Strictly from a points per game angle, Tuesday's match-up between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings is one between the two worst teams in the Central Division.
|DETROIT RED WINGS|
7–14–3 (17 points)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7 P.M. – TUESDAY, MAR. 2
FOX SPORTS OHIO
FOX SPORTS GO
But as a limited number of fans make their way back to Nationwide Arena for a hockey game for the first time in one year and one day, there is a fact that can't be denied: the Blue Jackets are the better team -- or at least they should be.
They've got highly-skilled defenders like Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, world-class scorers like Patrik Laine and Patrik Laine: Power Play Edition. Cam Atkinson and Oliver Bjorkstrand aren't bad, either.
Detroit, meanwhile, is lead by the likes of Bobby Ryan, Dylan Larkin, and Anthony Mantha, Not a bad forward trio, but not even close to the Blue Jackets (potential) ability. Filip Hronek leads the blue line for the Red Wings; a far cry from Columbus' supposed lockdown line of Jones and Werenski.
The numbers don't lie, though. While Columbus is scoring at a little more than a half goal per game better than the Red Wings are, the goals allowed is an entirely different story. In fact, Detroit's 3.25 goals against per game is better than Columbus, no matter how you count the goals: the Blue Jackets are allowing 3.26 goals per game in regulation and overtime, or 3.35 per game if the shootout score is counted.
Columbus will hope to not only limit Detroit's 30th-of-31 ranked offense to their average of just over two goals per game, but will also seek to score more than two for the first time in three games. If they can do that, it will be the end of a five game losing streak, and two points for a Blue Jackets team that desperately needs them.
Here's a look at tonight's projected lines for Columbus:
Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines
|29||Patrik Laine||71||Nick Foligno||28||Oliver Bjorkstrand|
|38||Boone Jenner||96||Jack Roslovic||13||Cam Atkinson|
|50||Eric Robinson||42||Alexandre Texier||52||Emil Bemstrom|
|16||Max Domi||11||Kevin Stenlund||20||Riley Nash|
*lines are subject to change
|8||Zach Werenski||3||Seth Jones|
|44||Vladislav Gavrikov||58||David Savard|
|53||Gabriel Carlsson||15||Michael Del Zotto|
|70||Joonas Korpisalo||35||Veini Vehvilainen|
- SCORE GOALS AND SHOOT THE PUCK: What a concept, right? The Columbus Blue Jackets have just two goals over the last 180 minutes of hockey, and went scoreless in eight power play opportunities during those three games. As Mattias Ekholm of the Nashville Predators showed over the weekend, sometimes just shooting the puck does the trick: he scored his first two goals of the season in Saturday's 2-1 win over Columbus, with both goals coming from near the blue line. Columbus ranks 25th in shots per game. Don't be so tentative; shoot the puck!
- BUT ALSO, DON'T ALLOW SO MANY SHOTS: Ranking 25th in shots per game is fine if it's balanced by a defense that limits scoring opportunities, but at 32 shots allowed per game, the Blue Jackets also are 25th in shots allowed this season. The defense has been rocky, at best, and trouble with both clearing the puck and not giving the puck away have doomed Columbus all season long. Shots and shots allowed aren't the end-all, be-all, but they sure do help.
- WELCOME BACK, 5TH LINE: Just under 2,000 fans will be in attendance Tuesday, the first time in the Blue Jackets 20th season that they'll play a home game with the 5th Line in the building to support them. The television spots say the team misses its fans; let's see what welcoming gift the team can give them.