and always an integral piece of the story, just never the lead. I am sure if I did research there would be an issue where Nightcrawler delivered a dog to someone – I just am not that into researching for these lists. No word if Cam was found at a circus like his comic book alter ego.

Lois Lane: Sidney Crosby – Always in trouble or starting trouble and letting someone else fight their battles. If Superman hadn’t spun the world against its rotation would have died under a pile of dirt. I wish someone would do this and take last year’s cup out of Pittsburgh.

 

BOF Report: 10/25 Kings (OTL 3-2)

Basically:

The story of the season thus far is how the Jackets special teams are playing so dominantly. Saad gets on the board for the first time this season and Gagner creates a goal for Atkinson (a beauty). Bobrovsky continues to look tough and was tested with some looks that easily could have been goals, especially in the first period. Transition back in overtime ended up costing us the second point, but Jones has played well thus far so we cannot hold this turnover against him too much. We take the point and move on to back to backs with San Jose and Anaheim.

The Overreaction:

I understand that Murray is hurt, I get it, and to a certain point I am used to it. But why in the holy hell do we keep putting Nutivaara and Prout on the same pairing?!? We might as well hang on sign around Bob’s neck saying “here’s your chance”.  These two haven’t been able to get the puck cleanly out of our own end yet. Is Harrington worse than this? WTF?

Final Thought:

Werenski finally had a game where he didn’t make it onto the score sheet. Even without notching a point, it is impossible not to notice him in every game. We constantly hear about developing talent, but this kid has “it” and he showed up in Columbus possessing it before we made any adjustments.

Point Scorers for CBJ:

Goals: Atkinson, Saad

Assists: Foligno, Gagner, Savard, Wennberg

 

BOF Report: 10/15 Sharks (L 3-2)

Basically:

We looked frantic in the first, and for about half of the second, period(s) on the puck. Not only in our own zone, but also on offense. I like the idea of the Jackets playing fast, but being fast without control has never worked for anyone in any professional sport. We settled in towards the end of the game and had some chances that should have been converted (so did they) that could have made for different ending. Bobrovsky has looked good two games in and the great line shuffle to find cohesiveness in-game began. I don’t like that we are 0-2, but am not going all Michael Arace yet in exploring next year’s draft options.

The Overreaction:

Here we go again. Pack it in kids, eliminated from the playoffs before the end of freaking October. Our top line might not make have enough to play third line on some other clubs right now. We have to finish the easy looks. Anderson had one in the first period, Karlsson in the second. Stop thinking and put the puck in the net. Another thing. Don’t talk to me about conditioning ever again, conditioning has nothing to do with the ability to pass the puck from one Blue Jacket to another successfully. Can we also please never put Prout and Nutivaara on the same defensive pairing. That was hard to watch. Get it together!!!

Final Thought:

Bobrovsky had 35 saves for a .946 save percentage. He is doing his part, now we just need to get the offense rolling and that cannot be done if we cannot keep possession of the puck coming out of our own zone. Luckily, other than the Penguins, all other metro division teams have at least one loss or overtime loss so the hole is not as deep as it could be. Chicago comes to town on Friday, have to find a way into the win column.

Point Scorers for CBJ:

Goals: Anderson, Werenski

Assists: Atkinson, Hartnell, Wennberg

BOF Report: 10/13 Bruins (L 6-3)

Basically:

I said it in my game primer for opening night. The Boston Bruins have a top line that you must survive to win. Marchand had a career-high five points. Their top line scored ALL of their goals.

The first two periods were fun for the Blue Jackets, but they weren’t pretty. Sloppy play and carelessness with the puck was the CBJ theme of the night. There isn’t one place to put the blame, but our top line got demolished by the Bruins first line. It is only the first game, but you couldn’t help but make a deep sigh when leaving the arena last night.

The Overreaction:

Second verse, same as the first. Are you kidding me?!? Boston was down one of their best players and outside of their first line are garbage. Season’s over. Another 12 months of talking about development and keeping the long view. I have had the longview since 2003. Stop telling me to be patient and win some damn hockey games. Middle fingers to everyone, back to Buckeyes football.

Final Thought:

No amount of skating hard, running laps, or workouts fixes our inability to competently transition from defense to offense out of our own zone. Was our biggest issue last year. Apparently

CBJ Point scorers against Boston:

Wennberg – 1G 1A

Jones – 1G 1A

Atkinson – 1G

Werenski – 1A

Saad – 1A

Foligno- 2A

The list: Preseason Edition

Periodically, I intend to post a list akin to a high school year book (think “most likely to _____”). It’s for fun, try to remember that.

Most likely to have a breakout season: Alexander Wennberg

Player I would most like to have a beer with: Scott Hartnell

Biggest surprise of the season: Bobrovsky is healthy for the entire ’16-’17 season

Most likely to throw all of the sticks on the bench onto the ice in pregame: TIE Brandon Dubinsky/John Tortorella

Best hair: William Karlsson

Player that is not allowed to meet my wife: Alexander Wennberg

First player to take penalty minutes: Boone Jenner (it’s a positive, he plays aggressive)

Player I would let babysit my children: Nick Foligno

Player I would definitely not let babysit my children: Cam Atkinson (no more pets)

Biggest impact in first 13 games: Sergei Bobrovsky

First CBJ player to drop the mitts this season: Dalton Prout (who else?)

Most likely All-Star game selection: Brandon Saad

Surprise All-Star game selection: Seth Jones

Name that isn’t household yet, but will be: Zach Werenski