Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Matt Calvert (11) celebrates with Cam Atkinson (13) after Calvert scored against the Nashville Predators in the third period of an NHL hockey game on Thursday, April 4, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. The Blue Jackets won 3-1. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Much has been made of Matt Calvert’s relentless play since returning to the lineup after a six-week absence. After all, the undersized winger from Brandon, MB put up goals in three consecutive games on an energized line with Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson. This morning, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch posted a piece about Calvert’s valuable feistiness, in which head Coach Todd Richards says of him: “He just doesn’t ever back down from anything. He’s got enough skill to finish and make plays, but he lays it on the line pretty much every shift.”

He isn’t big. He isn’t showy. He hides just below the radar in a place where his forecheck attack is completely unexpected. Opponents aren’t prepared for The Little Guy Who Could. He is unafraid to compete to the fullest.

But is there statistical evidence to believe in The Calvert Effect, or is it something we’ve all excitedly imagined?

Calvert is a +5 this season in the fourteen games in which he has suited up in the Jackets (including +4 on the road), which is good for best on the team. He’s been on the ice for twelve goals for, but only on the ice for seven against. That boils down to once every other game that he’s on the ice for an even-strength goal against. To compare, the top three in the goals-against category are Jack Johnson (1.303 GA/G, -12), Fedor Tyutin (1.1 GA/G, -6), and Artem Anisimov (0.939 GA/G, -6). Of course, Johnson, Tyutin, and Anisimov have played a lot more games, but Calvert’s ATOI is in the same neighborhood as Anisimov’s, and special teams don’t count.

Plus/minus gets a lot of grief for being subjective and/or useless – but when broken down into granular detail it can tell a remarkably important story. To simplify a lot of boring numbers: Matt Calvert is defensively responsible and less likely to be a liability for the hockey club.

Why is this important?

When Matt Calvert was out of the lineup – 19 grueling games in which the Blue Jackets went 6-10-3 – their goal differential was a scalding, ugly -14. With Calvert in the lineup, the Blue Jackets are 8-5-1, and have a positive goal differential (+7). Of course Calvert chips in for goals – that is part of his job, of course – but his entire team is better when he is around.

Realistically speaking, no, Calvert does not elevate his team to greatness the way a Crosby does. He doesn’t contribute oodles of goals to set off that differential and he probably never will (he will likely max out as a 20-goal scorer, but that ain’t too shabby, either). He is doing the simpler, smaller things with contagious energy and enthusiasm that are part of the complete game that make him invaluable to his team.

Statistical odds and ends, courtesy of the NHL.com Event Summary for the 10/7/11 game:

  • Marc Methot had only 15:33 TOI, the least of the entire D corps, though he was far from the worst. His last shift was with four minutes left in the third. Likely because they were looking for an offensive push on the blue line in the waning minutes, but never the less bizarre. He drew a minute and a half less PK time than Martinek & Tyutin, also.
  • Sometimes the numbers do lie (despite Mike Commodore’s insistence that his -8 last season was the statisticians’ fault): Cam Atkinson was a -2 on the night, the worst on the team (his linemates were -1 each), but otherwise, Atkinson did not have a bad night. He wasn’t a force to be reckoned with, but he had a few great  opportunities dissolved by Pekka Rinne.
  • Let’s talk about Jeff Carter on the face off dot. 24-7? That is more than half of the team’s combined 42 wins on the draw. He looked a little lost at times (we’re not in Philadelphia anymore, Toto), but a 0-2-2, 6 SOG, +1, 77% face off percentage earned last night’s paycheck for Goldilocks.
  • Hit me with your best shot: Without a whole lot of bumping & bruising, the Jackets still took the line on hits, 23-10. Dorsett had 4; Russell, MacKenzie, and Pahlsson each had 3. No word on if Russell’s check on Rick Nash counted toward that number.
  • Give it away, now: Clitsome (3), Atkinson (2), & Russell (2), cost the team, contributing to the ugly 11 team turnovers.
  • TOI leader: Clitsome, 24:29
  • TOI loser: Calvert, 8:55

Photo by Dannielle Browne

For the first time in what feels like eons, the Blue Jackets did what seemed improbable. In fact, they did several things that have otherwise eluded them lately: scored multiple times at home, won at home, and won in the shootout. After losing six straight shootouts, a collective breath of relief was released after Maksim Mayorov sealed the victory in the fifth frame of action.

Scottie Upshall got the scoring started in the first when Derek Dorsett and their buzzing third line were able to rush the puck into the zone. Upshall lifted the puck in the high corner and off the crossbar and in. In the second, an ill-timed penalty by Marc Methot led to a Florida power play and ultimately a goal when the defense let David Booth camp in front. The goal tied it at one and effectively deflated both the team and the crowd. The Jackets were sloppy, but hung in there and managed to not lose track of the game despite their inability to make clean, directed passes.

With just over a minute left in the second, the puck was bouncing around in front of Clemmensen and nearly lost to the Panthers, but Matt Calvert’s persistence (is anybody surprised?) was able to keep the puck in front where RJ Umberger and Antoine Vermette were pinballing it around before finally netting it. 2-1 Jackets, end of two. In the third, Evgeny Dadonov was able to chase Craig Rivet away from the goal, while Ryan Carter shoved Kris Russell down and took him out of the play (in the crease, no less), so that Dadonov was able to wrap around and beat Steve Mason.

