Columbus Blue Jackets Staring Down the Barrel: Make ’em Quack

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 2: Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates during the game against the Anaheim Ducks on March 2, 2018 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 2: Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates during the game against the Anaheim Ducks on March 2, 2018 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Columbus Blue Jackets are looking to turn it around in Anaheim after a miserable performance against the Kings.

No time for the Columbus Blue Jackets to sit and think about their terrible performance last night against the Kings. Terrible might be an understatement. The 4-1 loss was a complete embarrassment.

Tonight against the Ducks the Jackets look to salvage a California road trip that has been up and down. Ahead of the game I chatted with Ciara Durant of PucksOfAFeather.com. We had a great discussion previewing this game and she does great work so go read her genius and follower her on twitter!

Lansing Murphy (LM): Let’s hear the Josh Gibson Hart Trophy pitch!

Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus Blue Jackets /

Columbus Blue Jackets

Ciara Durant (CD): This is a very interesting question, especially considering that most of Ducks Nation are adamant that John Gibson is an early contender to win the Vezina. However, considering what the Hart Memorial Trophy represents, it would make sense that John Gibson could be honored with this prestigious award.

Statistically speaking, John Gibson is leading all NHL goaltenders by leaps and bounds. He leads in goals saved and goals saved above average. If you also take into account the number of games he has played so far this season as compared to the other goaltenders leading the league in save percentage, it could easily be argued that his .938% save percentage is the most impressive. All the while, he is leading the league in shots against because his team is spending most of the game in their own zone.

The Anaheim Ducks are constantly being outshot by their opponent. In their first fourteen games, they were outshot by 182 shots on goal. Of course, this includes four outstanding performances from our back up goaltender, Ryan Miller. However, with even average goaltending, the Anaheim Ducks should not only be at the bottom of the Pacific Division but also near the bottom of the entire league. Nevertheless, they sit at 5th and 20th respectively.

Facing over 30, and in some cases, 40, shots on goal per game and only letting 24 in over the course of 14 games is, in my biased opinion, an impressive feat. The group of forwards John Gibson has before him no longer seems to know how to control a puck. They rely heavily on dump and chase, which in this league, it doesn’t work anymore. The Ducks defensive core is a mess; lacking both chemistry and consistency. The team has essentially forgotten how to do their job.

I have high hopes that the Anaheim Ducks will figure things out. They always do. Us fans haven’t dubbed them the comeback kids for nothing. Nevertheless, the only reason they have a 5-6-3 record is because of John Gibson. I hate to be a negative nelly, but the Ducks had no business winning any of the games they have so far this season. They have relied heavily on stellar goaltending. John Gibson has lived up to the task and he does it with poise and integrity.

He is a leader, and although he is not in an assigned leadership role, he is the only person on his team that has stepped up to the task like he should be doing. He has shown patience in the midst of his team’s struggles. Gibson refuses to be a stagnant player, always striving to do better than the previous game. I admire him, and I would even if he wasn’t a part of the Anaheim Ducks organization. If his performance thus far does not prove that he is the player who has been most valuable to his team, I don’t know what he does.

LM: Can you catch us up on how Central Ohio native Kiefer Sherwood’s season is going so far?

CD: Undrafted, Kiefer Sherwood basically came out of nowhere and caught a lot of us by surprise. He has been one of the most consistent rookies for the Anaheim Ducks this season. Sherwood has one of the highest CF% and FF% on the team, sitting in second behind Andy Welinski. Welinski, however, has only played 3 games with the team so far this year. Sherwood, on the other hand, has played 13.

At the beginning of the season, he was a little timid. However, he’s grown into his role and has become an offensive dynamo for the team. He is fast, has great playmaking ability, and a high hock IQ. When Sherwood is on the ice, the team has better luck with puck control, which is something they’ve been struggling with significantly this season. He is also second on the team in faceoff wins.

He was recently sent down to the AHL, which is understandable seeing as how there are so many Ducks returning to the line up from injury. Nevertheless, it was just a few days later where he was recalled by the Ducks. The team sees the value he brings to the ice and he has become a solid third or fourth line player. He’s young, at only 23, so he still has plenty of time to develop his skills. Why he went undrafted is beyond me.

The Ducks found a diamond in the rough when they signed Sherwood last year. He is one of my favorite rookies to watch on the ice. His energy is electric and I feel confident in his abilities. I applaud you Ohio; you’ve produced a very talented young hockey player.

LM: Where do the Ducks have the biggest matchup advantage over the Columbus Blue Jackets?

CD: That is plain and simple. Goaltending; mainly John Gibson. The Blue Jackets have great goal scorers, playmakers, and their defense looks decent. Due to their talented group of forwards and defensemen, they’ve been thriving in the “W” column so far this season. They are evenly matched, if not way better off, in those areas than the Ducks.

However, the one area the Blue Jackets have been struggling in is with their goaltending. Both goaltenders have a combined average save percentage of .893. The Anaheim Ducks goaltending tandem has a combined save percentage of .936.  It’s not that the Blue Jackets goaltending is bad, it’s just that the Anaheim Ducks goaltending is better.

The Blue Jackets, however, don’t have to rely on their goaltenders as much as the Anaheim Ducks have had to lately. They are able to control the puck and stay out of their own zone a lot more. So, if the Ducks have any match up advantage over Columbus it is John Gibson. If Anaheim, for some unforeseen reason, decides to bench Gibson again, the Ducks are in capable hands with Ryan Miller as well.

LM: How do you see tonights game playing out?

CD: I feel like I may catch a lot of flack for this, so I must insert a disclaimer before I explain why I think the Anaheim Ducks will struggle to find a win today. I love the Anaheim Ducks, and win or lose, I will be a die-hard fan for as long as I live. Nevertheless, their performance as of late has left much to be desired.

They have struggled to produce points, control the puck, and although there were claims that a new system was being instituted, we are still seeing the same old dump and chase we’ve seen in years past. Just because it’s faster, doesn’t mean it’s different. If the Anaheim Ducks win tonight, and that is a big if, it will be because of their goaltending. The Ducks can score goals, just not as much as we’d like to see, but they can do it. If John Gibson can deny the Blue Jackets and the Ducks can score a few goals, they can win.

However, Columbus has a solid group of forwards who know how to sink the puck into the back of the net. They are smooth on the ice, controlling the puck and connecting passes. The Ducks definitely played better than I’ve seen them most of the season against the Rangers on Thursday night. This was after the team had an hour-long meeting earlier in the week after their loss to Philadelphia. Nevertheless, I think the Ducks need a few more games before they get everything together.

Bjork Needs to be Better. dark. Next

I want the Anaheim Ducks to win, but the reality is, they probably won’t. If they do, I guess I must ask the good lord to make my words as sweet as honey ahead of time because tomorrow, I may have to eat them.