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Down the rink: Columbus Blue Jackets recap – Week 5

Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Markus Hannikainen (37) and Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller (86) battle for the puck during the 1st period of their NHL game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on Oct. 30, 2017. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Another winning week for the Columbus Blue Jackets, however a team identity hasn’t surfaced five weeks into the NHL season. Yet, the team sits tied for first place in the Metropolitan Division with the New Jersey Devils.

The Jackets (9-4-1) took Tampa Bay, the league’s top team, into a shootout on the road Saturday night, before losing 5-4. Tampa Bay Lightning superstar center Steven Stamkos went top shelf on Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in the third round of the shootout to win an up-and-down 5-4 affair. It was the Jackets’ first shootout loss in five such games this year.

Last Monday, Columbus led 3-0 against Boston at Nationwide Arena, but allowed three unanswered goals to send the game to overtime. Left wing Artemi Panarin and right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand delivered the decisive shootout goals in a 4-3 victory, and Bobrovsky stopped the two shots he faced.

Thursday against the Florida Panthers, the Jackets’ offense let loose for seven goals on 40 shots. Both Bjorkstrand and right wing Josh Anderson scored twice.

StaHere are some headlines from the fifth week of the Blue Jackets’ season.

Boone Jenner impact

Boone Jenner’s back injury doesn’t seem to be bothering him anymore. The Jackets’ second-line left winger is picking up the slack from the team’s other top scorers. In three games last week, Jenner tallied five points, on two goals and three assists.

Jenner scored in the first period against Boston and in the third period on a power play against Florida, deflecting a shot in front of the net from Panarin past the netminder. Jenner added two assists against Florida and another against Tampa Bay on the game-tying goal in the third period.

Jenner’s contributions are even greater than what the box score shows given the relative lack of production from his linemate, center Brandon Dubinsky. With just one goal and three assists in 14 games, Dubinsky’s dirth in scoring has been mitigated by Jenner’s impact since returning from injury.

Consistency on defense needed

The top defensive line of Zach Werenski and Seth Jones has played as expected with its combined 20 points and a plus-17 rating, but behind the duo, there has not been much help.

Jack Johnson and David Savard, the second defensive pair, has tallied just nine points and a minus-three rating. In the two games that went to a shootout last week, Johnson and Savard were each a minus-three in two games combined. For comparison, Werenski and Jones were on ice for all four goals against the Lightning.

The third line of Markus Nutivaara and Ryan Murray were plus-two against Boston and minus-one against Tampa Bay, but clearing the puck from the zone continues to be an issue early in the season.

They’re still winning, somehow

The Blue Jackets are ahead of the Washington Capitals and the reigning back-to-back Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins. The power play ranks last in the league and the team allowed nearly four goals in all three games last week. Yet, the Jackets earned two victories and a shootout loss on the road to the best team in the NHL. That has to be a positive sign for the fanbase that the team continues to win without clicking just yet.

Panarin’s expected impact has been discussed at length in this weekly update, and again, it has yet to truly emerge. His mere presence on the front line and the first power-play unit is an influence, without a doubt. But at some point, one has to think he’ll break through. Panarin has collected just one point in the last five games and hasn’t scored since Oct. 13.

Injury report

  • Third-line left wing Matt Calvert was placed on injured reserve Monday. Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reported Calvert is expected to miss three to four weeks with an upper body injury.
  • Fourth-line center Lukas Sedlak is on injured reserve with ankle injury retroactive to Oct. 23.
  • First-line right wing Cam Atkinson moved to injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 25.

Looking ahead

The power play remains the Blue Jackets’ biggest struggle 14 games into the season, but they will face two of the most penalized teams in the league this week. Nashville averages more than 16 penalty minutes per game and has been shorthanded a league-high 69 times through 14 games. Detroit has been shorthanded 59 times, which ranks fifth highest in the league.

Both teams, however, have formidable penalty-kill lines, ranking 10th and ninth in the league, respectively in penalty-kill percentage.

The Jackets also hope to have one of their top power-play threats back on the ice soon in right wing Cam Atkinson. He was placed on injured reserve Sunday in order to activate defenseman Gabriel Carlsson from the injured reserve list. Atkinson’s hip injury is retroactive to Oct. 25, so he has already surpassed the seven-day IR requirement, making him eligible to return to the ice whenever healthy.

Top performers

Boone Jenner – two goals (2), three assists (3), five points (5), +2

Markus Nutivaara – four assists (5), four points (5), +2

Markus Hannikainen – two goals (2), one assist (1), three points (3), +3

Josh Anderson – two goals (5), one assist (3) three points (8), +3

Seth Jones – one goal (3), two assists (8), three points (11), +5

Goaltending:

Sergei Bobrovsky – 2-0-1 (8-2-1), 3.16 goals allowed average (2.23), 90 saves, .900 save percentage (.927)

In the circle (faceoff record, faceoff win percentage, EV record, PP record, SH record)

Brandon Dubinsky – 31-24, 56.4, 27-24, 1-0, 3-0

Nick Foligno – 25-30, 45.5, 23-20, 1-6, 1-4

Alexander Wennberg – 19-19, 50.0, 13-17, 5-2, 1-0

Boone Jenner – 5-9, 35.7, 5-4, 0-2, 0-3

Overall: 399-478 (44.8 percent), ranked 30th

Special teams units:

Powerplay – 0-for-5 vs. Boston; 2-for-4 at Florida; 0-for-4 at Tampa Bay

Overall: 5-for-43 (11.6 percent), ranked 31st

Penalty kill – 2-for-4 vs. Boston; 2-for-3 at Florida; 1-for-1 at Tampa Bay

Overall: 30-for-36 (83.3 percent), ranked eighth

Up next:

11/6 – at New York Rangers (6-7-2)

11/7 – vs. Nashville (7-5-2)

11/10 – vs. Carolina (4-5-3)

11/11 – at Detroit (7-7-1)

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