Emil Bemstrom

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Mixed Blue Jackets injury news for NHL Playoffs: Jones in, Anderson out

With a Qualifying Round best-of-five looming against the Maple Leafs, the Blue Jackets got mostly positive injury news lately. Seth Jones highlights the good injury news, while Josh Anderson is the most significant letdown.

Jones headlines good injury news for Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets activated Jones and fellow defenseman Dean Kukan off of IR on Thursday.

This capture the bigger picture: that the Blue Jackets should have quite a few key players back if that Qualifying Round series happens against Toronto. Jones joined Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and basically the kitchen sink on the injured list this season.

Jones, 25, scored six goals and 30 points in 56 games before injuries derailed his season.

By certain measures, Jones might not be quite the Norris Trophy-level defenseman many believe. His possession numbers are closer to solid than dominant, although some of that might boil down to playing more than 25 minutes per night.

Wherever Jones ranks in the stratosphere, he’s important to the Blue Jackets. So is Bjorkstrand and Atkinson, as this Evolving Hockey GAR Chart reinforces:

Blue Jackets injury news GAR
via Evolving Hockey

[MORE: Previewing Blue Jackets – Maple Leafs and other East Qualifying Round series]

Players Blue Jackets might not have in the lineup

You may look at that chart above and believe that Anderson isn’t much of a loss. In the framework of the 2019-20 season alone, that’s probably fair.

In the grand scheme of things, it likely is not fair, though. He’s been a useful player for Columbus for some time now. Anderson also boasts the sort of size and physical play that can make him difficult to handle in a playoff format. He was a handful at times for the Lightning during that shocking sweep during the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports that Anderson is unlikely to be available until at least September (sub required).

That’s a big blow, although it does leave the door open for a return during the postseason — if the Blue Jackets made an even better underdog run than in 2018-19.

A lack of Anderson hurts because, frankly, the Blue Jackets figure to struggle to score — even while healthier. With expanded rosters in mind, look at Portzline’s guesses for the forwards Columbus will have on hand:

Cam Atkinson, Emil Bemstrom, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nick Foligno, Liam Foudy, Nathan Gerbe, Boone Jenner, Jakob Lilja, Ryan MacInnis, Stefan Matteau, Riley Nash, Gustav Nyquist, Eric Robinson, Devin Shore, Kevin Stenlund, Alexandre Texier, Alexander Wennberg.

When you stack that group up against the firepower Toronto boasts in Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander, and others, you can see why every Anderson-type helps.

Out of context, the eighth-ranked Maple Leafs probably shouldn’t be big favorites against the Blue Jackets.

Look at the difference in firepower, then consider very different levels of media focus. Put that together, and Columbus is likely to be framed as heavy underdogs.

That’s just the way John Tortorella & Co. like it. With Jones looking good to go, they might just have a shot at making a run.

MORE ON THE BLUE JACKETS:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blue Jackets rally for potential season saving win

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Thanks to an offensive outburst in the final seven minutes of regulation on Sunday night, the Columbus Blue Jackets were able to pick up a massive win against the Vancouver Canucks that they absolutely needed to have.

Columbus scored four goals in the final seven minutes of regulation to erase a two-goal deficit and storm back for a 5-3 win.

Zach Werenski scored his 20th goal of the season to tie the game with less than five minutes to play in regulation, while Emil Bemstrom scored the game-winner just three minutes later. Gustav Nyquist added an empty-net goal with 10 seconds to play.

It may not be much of a stretch to say the could be a season saving victory in Columbus.

Even though Columbus entered the game in a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference (and improved that standing with Sunday’s win) they had a couple of hurdles standing in their way.

For one, they had been mired in a massive slump that had seen them lose 10 out of 11 games.

They are also about to face an absolute gauntlet of a schedule that will see them play their next seven games against Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Boston, Washington and Toronto. Every one of those teams currently occupies a playoff spot.

But perhaps their biggest issue is the fact every team they are in competition with for a playoff spot has two or three games in hand on them.

