Blue Jackets experienced NHL’s worst first week

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Give Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson credit: he didn’t go into wallflower mode during this off-season. Howson pulled out some flashy moves, but the smart money is on the Blue Jackets remaining right where they’ve been for years: out of the playoffs.

Sure, they don’t have to worry about being the last NHL team with zero standings points, but the Blue Jackets have had the worst first week of any team in the league.

Ugly early numbers

They’re tied for the league lead in games played with four, yet they’ve managed one measly point. That puts them ahead of the Calgary Flames (two games played) and Winnipeg Jets (one GP) and ties them with the Phoenix Coyotes (two GP).

Yet when you look at squandered opportunities, it’s that much clearer that Columbus is the slowest starting team in the NHL. While the Coyotes lost both of their games on the road, three of the Blue Jackets’ four games were at home. Those weren’t exactly automatic losses, either; they played two teams that missed the playoffs last season and a groggy Canucks club. (Nashville, on the other hand, is not to be trifled with.)

If you ignore his huge paychecks, it’s easy to feel bad for Rick Nash, whose five points have been squandered.

Maybe James Wisniewski will heal some of their wounds when he comes back from a suspension, but it’s still disturbing that the Blue Jackets’ power play has been such a dud. They’ve gone 0-for-20 so far this season while their penalty kill allowed four goals on 15 chances.

The bright side

Their only solace is that they’re not getting blown out; three of their four losses came by one goal and there was a shootout loss in the mix. If Columbus can get their special teams’ act together, they might actually get somewhere.

Columbus has 78 games left – and potentially 74 with Wisniewski – so there’s obviously no reason to panic. Don’t be surprised if Howson and coach Scott Arniel start to feel a little nervous if this bad first week turns into a lousy first month, though.

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Their shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche is a solid example of their good news/bad news scenario. (It’s also a stern reminder that no defense should give Matt Duchene a breakaway.)

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Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.

Video: An early taste of the Tkachuk-inspired violence in Kings vs. Flames

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BREAKING: the Los Angeles Kings really don’t appreciate Calgary Flames rookie-pest-forward Matthew Tkachuk thanks to that elbow on Drew Doughty (and the fallout from all … that).

Tkachuk responded by critiquing Doughty for “complaining to the media,” so there was testiness from the start.

There was jawing before the game. Then Jake Muzzin rebuked Tkachuk’s kind offer for a fight. Finally, Keith’s son dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb:

It wasn’t the only bout of the opening frame, and there could be more blood to come beyond this Jarome IginlaDeryk Engelland feud:

Players from both teams better keep their heads up (and on a swivel) tonight. The Flames have to hope that this doesn’t result in injuries, judging from what happened to Johnny Gaudreau.

Avalanche sign Toews-like first-rounder Tyson Jost

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Things have been pretty bleak for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but at least they can look to a high pick in the next draft … and maybe dream about how their top pick from 2016 may pan out.

The Avs signed Tyson Jost, the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. Colorado notes that he’ll jump right into some NHL action to close out this season.

It’s a nice sneak preview, as NHL insider Bob McKenzie noted on an NBCSN appearance (see above) that doing so will not burn the first year of Jost’s entry-level contract. Nice.

Even nicer? McKenzie also compares Jost favorably to … (drum-roll, though the headline spoiled it) Jonathan Toews.

Most obviously, the two both starred at the University of North Dakota. For the sake of fun, here are their numbers in their final years in the NCAA:

Jost: 16 goals, 35 points in 33 games, +17 rating (2016-17)
Toews: 18 goals, 46 points in 34 games (2006-07)

Naturally, Toews enthusiasts in particular will tell you that points aren’t everything … but maybe there are some shades of the two-way Blackhawks center there?

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy raved that Jost has “man-strength already” back around the 2016 NHL Draft, as you can see in this profile.

“Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

Hey, that does sound at least somewhat Toews-like, doesn’t it?

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In other signing news, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that the Buffalo Sabres signed UMass-Lowell’s CJ Smith. More on that below.