Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: What Next?

Davis Payne might be the first unemployed NHL coach this year, but Columbus coach Scott Arniel isn’t too far behind. In fact, this might best describe his job security:

In their last make-or-break game, the Jackets let the Flyers put nine goals on them.

On Thursday night, a struggling Blackhawks team visits Columbus. Which team will find the cure for their ills?

The Jackets are 2-11-1, and their five points are (by far) the worst in the NHL.

The Blackhawks are 8-4-3, and their 19 points are good for third in the Western Conferece and first in the Central Division.

Columbus is scoring 2.21 goals per game, which is tied with Minnesota for 26th in the NHL. Chicago is scoring 2.93 goals per game, which is ninth in the league.

Columbus is allowing 3.71 goals per game, which is last in the league. Chicago is allowing 2.87 goals per game, which ranks 20th entering Thursday’s action.

In 14 games, Columbus has scored only six power play goals in 65 chances (9.2%) with a man advantage; they rank 29th in the NHL. The only team with a lower success rate? Chicago, which has only five power play goals in 57 opportunities (8.8%).

Less than two weeks after ranking first in the NHL in penalty killing, the Blackhawks now rank 21st in the league on PK after a terrible week that has included five power play goals by the Canucks. The Hawks currently have a 78.3 penalty kill percentage on the year. Columbus is killing 73.5 percent of their opponents’ power plays, which ranks 28th in the league.

Hoping Columbus’ struggles on PK will help the Hawks get off the schnide would be naive, however. Against four of the ten worst penalty killing teams in the NHL, the talented Blackhawks are 1-15 on the power play. Chicago was 0-4 against St. Louis (ranked 25th), 0-1 against Florida (ranked 24th), 0-5 against Columbus (28th), and, in two games, a combined 1-5 against Colorado (ranked 27th).

The point is, something has to give. Will Columbus come out with a better effort than they did against Philadelphia, or will their continued descent allow the Blackhawks to get back on track? We’ll see on Thursday night.

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