That matters quite a bit, and when you dig into the projected point paces and possible points that are still remaining the Blue Jackets were starting to get themselves in trouble.

Just look at the current Metropolitan Division/Wild Card standings for the teams after Washington (The Capitals still hold the top spot in the Metropolitan Division) as of Sunday night.

The Blue Jackets are clinging to one of those wild card spots based on current points, but with only 15 games remaining there are only so many points left for them to collect. Based on their current pace and the games they still have remaining, the Carolina Hurricanes (currently outside the playoff picture based on total points) are still on pace to finish with more points than Columbus this season.

Now, these are just projects and current paces and games in hand do not necessarily mean “wins” in hand. A lot can still happen when the games actually get played. But it does at least give a sense of how big of a swing Columbus’ win on Sunday was and how much work still needs to be done to get one of those spots. A loss on Sunday would have put them at a 92-93 point pace.

No matter what happens this has been an incredible effort by the Blue Jackets this season given all of the free agency departures over the summer and the absurd injury list they have dealt with all season (and are still dealing with now).

As for the Canucks, this one has to hurt. This looked to be a game they had completely wrapped up and it all disappeared in a matter of minutes. For the time being they fall out of the top-three in the Pacific Division but still hold one of the Wild Card spots. They still have games in hand on a lot of the teams around them, but the current injury situation that has them without Brock Boeser and starting goalie Jacob Markstrom is going to make things a little uncomfortable down the stretch.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Bemstrom, Foligno power Blue Jackets past Senators

Nick Foligno #71 of the Columbus Blue Jackets, right, and Boone Jenner #38 of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrate Foligno's second period goal against the Ottawa Senators
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Three Stars

1) Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets

John Tortorella has long advocated for teams to not have games on the same day as the NHL Trade Deadline. Coincidentally, the Columbus Blue Jackets won the only game scheduled, defeating the Ottawa Senators in overtime, 4-3. Foligno opened the scoring when he slid a puck past Marcus Hogberg. He later knotted the game at 2-2 with a redirection 12:32 into the middle frame.

2) Emil Bemstrom, Columbus Blue Jackets

Right place, right time. Zach Werenski’s shot created a juicy rebound and Bemstrom was in the right place to put home the game-winning goal. Boone Jenner picked up his second assist of the night and the Blue Jackets moved into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with the victory.

3) Connor Brown, Ottawa Senators

The human element in sports is often overlooked but the Ottawa Senators put together an admirable performance after seeing several significant pieces dealt earlier in the day. Brown led the way with two goals before the Senators ultimately came up short in overtime. Chris Tierney made a no-look backhand pass from behind the cage to set up Brown 10:48 into the first period. Brown would later add a power-play goal in the middle frame to give the Senators a 2-1 lead.

Highlight of the Night

Tierney showed off spectacular vision when this no-look pass made it to Brown.

Stat of the Night

Scores

Columbus Blue Jackets 4, Ottawa Senators 3 (OT)


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

NHL on NBC: Bruins want to be more than ‘teddy bears’ vs. Penguins

NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Considering the Bruins’ comfortable lead atop the Atlantic Division, most teams would gladly take on Boston’s “problems.”

Still, for the Bruins — and few other teams, but yes, also the Penguins, their opponents on Sunday afternoon — it’s about more than division titles. After falling a Game 7 shy of winning the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, this group boasts lofty aspirations.

The Bruins aim to fine-tune during this stretch of the 2019-20 season, and to some, that means reestablishing their identity.

Bruins try to shed ‘Teddy Bears’ criticism

The B’s didn’t just lose Tuukka Rask to an injury on Tuesday when Emil Bemstrom delivered an errant elbow during Columbus’ 3-0 win. Their perceived lack of a response meant that some lost respect for this group.

NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty went as far as to call the Bruins “teddy bears.”

The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa also opined (sub required) that “The Big, Bad Bruins are dead.”

