Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sizing Up the Blue Jackets

Detroit is currently 11th in the Western Conference…unfamiliar territory. Sure we’re tied for least amount of games played and our fellow Stockholm travel companions are worse off than we are, but 17 points in 15 games is very un-Red Wing like. Sure all of the mainstream media is probably getting sore shoulders from patting themselves on the back for predicting “the downfall of Detroit”, but the players haven’t done much to shut them up. Tonight we play the Division leading Blue Jackets, a team we ousted in four in the Western Conference Quarter Finals. But that was back when Ozzie was STFU Ozzie. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jimmy gets the start tonight.

Columbus has never been known for having a high powered offense aside from perennial Wing-killer, Rick Nash. Ken Hitchcock’s style of coaching trends more towards a defensive game. However, the Blue Jackets currently sit at an impressive 7th place in the league as far as G/G average with 3.19. Detroit’s one goal stinker in the Air Canada Center last Saturday sure didn’t help their G/G average as they fell to 16th in the NHL with a measly 2.80. Advantage: Columbus…big time.

Steve Mason seized control of the Columbus net last year. The young kid had an amazing season posting 10 shutouts as a 20 year old on his way to winning the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie and finished second in Vezina voting for top goalie. However, he appears to be going through the dreaded sophomore slump. Columbus currently ranks 27th in the league with a dreadful 3.25 G/A average. The Wings aren’t doing much better on defense, however. They’re sitting 24th in the league with a lowly 3.07 G/A average. Advantage: Detroit

One of Columbus’s weaknesses last season was its power-play, which was near last in the league in terms of conversion. They seemed to have fixed whatever was wrong and are currently converting 22.2% of the PP chances, good enough for 9th overall in the NHL. Detroit's power play looked bad against Burkie’s Leafs on Saturday night. Khan(!) told us this week that they were working on the PP in practice, and a good thing too, it’s currently 16th best with a 20.0% conversion rate. Hopefully, the amount of talent on this lineup will compensate for the loss of Jason Williams, the right-handed shot on the second unit. Advantage: Columbus

The Blue Jackets' penalty killing seems to be suffering along with their inconsistent goaltending (we don’t know anything about that, do we Detroit?). They are currently ranked 18th in the NHL, with a 79.4% effectiveness rating. Detroit, who had been improving on the PK, suffered yet another setback on Saturday. The dismal start in the first few games of the season is now starting to drag out into a bad first-quarter season. They are currently ranked 26h in the league with a 75.9% kill rate. Advantage: Columbus

So if we pull ranks and take the average for GA/G and G/G...

Columbus: 17th
Detroit: 20th

If you combine PK and PP percentages to get an overall effectiveness rating:

Columbus: 101.6%
Detroit: 95.9%

The key for a Red Wing's victory tonight will be simple as usual, to play hungry. Toronto just seemed to want Saturday’s game more than Detroit. They were clearly a more talented team, but ended up getting embarrassed on the score sheet. One of my all-time favorite sports-related quotes is “hard works beats talent when talent fails to work hard”…is there a more fitting scenario for your Detroit Red Wings? Whatever they found in themselves to stick it to the Blue Jackets last spring, they need to find it again.

Last season, Detroit edged the season series with a 3-2-1 record against the Blue Jackets. Though they were blown out at home at the Joe 8-2 on March 7th, they rebounded nicely a little over a week later and shutout the BJ’s for the second time in the regular season.  The first round play-off series, as we all remember, was a decisive sweep for Winged Wheel.

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