We’re two weeks into the regular season and at least one thing is clear: the Metropolitan Division is crap, and if that trend continues, the Atlantic Division will send five teams to the post-season. The Columbus Blue Jackets are in fifth place in the Metro with a very mediocre 4-5 start to the season. A second thing is clear: they’re further from that team that went on the torrid second half run and barely missed out on the postseason than people think.
For one, it would appear that Sergei Bobrovsky is human. The Jackets are on the precipice of being a bottom third puck-possession club this season, with just three regular players at above 50% in Corsi with the score close: Cam Atkinson, Marian Gaborik and Ryan Johansen.
What I’m really saying is that it’s unlikely tonight’s Leafs and Blue Jackets game will be the perfect start to the weekend. But maybe it will be because DAVID CLARKSON finally makes his “real” debut as a Toronto Maple Leaf.
I’d still rather wait a few more games before I post possession data at the start of every preview, since there’s still some noise that has yet to be separated from the signal (the New York Rangers have yet to play a home game). I think that some of the trends that have carried over from last season are very legitimate (the Leafs not taking a lot of shots, the Leafs winning despite not taking a lot of shots) and maybe some things in the early going are worth noting because the symmetry doesn’t exist from last season.
Remember when Sergei Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy as the Jackets’ goaltender? Check out a graph of his career save percentage in line with his 20-game rolling save percentage:
It seems unlikely that Bobrovsky is Dominik Hasek and his save percentage will stabilize at .935. He’s playing well above his capabilities and it wasn’t until about a quarter way through last season that he went on a notable hot-streak, eventually posting a 20-game run at above .950, which is nuts.
But still, sports fans love to make decisions based on small samples. Bobrovsky wasn’t an overwhelmingly high pick in Yahoo Fantasy Hockey, but he was still picked on average 27th overall ahead of goalies like Ryan Miller, Roberto Luongo or Jaroslav Halak with better track records. It’s as if people forget very often that goaltenders that tend to be hot one season… are “not” the next. A brief analysis of Corey Crawford’s first three NHL seasons goes as follows: Good, Bad, Excellent. Taken at an average of 34th overall, apparently Yahoo users believe he’ll be “good” again.
MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP
DAVID CLARKSON! I forgot about him when opening the intro the first time. Let’s edit that.
*goes and edits*
There’s a plus and a minus to this. David Clarkson is “in” while Joffrey Lupul, who is listed as day-to-day with a bruised foot, may not be in. Josh Leivo will remain in and play in Lupul’s spot next to Nazem Kadri, according to Chris Johnston.
This seems likely:
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond – David Bolland – David Clarkson
Jay McClement – Nazem Kadri – Josh Leivo
Frazer McLaren – Trevor Smith – Colton Orr
Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf
Morgan Rielly – Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner – Paul Ranger
Oh yeah. Frazer McLaren will be in for Troy Bodie on the fourth line, which makes about as much sense as the penny-making machine at the Canadian Mint (we don’t make pennies or cents anymore is the joke). Still a little further away from seeing the Lupul-Kadri-Clarkson line everybody wants to see.
BLUE JACKETS LINEUP
Nick Foligno – Artem Anisimov – Marian Gaborik
Boone Jenner – Brandon Dubinsky – Cam Atkinson
Blake Comeau – Ryan Johansen – R.J. Umberger
Mark Letestu – Derek MacKenzie – Jared Boll
Jack Johnson – David Savard
Fedor Tyutin – Daulton Prout
Ryan Murray – James Wisniewski
When you see “D. Savard” on the boxscore, remind yourself it couldn’t possibly by Denis.
Generally at home this season, Todd Richards has used that Johansen third line as a checking unit against opposing teams’ top forwards, so we’ll see if Randy Carlyle tries to avoid the matchup. I think he’d rather see Kessel go head-to-head against Anisimov’s line.
Johansen starts often in the defensive zone, but the Jackets, like the Leafs, don’t exactly have the luxury of a pile of offensive zone faceoffs every game. They tend to go to the fourth line and the young players. Make sure you dress both Orr and Boll in your fantasy lineups tonight—both teams seem to have no problem with the staged fight.
Jonathan Bernier against Sergei Bobrovsky. Working theory is that James Reimer is still hurt and the team wants to give him an extra day of rest before sending him to the wolves against Pittsburgh on Saturday.
The puck drops in Columbus tonight at 7:00 Eastern and can be found on Leafs TV.