WOWY. Also known as With Or Without You. It’s not just a U2 love song, in fact it’s a pretty useful tool for looking at how players perform with certain teammates, what players are driving their lines, which ones are dragging their lines down, and which combinations seem to work at bringing the best out of each other. The basic data came from Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, and boy do they have a lot of data. Within those pages you can find WOWY details for pretty much every player over the last few seasons, combined seasons, when the score is close, and much more. For this post, I used 5v5 data from the 2013-14 season only (to keep the sample size as large as possible). So I took all that information, and made a nice big fancy chart. It shows the Corsi percentage that each player is better (or worse) with each player. So the corresponding space in the chart of Johansen With (along the top of the chart) and Foligno (on the left side of the chart) shows the difference between Ryan Johansen‘s Corsi For % with Nick Foligno, and Johansen’s Corsi For % away from Foligno. Got it? Good. Let’s take a look at the chart, then go over a few things that need to be considered. After that is the good stuff: the players who come out best (and worst) in this analysis, the best combinations of players, and various ideal/terrible/etc. lineups.
Jack Johnson. James Wisniewski. Two divisive players playing the same position. A quick Google search will bring up loads of examples of people saying how bad Jack Johnson is. A quick search of Twitter post-playoff elimination would have found numerous examples of people saying how bad James Wisniewski is. What all that super analysis tends to forget is the role of a defenseman. Which isn’t always easy to judge. It’s much easier to watch a forward play, look at his stats, and decide with reasonable accuracy how good (or bad) he is. For defensemen, it is MUCH more difficult. That stats aren’t quite as telling. Some of the most important aspects of playing defense have no stats, are barely perceptible to most viewers, and are significantly influenced by the role the defenseman plays on his team. Put a guy in his own end, against the best players, and make him the primary puckhandler on his pairing, and you’ll see a lot of goals against, a lot of turnovers, and not a lot of points. Put a guy in the offensive zone, against lesser competition, playing with scorers, and make him one of the focal points of the offense, and you’ll see less turnovers, lots of points and goals, and less goals against. Switch up either of those roles on the fly, and you’re likely to see the results switch up. There are only six defensemen on a team, so unless they are just rolled over willy nilly, you can’t compare teammates (well unless they are partners). You need to look at how those defensemen compare to other defensemen playing similar roles. So that’s what I did for Johnson and Wisniewski to try and find out if they are good, average, terrible, or deserving of buyouts.
I figured the James Norris Memorial Trophy, given to the best defenseman, would be an interesting vote. Considering that the bloom is off the rose for both Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski; reigning winner 2013 tUB Norris winner Fedor Tyutin had a slightly down year; and the emergence of youngster Ryan Murray, this vote could have gone any number of ways. Instead, we had a runaway winner, with unanimous across the board first place votes. That was surprising enough in itself, but then we also had a dead even tie for the runner up spot. Without further ado, the winner of the Norris is…..
