In the lull of an offseason – particularly one as off-cycle and weird as this one – it’s easy for the memory of great moments to fade. Which players were outstanding? Which games were truly great games?
Of course we can – and should! – turn to our memories, but we can also look to the numbers. In 2016, Dom Luszczyszyn developed “Game Score” a measure to comprehensively evaluate a player’s performance in a game.
So when we think back to the 2019-20 season, in addition to the key players who stand out for the Blue Jackets like Oliver Bjorkstrand, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Zach Werenski, Seth Jones for their overall performances, we can look at who had the ten best individual performances for Columbus.
Let’s take a deep look at the top 5:
Top Individual performances by Columbus skaters in 2019-20:
1. Ryan Murray | Oct. 12 at Carolina | Game Score: 5.07
The recently departed Murray had two assists in this game – one of two two point performances last season by the blueliner – and had just two shots on goal, but where he was dominant was in tilting the ice Columbus’ way. Only Murray’s partner, Markus Nutivaara (who we’ll get to in a second) helped drive shot quality more than Murray (1.26 expected goals for) and the Finn bested his defensive partner by just .01.
This set up on Bjorkstrand’s tally is classic Murray:
2. Cam Atkinson | Jan. 18 vs. New Jersey | Game Score: 4.69
It was Atkinson’s second game back from injury. He’d scored one goal and one assist the prior game and came out in force against the Devils, scoring two goals and one assist off eight shot attempts – four which reached the net. It was the most points the talented winger would post in a single game last season.
3. Pierre-Luc Dubois | Jan. 22 vs. Winnipeg | Game Score: 4.24
Dubois wouldn’t find the back of the net, but he would set up every goal but one in the Jackets’ 4-3 win over the Jets, each to a different player including this beauty to Oliver Bjorkstrand.
4. Markus Nutivaara | Oct. 12 at Carolina | Game Score: 4.17
We already talked about Murray’s performance in this game, and while Nutivaara generated no individual points, it was when he was on the ice that the Blue Jackets got the most shot quality (1.27 expected goals for) of any other player on both teams that game. It’s also worth noting that Nutivaara – albeit with just two shots on goal generated the second highest individual shot quality (.11 xG) of all Blue Jacket defensemen. Only Seth Jones (.16) had more.
Here’s Nutivaara’s goal:
5. Alexandre Texier | Dec. 14 at Ottawa | Game Score: 3.95
Another brutal game where perhaps an outstanding individual effort was lost. The game in Ottawa cost Columbus Sonny Milano, Josh Anderson, and Ryan Murray – all left the matchup due to injury, but Texier would not be deterred. He scored two goals off three shots on goal including a third-period equalizer that would force overtime for the depleted Blue Jackets.
Only Cam Atkinson (.56 individual expected goals) would generate more individual shot quality than Texier in the game (.30 individual expected goals).
Other top 10 performances:
6. Boone Jenner | Oct. 26 at Philadelphia | Game Score: 3.92
The game wasn’t pretty. A Blue Jackets meltdown resulted in a 7-4 loss, but Jenner had two goals, four shot attempts, and the second-best overall shot quality (.56 individual expected goals) of any skater on the ice (Flyers included).
7. Dean Kukan | Oct. 26 at Philadelphia | Game Score 3.87
Another performance to remember in a game to forget. Kukan had one assist and tied with Vladislav Gavrikov as the player who helped tilt the ice for Columbus (1.53 expected goals) more than any other.
8. Vladislav Gavrikov | Oct. 26 at Philadelphia | Game Score: 3.80
No wonder this loss hurt so much! Three top performances from…that game.
9. Oliver Bjorkstrand | Nov. 1 at St. Louis | Game Score 3.75
Bjorkstrand went 1-1-2 in a 4-3 loss on the road. He had a team-leading six shot attempts, five of which were on target. They were good shots, too; of all skaters from both teams, only Gustav Nyquist generated better shot quality than Bjorkstrand.
10. Pierre-Luc Dubois | Aug. 6 | Game Score: 3.72
Technically a play-in game, but that’s not a playoff, so this game counts. This year’s postseason was Dubois’ NHL coming-out party and this game, one that saw Dubois control play and notch a hat trick, was definitely noteworthy.
While these individual efforts were spectacular, for context the Top 10 in game performances across the League last season ranged from 7.43 (Leon Draisaitl, Mar. 2) to 6.35 (Jeff Petry, Feb. 1). And while Dubois was the only Blue Jackets skater to appear twice in the top 10 Game Scores, he ranked among the top five overall skaters in average game score for the season. Here’s a look at the rest of the Columbus leaderboard.
1. Oliver Bjorkstrand (season average game score: 1.00)
2. Pierre-Luc Dubois (season average game score: .85)
3. Zach Werenski (season average game score: .73)
4. Cam Atkinson (season average game score: .68)
5. Seth Jones (season average game score: .61)