We are adding another new feature to our Columbus Blue Jackets coverage for the 2019-20 season. After every five games, we are going to publish a checkup column just like this one. In them, we are going to review our piece from the preseason where we shared our Blue Jackets path to the playoffs.
There were five things we shared in the piece in which if the Blue Jackets achieved these things, they’d return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We will gauge this on an every five-game basis and see if the team is trending towards those goals.
The Blue Jackets played their best game of the season Saturday night in Raleigh and secured a 3-2 win to hand the Hurricanes their first loss of the season. The Blue Jackets now stand at 2-3-0 with a home date coming up with the Dallas Stars on Wednesday. Considering a loss would put them at 1-4-0, this was a huge win and will give them some confidence during these off days.
So in the midst of their 2-3-0 start, where do they stand? Here are the five things we outlined in the preseason we are watching for.
- Joonas Korpisalo save percentage of .920 or higher.
- Alexander Wennberg 50 points.
- Seth Jones True Norris Contender.
- Alex Texier/Emil Bemstrom/Sonny Milano combined 30 goals or more.
- Power-play conversion of at least 20%.
After five games, here’s where they each stand.
- Korpisalo 2-2-0, 2.75 GAA and .892 save percentage.
- Wennberg 0-3-3 in five games.
- Jones 0-2-2 in five games, 14 shots on goal (second on team.)
- Texier/Bemstrom/Milano have just one goal combined, Texier OT winner.
- Power-play conversion: 3/15 after five games, 20%.
You see Korpisalo’s numbers in his four games but we can be encouraged by his most recent starts. He’s allowed just two goals in each of his last two games. Had the Blue Jackets provided more offensive support Friday against Anaheim, he’d have two wins to show for his effort. Instead he split the games but does have a very respectable .927 save percentage.
Considering Merzlikin’s rough debut, we can assume in the near-term Korpisalo will get a majority of the starts. If he can continue to perform like he did against the Ducks and Hurricanes, the season takes on a bit of a different flavor. It’s a small sample size, but at least Korpisalo has shown flashes of what he can do in the right situation. Going into Carolina while playing on consecutive nights and handing the Hurricanes their first loss is impressive.
I’ve been impressed with the start of Wennberg’s season. He’s on a 49-50 point pace in the very early going but is also continuing to show how valuable he is defensively. Whether he can keep this up over a whole season is yet to be determined. But I am encouraged by these first five games.
Jones Needs to Improve
Seth Jones is a great player, but he has so much more to give, especially if he wants to be considered in the Norris conversation. As the season goes on, he needs to improve on his consistency. He himself said that was a priority. I expect he’ll get much better, but it hasn’t been a good start at all for him.
Looking at Natural Stat Trick, Jones has the fourth-worst CF% on the team and the second-worst xGF% on the team with only Scott Harrington worse. He also has the worst SCF% on the Blue Jackets.
In case you are wondering what those percentages are, CF% is percentage of shot attempts for compared to total shot attempts. Jones has been on for 81 for and 96 against, so 81/(81+96) yields 45.76% as indicated. If you drop under 50%, it indicates the opposition gets more attempts when that player is on the ice. Jones’ xGF% is at 44.09% (2.48 for, 3.15 against) and his SCF% is at 38.89% (28 for, 44 against.)
xGF% is expected goals for and SCF% is scoring chances for. Similar to CF%, if these are under 50%, the opposition is getting the majority of the measure. If the Blue Jackets want the playoffs, Jones has to turn this around.
Tex Has Impressed
Only Texier has a goal in these first five games, but it’s a big one. He won it in overtime against Buffalo to give the Blue Jackets their first win of the season. But looking at his underlying numbers, he’s been fantastic. He’s just under 60% in both CF% and xGF%. He’s also been on the ice for seven high-danger chances for and just one high-danger chance against. Despite just the one goal, it’s a matter of time before he starts to fill the net.
Finally, the power play is right at 20%. At times, they’ve looked good with creativity and movement. At other times, they haven’t been able to find consistency. But the numbers don’t lie. 20% is where they need to be. They’ve done that. The question will be is this going to go down or can they maintain this pace?
The Blue Jackets play Dallas, Chicago, New York Islanders, Toronto and Carolina in their next five games. As we get more data points, we’ll get more confident in what we’re seeing. In all at this moment, it’s a mixed bag. It’s also been a roller-coaster ride as we recently wrote about. I’d expect that ride to continue as the Blue Jackets continue to figure themselves out over the course of the season.