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Down the rink: Columbus Blue Jackets recap – Week 10

The Columbus Blue Jackets won two of three games last week and captured a two-point lead in the Metropolitan division. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Artemi Panarin stole the show in a pivotal divisional battle last Friday. The left winger tallied a career-high five assists in the Columbus Blue Jackets (19-10-1, 39 points) 5-3 win at the New Jersey Devils. He also tied the franchise record of most individual assists in a game.

The result proved pivotal after an embarrassing 4-1 loss against the Devils at home just three days earlier. With that win, the Blue Jackets

Artemi Panarin stole the show in a pivotal divisional battle last Friday. The left winger tallied a career-high five assists in the Columbus Blue Jackets (19-10-1, 39 points) 5-3 win at the New Jersey Devils. He also tied the franchise record of most individual assists in a game.

The result proved pivotal after an embarrassing 4-1 loss against the Devils at home just three days earlier. With that win, the Blue Jackets passed the Devils for first place in the Metropolitan division. Saturday’s 1-0 win against the league cellar-dweller, Arizona Coyotes, gave Columbus a three-point advantage over the Devils and two-point lead over Washington.

Here are a few story lines from the 10th week of the Blue Jackets’ season.

Benching Atkinson

Head coach John Tortorella has not had the consistent production early this season as he expected. The three leading returning scorers from last season — Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg and Nick Foligno — rank seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively, in scoring this year. Each of them is averaging less than half a point per game.

Something had to change, so Tortorella sent a message and made Atkinson a healthy scratch Saturday against Arizona.

It’s not uncommon for a coach to make such a move, especially for Tortorella, who made second-line defenseman David Savard a healthy scratch on Nov. 17. However, it’s always significant.

The offense hasn’t been consistent in scoring all season. The Blue Jackets currently sit 22nd in the league with 2.76 goals per contest, which should be much higher considering the abundance of young talent on the top three lines.

Atkinson’s pointless streak sits at six games and has recorded six goals, three assists in 25 games.

Artemi Panarin surging

Losing two games against the division’s top team in one week would’ve been nothing short of devastating for the Blue Jackets. Panarin made sure that didn’t happen.

Trailing 2-0 early, Panarin made a play nearly every time the puck hit his stick. He continually found the open man with incredible instinct, assisting on all five goals in Columbus’ 5-3 win. He created turnovers in the neutral zone, in the offensive zone and made smart no-look passes to empty spaces on odd-man rushes.

He had another point on Saturday, 30 seconds after the opening faceoff for the only goal of the contest.

Panarin continues to see goal-scoring opportunities, but until some of the forwards mentioned earlier can pick up the scoring, defenses will key on Panarin’s heavy right-handed shot from the left wing. His ability to consistently distribute the puck could be the leading factor in improved scoring on lines without Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson.

Penalty kill winning games

Quite literally, the Blue Jackets’ penalty kill has been game-defining. Panarin took a double-minor penalty in the final 2:53 of Saturday’s game, which left a huge opportunity for the Coyotes to send it to overtime. The penalty kill did its job and was a perfect 9-for-9 during the week.

The power play continues to be the worst in the league and hasn’t shown any signs of consistent improvement. If it’s any consolation for fans, the penalty kill might be one to count on. Its success is impossible to ignore at this point.

Injury report

  • Defenseman Ryan Murray was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 27 with an upper-body injury.

Looking ahead

The Blue Jackets have two divisional battles this week against the Islanders and Hurricanes. The Isles have lost three straight and are playing Columbus for the first time since opening night Oct. 6 when the Jackets won 5-0 at Nationwide Arena.

This will be Columbus’ final meeting with Carolina this season. The Blue Jackets are 2-1 in the season series, with wins in overtime and a shootout.

Top performers (skaters)

Artemi Panarin – six assists (19), six points (26), +3

Pierre-Luc Dubois – one goal (5), one assist (8), two points (13), +1

Seth Jones – two assists (12), two points (15), +3

Oliver Bjorkstrand – two assists (11), two points (16)

Goaltending:

Sergei Bobrovsky – 2-1-0 (16-7-1), 2.32 goals allowed average (2.05), 88 saves, .926 save percentage (.930)

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

Brandon Dubinsky – 40-17, 70.2, 34-12, 0-0, 6-5

Pierre-Luc Dubois – 23-24, 48.9, 23-24, 0-0, 0-0

Alexander Wennberg – 13-23, 36.1, 11-20, 1-1, 1-2

Lukas Sedlak – 15-7, 68.2, 15-16, 0-0, 0-1

Nick Foligno – 6-7, 46.2, 4-4, 1-1, 1-2

Boone Jenner – 5-5, 50.0, 1-1, 4-3, 0-1

Overall: 47.1 percent, ranked 29th

Special teams units:

Powerplay – 0-for-6 vs. New Jersey; 1-for-2 at New Jersey; 0-for-2 vs. Arizona

Overall: 8-for-85 (9.4 percent), ranked 31st

Penalty kill – 1-for-1 vs. New Jersey; 4-for-4 at New Jersey; 4-for-4 vs. Arizona

Overall: 66-for-77 (85.7 percent), ranked third

Up next:

12/12 – vs. Edmonton (12-15-2)

12/14 – vs. New York Islanders (16-10-3)

12/16 – at Carolina (11-10-7)

 

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