Five Thoughts: Top Line Dominant, but Unable to Carry Rest of Team in Home Loss to Devils

By Dan Dukart on December 5, 2017 at 11:51 pm
Artemi Panarin tries to get by a member of the New Jersey Devils

Russell LaBounty – USA TODAY Sports

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The Columbus Blue Jackets lost for a second consecutive game, falling 4-1 at home to the New Jersey Devils.

With first place in the Metropolitan Division on the line, the Devils were the more desperate team. The Jackets, despite out-shooting the Devils, never took control of a game that was wide open for the taking. The loss ended their five-game home winning streak. 

Here are five takeaways from a humbling divisional loss to the Devils.


BRILLIANT GOALTENDING

Though Sergei Bobrovsky gave up four goals, he made several amazing saves to keep the game close, especially early on. He deserved a better fate. After bailing out the team so many times, it would be nice to have the favor returned every now and again, and tonight is a perfect example of a missed opportunity.

On the other hand, Cory Schneider played fantastic and registered his 100th win as a member of the Devils. Schneider turned away 41 of 42 shots, and was only beaten on an in-tight deflection from Nick Foligno. 

TOP LINES DOMINATE

Stop me if you've heard this before. The 'French Bread' line of Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Josh Anderson was excellent again for the Blue Jackets, as each player recorded a 65% or higher CF%. Sure, it didn't translate to any goals tonight, but they were unquestionably the best line for the club tonight.

Quick note: Panarin himself drew three penalties, which would be amazing for any of the other 31 teams who actually score power play goals on a semi-regular basis.

Each player on the Devils' top line of Nico Hischier, Taylor Hall, and Jesper Bratt tallied two points and their speed was evident all night. None of these players have been on the Devils for more than a year, explaining why they've taken the league by storm.

BOTTOM PAIRS STRUGGLE

Boy, do the Blue Jackets miss Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara. The pairing has assumed the second pairing role at times, but with both of them out of the lineup due to injury, the club relied on last year's second pairing of David Savard and Jack Johnson.

They were thoroughly outplayed all game, and by virtually every metric. The Devils' speed simply overwhelmed the veteran pair, and they were on the ice for three of the four goals against. 

Similarly, the pairing of Scott Harrington and Gabriel Carlsson was anything but impressive. In just under 10 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey, the pairing was a 33.33% CF% and 28%, respectively. 

VETS WANTED

John Tortorella said on Monday that Pierre-Luc Dubois being the top line center wasn't intended to be a 'message' to his team, but that it may have become one anymore. Clearly, Tortorella wants more from his vets, and the laundry list is long.

Boone Jenner was demoted to the fourth line, Cam Atkinson has just two goals in his past 14 games (both in the same game) and has been a ghost. Brandon Dubinsky, along Savard and Johnson could probably be included, too.  

Simply put, this team needs more from its veteran players. Losing to a young and fast Devils team illuminated this even more.

TOP PAIRING: GOOD!

The top pairing of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski seem to get better every game, if it's even possible.

The 20-year-old Werenski recorded a career-high 10 (!!) shots on goal and took over shifts in a manner that is rarely seen by defensemen. This isn't the place for hyperbole, but he really reminded me of Erik Karlsson the way he was the team's engine all night.

Meanwhile, Seth Jones had a ho-hum night, playing a game-high 27:29, adding four shots of his own, and an assist on the team's only goal.

For the analytics crowd: the pairing led the game in CF%, with Werenski registering a 70.83 (!) CF% (34 of 48) and Jones recording an absurd 73.33 (33 of 45) at 5-on-5. The loss stings, but knowing that this team should have these two in the fold for the long-term is just incredible.

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