So the season is over. What a season it was. The best in Blue Jackets history by any measure you want to use. We’ll all have some thoughts coming later this week on the season, so let’s talk about this series for a minute. It took until the game five reminder, but keep in mind just how good this Penguins team really is. They had the two most talented players in this series by far, and probably four or five of the top five or six. Hell, they would have the two most talented players in ANY series they could possibly play. Their downfall the last couple years has been Marc-Andre Fleury, who was steady enough in this series. Basically, this is a very good hockey team. Yet the Blue Jackets gave them all they could handle. Unlike their last playoff appearance, this was a series. Actually, that verbalizes it quite well. 2008-09 was a playoff appearance, 2013-14 was a series. This team fought to the bitter end, well after others had given up. Our own RockmanHalo turned the television off. I headed over to the kitchen to do some cooking about two minutes before Tyutin scored (don’t worry I could still see/hear). I stayed in the kitchen through all three goals, but had to sit back down for the final furious minutes. Pretty sure it’s my fault. If I stayed in the kitchen, they probably would have tied it up. Dammit. Anyway, let’s take a look at some goals. Continue reading…
So a 4-3 game one loss is in the books. I guess you could call it a moral victory, although I would call it a missed opportunity. Marc-Andre Fleury was as shaky as advertised in the first half of the game, the game was more or less even at 5 on 5, but the Penguins powerplay and a few key mistakes brought down the upset attempt. I’m only going to breakdown two goals completely, as for the most part there wasn’t a whole lot of hidden elements in most of the goals. The Jackets opened the scoring with a huge individual effort from Brandon Dubinsky (although Jack Johnson scored the goal). The Penguins followed that up with a Jussi Jokinen goal that resulted from Sergei Bobrovsky misplaying the puck, Fedor Tyutin misplaying the puck, Derek MacKenzie letting his man go (probably thinking Tyutin was going to corral the puck), and Bob being a little out of position after scrambling back into the net. The Jackets grabbed the lead right back on a Mark Letestu powerplay goal. I like the puck movement on that goal, really spreading out the zone and forcing Fleury to move. The goal ultimately came off a scramble that saw Fleury needing to move across the net. They have to keep that up. MacKenzie made up for his earlier gaffe, with a great individual effort on the PK to take the puck from Kris Letang and beat Fleury on a breakaway. The Penguins made it 3-2 on a powerplay goal by their second unit, off a great tip by Beau Bennett. I would have maybe liked to see Dubinsky pick up Bennett as he comes across there, but no major mistakes on that goal.
Coaching, Columbus Blue Jackets, General Manager / No Comments
It’s pretty crazy to think about how much has changed since the Jackets last playoff appearance. Steve Mason was the savior. Rick Nash was the franchise. Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek were the future. RJ Umberger looked like a steal. Mike Commodore and Jan Hejda were a beloved shutdown pair. Ken Hitchcock was coaching them up. Scott Howson looked like a genius. Well Mason is the savior in Philadelphia. Nash is the franchise in New York. Jakub Voracek and Derick Brassard are the present in New York and Philadelphia. Mike Commodore is somewhere. Jan Hejda is a beloved shutdown defender in Colorado. Ken Hitchcock is coaching up St. Lous. And if you are paying attention, Scott Howson actually still looks like a pretty good GM. Make no mistake, this is Howson’s team. He brought nearly every single player on this roster into the organization. The most prominent player expected to play in this series that was a Jarmo/JD pickup is probably Blake Comeau. Both goaltenders were Howson pickups. Seven of the eight defensemen who might see time were Howson pickups (Nick Schultz being the exception). Comeau, Jack Skille and Corey Tropp are the only Jarmo pickups at forward (plus the injured Nathan Horton). I’ve already dwelled on this more than I planned on, I just wanted to make sure it was out there that this team was built by Howson. Moving on.
The Pittsburgh Penguins. Funny how the Jackets first two playoff opponents have been Detroit and Pittsburgh. I know some fans are concerned about Pens fans taking over the building. Think back on that last playoff series, and remember the atmosphere. Nationwide was rocking with CBJ fans, and I expect the same this time around. If Detroit fans couldn’t overtake the rink, I don’t see how it should be much different this time. As for the on-ice product, I expect this to be a very close series. At even strength at least. The two teams are actually very close when it comes to 5v5 play. In shots for percentage, they rank 13th (Pittsburgh) and 14th (Columbus). In Fenwick Close, they rank 12th (Columbus) and 16th (Pittsburgh). In Corsi Close, they rank 13th (CBJ) and 16th (Pit). In goals for percentage, they rank 8th (Pit) and 12th (CBJ). On other words, the Jackets are slightly better at controlling the play, while the Penguins score a tiny bit more. Which makes sense, considering the talent they have, as Crosby, Malkin, and others have shown they (and their linemates) can consistently score on more of their shots than league average. But then again, the Jackets have Bobrovsky. Like I said, this should be a very close series at even strength. Pittsburgh has been quite a bit better on special teams than Columbus. So on the surface, the edge lies with the Penguins. Let’s look deeper, comparing the forwards, defense, goaltending, and special teams. And maybe we’ll see how the Jackets might be able to pull of the upset.
