Heading into tonight’s contest against the 2-1 Ottawa Senators, the Columbus Blue Jackets look to cut off the franchise’s second 0-3 start, having never lost four straight in regulation to start off the season.
Following the Senators are the 0-2-1 Toronto Maple Leafs before bouts with the Stanley Cup Champions Blackhawks and division rivals Islanders on deck, banking a win would go a long way to kickstarting any necessary upswing.
Columbus stumbled through a torturous 2014-15 season, crippled by early season injury, getting out of the gate with a 6-15-2 record.
A late season surge and expectations of improved health set greater expectations, but the anticipation of 2015-16 success has been quickly squelched according to General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who even went as far as to call the Blue Jackets game as ‘off the rails’.
While it’s only been three games to start, duplicating that late season surge may prove difficult as we’ll explore in a moment. Elevated expectations will depend on the carryover from the fourth quarter production of 2014-15 and some unique distinctions.
The 0-3 start featured a home and home against the New York Rangers in a three games in four nights stretch ending with the Buffalo Sabres, where they were outright embarrassed, posting a single-game shot attempt percentage of 39%. The one game that was likely penciled in as a win, turned into a humiliation.
Finding their way out of the scoring funk out of the gate is key to success and six goals isn’t going to cut it. Only five Blue Jackets have scored, with newcomer Brandon Saad the only multi-goal scorer with two goals on nine shots (22.2%). Nick Foligno hasn’t scored despite firing 12 shots on goal.
Columbus has allowed four power play goals on 11 chances and matched with four power play goals of their own over 13 opportunities.
That number may be somewhat misleading though, considering aside from the clunker against the Sabres, they’ve earned a score-adjusted 60.25% shot attempt percentage, after closing off the 2014-15 season with a 48.77 average. In other words, adjusting shot attempt differentials for various game states (leading/trailing/tied) Columbus seemed to perform well with a 60% average.
Most of that time has been spent tied or trailing, however, meaning score effects are likely the cause of an increased shot attempt differential. Once again, with such a small sample size the overall effects aren’t valid. Score effects dictate that a trailing team is likely to pressure for an equalizer and tip the shot attempt differential to their favor, hollowly inflating short term differentials as a result.
Columbus shows a pedestrian ability to generate shot attempts and scoring chances, and will have to overcome this average ability as a team for success.
The overall effect is an average ability to generate scoring chances per 60 minutes, but a bottom tiered high danger scoring chances puts into perspective the difficulty scoring has been this early. Getting to dangerous areas of the ice is key to sustainable scoring. Starting to drift from those dirty areas will have potential effects.
Like six goals in three games.
Scoring is the main issue. If there’s a positive to note about this young season, it’s the hope of health and a roster that can contribute more than six goals in three games.
Fourth Quarter ’14-15
The group of 13 players in the table below accounted for 60 of the 71 fourth quarter goals scored by the team in 2014-15.
Scott Hartnell (14) Cam Atkinson (9) and Nick Foligno (7) accounted for almost half the goal totals. Collectively, they fired 19.15% in the final quarter, out of the playoffs and playing spoiler to some.
Hartnell matched his season’s performance in goals over the final quarter, while Foligno inflated his totals to a 30-goal season, however it’s difficult to believe he can keep up a four-shots per game average throughout the season.
These unsustainable highs will have to even out over 2015-16 for the type of team level success.
|4th Qrtr PLAYERS||GP||G||A||Pts||SOG||Sh%|
Columbus overcame the early season ravaged by injury and season long lineup instability to score 71 goals in the final quarter, besting the first three quarters by almost 50%.
Sequestering Columbus defensively, using the chart generated through War-On-Ice.com at 5v5 isolating score-adjusted events in 2015-16 the Blue Jackets have allowed less than average Corsi against events per 60 minutes (shot attempts blocked, missed, shots on goal) while displaying a slight tick over average shots against per 60. Defensively, the deviation isn’t very different from 2014-15, but clearly need better goaltending than Sergei Bobrovsky has provided to this point.
Scoring goals will be paramount to getting out of this funk. It starts tonight against Ottawa.
If there was one shining moment among this start was the lede to the Portzline ‘Puckrakers Blog’
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) October 12, 2015