Bruins players seemed to get the memo in beating the Penguins 4-1 on Thursday. Haggerty and others praised the team’s physical response, including a rare Torey Krug fight against Patric Hornqvist.

“It’s not about going out there and trying to run them out of the rink. Looking at our roster, we don’t have that kind of group anymore,” Krug said after that win, via Haggerty. “But we talked about sticking together and competing harder and sacrificing a little more. That doesn’t mean putting a guy through the glass, but it means going into the corner and having the willingness to get hit, or to hit somebody else, in order to come out of there with the puck. I think that desperation was lost there for a few games, so hopefully this is a step in the right direction and we can kind of grasp that concept again. It’s been part of our DNA for years, so as long as we can get back to that [we’ll be good].”

Some lingering questions for Bruins

Again, you could argue there’s some mild soul-searching going on for Boston.

Blame it on a drop in physicality, or perhaps some other factors, but I’d personally be a little more concerned about dipping underlying numbers.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET ON NBC]

Looking at sites like Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Reference, there’s been a dip in key categories. They’ve hogged the puck less often, and have been on the wrong end of high-danger chances (owning just 45.6 percent of that category, via Hockey Reference).

These numbers shouldn’t make anyone pull a fire alarm. It’s not that the Bruins have been terrible. Instead, there are some red flags that the Bruins should improve their play. Sean Tierney (Charting Hockey)’s expected goals share chart captures the sometimes middle-of-the-pack feel to the Bruins’ stats:

Bruins xg

Would the Bruins dominate the puck if they add more edge? Maybe, but either way, there are signs that the B’s have room to improve.

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will have the call of the Bruins-Penguins matchup on NBC from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Perreault sounds off on NHL Player Safety after Virtanen hit

Perreault Player Safety criticism Rask Kassian Tkachuk
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Jets forward Mathieu Perreault went on a profane tirade about Canucks winger Jake Virtanen avoiding supplemental discipline for an errant elbow. Perreault blasted the NHL’s Department of Player Safety in detailed and colorful ways, and it’s “get your popcorn” territory.

“Player safety, my a–,” Perreault said to various media members, including Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun.

“This is literally an elbow to the face of a guy that didn’t have the puck. I can’t really protect myself if the league’s not going to protect me. I’m the smallest guy in the ice so I can’t really fight anybody. The only thing I can do to defend myself is use my stick so the next guy that does that to me is gonna get my f—ing stick. And I better not get suspended for it.”

Check out footage of the hit in question:

Perreault isn’t the only one blasting Player Safety

Perreault fumed after the Tuesday game (a 4-0 win for the Jets) and that feeling clearly didn’t subside much with time. It sure seems like the grumbling has been building lately about what draws supplemental discipline, and what does not.

It doesn’t sound like anything is coming down the pike for Emil Bemstrom of the Blue Jackets, who concussed Bruins Tuukka Rask on Tuesday:

Perreault’s warning about swinging around his blankety blanking stick also isn’t the only recent version of a player saying “Well, if they can get away with, I guess I can too.” Ponder Zack Kassian‘s quotes about Matthew Tkachuk avoiding a suspension for controversial hits, and feel free to use ominous background music:

“For sure they are going to watch the game, but I think I can do what Matthew Tkachuk did if the league is saying it is clean,” Kassian said, via Jason Gregor’s transcription. “I can do exactly that. I didn’t think you were allowed to, but after speaking with George apparently you are allowed. That is fine. That is great news. I’m a big guy who can skate and I can do that kind of stuff.”

That big gulp you heard might have been from George Parros, who could have a mess on his hands when the Flames face the Oilers again. Or any time Perreault feels like he must defend himself with his (bad word[s]) stick.

While Perreault stews about this personal grievance, the Jets need him to stay cool. With Carl Dahlstrom the latest defenseman out with a significant injury, Winnipeg cannot afford to take bad penalties. Even if Perreault deploys the same great vengeance and furious anger, righteous or not.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.