Losing sucks. Doubling up a team in shots and not winning sucks more. Holding a team to zero shots for an entire period, and still not winning? That’s practically unheard of. So we’ve covered that Tuesday’s game sucked. But let’s go into a little more detail. I was unable to watch the game unfortunately, so I don’t quite share my site-mate’s rage over the proceedings. But I did take a look at the goals, and the goals against had a couple things that really jumped out at me. So let’s talk about them and maybe point a finger or two in the right direction. Continue reading…
That was a hockey game. Wait, that doesn’t really say what I’m trying to say. That was hockey game. One of the best games I’ve seen in a while. Both teams play such similar, hard styles, that when both teams play well, it’s just beautiful hockey. Had the Jackets managed to lose, I still think I would have greatly enjoyed watching that game. Made me wish the two could somehow meet in a playoff series. Imagine seven straight games of that? Man, that would be intense. Anyway, yeah the Jackets earned a hard-fought, well-played 5-3 victory over the LA Kings. It really was a true team effort, with pretty much every line and defense pair contributing at times, and Sergei Bobrovsky coming up with a few huge saves. With that being said, some Jackets shone brighter than others.
Third Star: James Wisniewski
Wiz was solid tonight with two apples (although Murray deserves both assists on Johansen’s goal). However, I’ll take him here as a stand in for the powerplay in general. They only went 1/3 on the evening but the puck movement was very solid, and they came away with ten shots. There was some nice trickery on the backend that they haven’t used as much in the past. A lot of movement away from the puck by the two defensemen and one of the forwards. It helped create a lot of space, best seen on Umberger’s powerplay goal, and when Letestu managed to get in all alone on Jones (he had five hole but pushed past it trying to go around Jones).
I think we’re starting to see the inevitable rivalry between the Rangers and Blue Jackets really emerge. With only 4 points separating the 2nd and 7th positions in the Metro and seemingly GMs that have each other on speed dial for trades, these games are getting to be ones you really look forward to as a fan. Tonight’s match up featured the bigger name former-CBJ roster in Nash, Brassard, John Moore. It was great to see the Jackets come out strong in the 1st period and establish an early lead after such a possibly demoralizing beat down at the hand of the Blues. I must admit I had flashes of panic as I watched the lead erode and overtime be forced but the Jackets were able to pick up the 2nd point in a shootout at the hands of a filthy goal by Johansen. Tonight’s 3 stars:
3rd Star: Mark Letestu
This was probably one of Letestu’s best games, I’m glad the local media recognized his efforts. That said, I can’t help but think that Wizniewski might be slightly more deserving of this spot. It seemed like late in the 3rd when the Jackets were getting pushed around Wiz took it upon himself to start launching Wiz bombs at Lundqvist and while none resulted in points they did generate some good rebounds and slow down the Ranger onslaught. With Tyutin leaving the game early everyone had to much a few extra minutes and Wiz put in 28 solid minutes, 8 of which were on special teams duty. At the end of the night, he had a 2 point game to show for it in the form of 1G, 1A.
A hard fought, but possibly costly win came tonight versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. An ugly first period led way to a very good second period and a mish mash of a third. But more importantly, the Jackets finally do NOT crap the bed on a night when I do the three stars! Whoopee! All is well in Jackets-land, minus all the injuries and inconsistency and all the other things wrong. Anyway, ignore that for now and revel in a shutout victory.
3rd Star: Sergei Bobrovsky
He was good. Very good at times. Let’s be honest, that one save is where this is going. It was a good save. It was also the classic Patrick Roy move where the big arm/wrist movement post save makes it look MUCH better than it actually was. Watching it live, it looked spectacular. On replay, it was clear that Brown did not get the puck up very much and it was a fairly routine glove save. Then there is the bad part of that save. Let’s keep our fingers crossed this is nothing serious, as relying on Curtis McElhinney for more than a dozen games in an entire season is a losing proposition. Continue reading…