Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara’s solid play have been vital to the Columbus Blue Jacket’s first half success.
The Columbus Blue Jackets first half has undoubtedly been a success. The team is on pace for 102 points and a playoff spot. Sure, there are some things that could be better but it’s been a great 41 games for the team.
The blue line has a been a big factor in that success. Sergei Bobrovsky hasn’t been bad, but he certainly hasn’t been his typical Vezina caliber self. The Jackets defense is still doing enough to give the team a fighting chance every night and the rebirth of Ryan Murray’s career is a huge part of that success. As is the ever versatile Markus Nutivaara who has played alongside every defenseman except for Seth Jones on the roster so far this year.
The two have done a remarkable job not taking penalties in the first half of the year. Among defenseman who have played in all of their team’s games this year, Nutivaara and his six PIM are the third lowest in the league and Murray and his eight PIMs are fourth lowest. That is quite an achievement especially when you consider that Ryan Murray is playing on the top pair with Seth Jones and faces the best forwards in the league night in and night out.
It’s beyond obvious that not being on the penalty kill is ideal. While the Jackets are league average when it comes to killing penalties, keeping five guys on the ice is the way to go and the duo of Murray and Nutivaara have done their part to ensure that the Jackets stay at full strength.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Murray’s first penalty of the year came on November 1st with only 23 seconds left against San Jose on the road. The Jackets were up 3-1 and trying to kill off the final minute of a 6v5 situation. The hooking penalty never hurt the Jackets though as Josh Anderson potted an empty net winner a few seconds later. Two of Murray’s other penalties include holds against Calgary and Los Angeles that didn’t lead to a goal. His most recent penalty came on December 22nd against the Flyers. His cross check did lead to a Flyers goal but the Jackets prevailed 4-3.
Nutivaara went 22 games without a penalty. His first infraction came against the Islanders on December 1st. None of Nuti’s three penalties have resulted in a power play goal.
Both players have been shuffled around the lineup because of their versatility and reliability. While coach John Tortorella worked on kickstarting Zach Werenski‘s 200 foot game (which appears to have started just fine) Murray and Nuti had to be flexible yet maintain their defensive mindset with many different partners and they have done so magnificently.
Although it isn’t the flashiest story, the play of these two defenseman has been vital to the Columbus Blue Jackets success in the first half of the season.