Saturday, December 24, 2016

First Place for the Holidays

The Columbus Blue Jackets finished the run up to the Christmas Holiday with a bang, beating the second Eastern Conference Leader in two nights by holding on over the Montreal Canadiens 2-1.  It was kind of an ugly game, but winning ugly games is what gives you 50 points by Christmas.  It also gives you first place in the NHL over the Christmas break, and even the most fervent naysayer can take that away from them.

The defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins made it tough, by taking out their frustration on the Devils, to make sure that the Jackets needed to win if they wanted to be number 1.  But the CBJ took care of business, so here we sit for a couple of days, with an opportunity to bask in their early season achievement.  But there are still 50 games yet to be played, and next up is a Boston team that is responsible for 2 of our 5 losses.  So things get interesting quick after the break, because 3 games out the CBJ face a Minnesota Wild team with a 10 game winning streak of their own.  And, the Jackets will need to respond to the league wide bump in intensity that happens after the holidays

A word to Jackets fans frustrated by the 'Jackets will come to earth club'.  First of all 'they' may be correct.  Or, they may not be.  But a certain amount of their logic has a fundamental flaw.  Fully one third of the Blue Jackets defense is not represented in the statistical data bases that are used to conclude that the Jackets will regress.  If you want to make conclusions about Zach Werenski, you need to be projecting NCAA data up to the NHL level.  I don't think anyone is doing that.  More importantly, you need to be able to project AHL playoff data to the NHL, and I don't think anyone is doing that.  Finally, if you want to determine what average Marcus Nutivaara will regress to, you need an extensive data base from the Finnish professional leagues extrapolated to the NHL.  No one has that.

Yet this is the one third of our defensive pairings that transform a relatively slow, defensively oriented D-corps of 2015-16 to the swift, puck moving group of 2016-17.  Zach Werenski's contribution is significant enough that he has pushed Ryan Murray out of the top pair.  Marcus Nutivaara's contribution is significant enough to that it has pushed Ryan Murray to his backhand for the first time in his career.  This is not a bad reflection on Ryan Murray, it is a reflection of the magnitude of the impact these other players have had.  Zach Werenski basically jumped everyone on the depth chart.  Marcus Nutivaara jumped some pretty good defensemen to snatch the 6th spot from Dalton Prout.  And no one has any data to accurately project what these players can do for this year.  By next year, yes.

'They' repeatedly say that the power play will come back to earth.  No database exists that can tell you what the 'average' performance of a Zach Werenski lead 1-3-1 power play looks like, and anyone who tells you that it can't run at 25% success rate forever is just guessing.  Of course, anyone who tells you it CAN run a 25% efficiency is just guessing too.  That's why you play the games.

Or, as the DKM folks will tell you, it's :



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