The Columbus Blue Jackets are in town and boyyyy are they
angry terrible dangerous a hated rival a team in the NHL. Some have called this a rivalry, but don't make that mistake. This is about as non-rivaled as a rivalry can get.
With that said, I've always kind of hated the Blue Jackets. I don't really like Ohio and I'm not terribly fond of the Civil War, to which their name gives credence. I've had less than pleasant memories with a few Blue Jacket fans. Their mascot is a red-eyed drug addict who happily consumes endangered species as a delicacy--not a very wholesome message for kids. And he probably needs to lay off the "predator puree" whatever that is. I also still resent that when they made the playoffs for the first time in 2009, the league reacted with exaggerated praise that wasn't given to the Predators in 2004.
So, please, Preds... put the Blue Jackets in their place: the basement of the NHL.
The Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets come into Nashville on a two game losing streak with an overall record of 6-13-2. Their offense is 23rd in the league at 2.43 goals per game, while their defense is dead last in the league: 3.57 goals allowed per game. Wow. If there is a formula that GMs use for building winning hockey clubs, I bet "allow 1+ more goals per game that you score" is not part of that formula.
Ryan Johansen, with 8 goals-16 assists, is the only player worth worrying about. The rest of the team is either terrible, injured, or Scott Hartnell. The "defense" does boast a quality scoring defensemen in Jack Johnson, but that's really it.
So that leaves us with Scott Hartnell, Nashville's prodigal son. You had your fun on Broad Street, Scott. Now you get to see (or maybe, remember) what it's like to be on a truly hopeless hockey team. I notice you've cut your hair... cute. You may end up doing quite well for the Blue Jackets in what is now your 14th NHL season. You may even reach the 70 pt mark for the first time ever. I just can't wait til the A20 train arrives ahead of schedule and plants you into a Dex Imaging sign. Or for Paul Gaustad to give you a nice goose-ing. Or for James Neal's hair to look better.
I know I sound bitter, and I really shouldn't. Since we have a significantly different team than we ever have had since that year, and since we now have a different Forsberg, I am feeling a bit hawkish.
And I really just don't like the Blue Jackets.
The Nashville Predators
Don't be coy. You already know about the Predators and how they are leading the Central Division and are exceeding expectations and they have a sensational rookie named Forsberg and Pekka Rinne is back and blah blah blah. But do you know about Ryan Ellis being the best possession defenseman in the league?
According to some nifty advanced stats compiled by Justin Blades at Habs Eyes On The Prize, Ryan Ellis has been consistently near the top of his possession score ranking for defensemen all year long. The ranking is simple and is explained here, but here is the gist: a player's adjusted 5v5 Corsi % is added to a Deployment Quality factor %, which combines the quality of a player's teammates, the quality of player's opponents, and zone start %. This gives us a possession score that tells us a player's ability to possess the puck even despite the odds on the ice (having a lot of defensive zone starts, playing with below average teammates, etc.) A possession score above 1.000 is average, anything above 1.200 is top notch. As of Nov 28th, Ryan Ellis stands at a 1.529, with his linemate Mattias Ekholm in 2nd place behind him at 1.490. How is that for a 3rd defensive pair?
The Human Rocketship has been playing well, but did anyone think he would be playing this well back in the summer? We weren't even sure he would be a Predator. Thank you, David Poile... with a special shout out to Rent-A-Swag, who probably helped.
It is important to point out that this is merely one method of ranking players and there are many others. Possession numbers aside, nothing will stop Shea Weber and Roman Josi from being the 1st defensive pairing. But it is impossible to ignore the depth we have at the defensive position. Swag on, Ryan. Swag on.
Reasons To Watch
If you didn't see Filip Forsberg's game-winning goal on Thanksgiving night, here you go:
Need any other reasons?
The Important Details
It's a 7 p.m. Saturday night start! FS-TN will have the televised broadcast, 102.5 The Game will have the radio broadcast.