To overtime this game would go and not much materialized – the shots were 3-1 in favor of Columbus – so to the shootout it went. Oh here we go again, right? Wrong. Mason, who had been solid most of the evening, turned away all three Florida shots. The Jackets sent Nash, Mayorov, and Calvert out, and with Mayorov getting the game-winning shootout goal.

Scoring:
1 — CBJ — Upshall 21 (Dorsett, Pahlsson), 7:06
2 — FLA — Booth 22 (Samsonov, Santorelli), 3:41 (PP)
2 — CBJ — Vermette 18 (Umberger, Calvert), 18:58
3 — FLA — Dadonov 8 (Garrison, Bernier), 7:31

Shootout:
CBJ — 1/3 (Mayorov)
FLA — 0/3

Goalies:
CBJ — Mason (W), 29/31
FLA — Clemmensen (L), 30/32

AP Photo

On a night when the Jackets were ten minutes late to their own party, Matt Calvert stole the show. The game started as oh-so-many this year, down in an 0-2 hole just eight minutes into the game after a couple of unfortunate, ugly goals. But RJ Umberger’s 20th goal got them on the board and Jakub Voracek’s twelfth tied it up at two late in the first.

It would be a brand new game when the puck dropped for the second period. And that’s when Calvert took over. His first, a power play goal, came when Kris Russell circled the net with the puck and tossed it to him in the right circle. Calvert moved in and popped a shot over the shoulder of Ilya Bryzgalov. Six minutes later, Calvert batted the puck out of the air and past Bryzgalov to give the Jackets a 4-2 lead.

Onto the third period, he would waste no time getting that third goal. He batted his own rebound into the net to give the Jackets their fifth goal. It was a natural hat trick for the kid with perhaps the most natural, gritty talent. They barely flinched when Phoenix got another goal late. By then, Steve Mason had turned away 25 shots en route to his 22nd win of the season, already two more than he had last season.

Calvert notched his 7th, 8th, and 9th goals and now has 13 points in just 20 games in the NHL. Umberger’s goal and two assists bring him to 46 on the year, and Derek MacKenzie had another big game on a line with Umberger and Calvert, adding two assists to his total. With Huselius and Brassard out, the juxtaposed second line is a veteran in Umberger, a journeyman bubble-guy in MacKenzie, and a rookie who obviously loves what he’s doing in Calvert. It’s not an accident that they combined for four goals and five assists last night. They’ve got something going right: their ability to battle for pucks that is sometimes lacking up top.

Where we stand: 31-23-6 (68pts), 12th place, -2 8th place Chicago
What’s next: Sunday at Nashville, 3pm

Notes: At the noon today, the Jackets picked up former Sabres captain Craig Rivet, who will wear #52. Rivet, a defenseman, has 236 points in 909 career games … Calvert was named one of the NHL’s Three Stars for his effort last night. He was only the second rookie in franchise history to net a hat trick, the other being Nikita Filatov in 2009 … “Matt Calvert” was briefly trending worldwide on Twitter during the game.

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty

Let’s talk about that win over Chicago.

First of all, let’s reiterate, it was a win over Chicago. Those always feel good, even if the teams are in a virtual tie this season and it wasn’t last year’s Stanley Cup monster. Patrick Sharp scored two goals, giving him seven for the year against the Union Blue. And the Blackhawks still lost. This is so very satisfying.

Even Anton Stralman scored a goal! Wait, what? That promised “offensive defenseman” who threatened arbitration because he thought he was worth so much money and has gone on to score exactly zero goals this season and has instead been a defensive liability? Oh yes, him! He finally scored a goal! The game-winning goal, to be specific. So props to him, at least for that.

For the 2,312,857th time: how good is Matt Calvert? Oh-so-very good. Can he be cloned? The kid has hustle and determination, and he doesn’t really care if you want to take a piggyback ride on him through two zones, he’s going to go ahead and score on your goalie anyway.

And props to Kris Russell, who saved Steve Mason‘s rear end big time tonight by whisking away what could have been a game-crushing goal for Chicago.

Instead of studs and duds, let’s just go ahead and give everybody a group butt-pat and enjoy the taste of those lovely two points. Sit the playoff discussion aside for an evening, stop the scoreboard watching, let’s just enjoy the way this team is playing right now. It feels good.

In case you missed it: Rookie John Moore played in Chicago as Marc Methot was out with an injury … Derek Dorsett was IRed to make room for him, but Moore was reassigned after the game … Derek Brassard is currently on the IR with a hand injury … Ethan Moreau (remember him?) was reactivated and played last night … the Jackets set a franchise record with their sixth straight road victory and have points in their last eight road games (courtesy of the Dispatch).

Where we stand: 29-23-6 (64 points), -4 8th place Anaheim
What’s next: Tuesday vs Nashville, 7pm, huge four-pointer

Photo: AP Photo/LM Otero

It was not Fedor Tyutin’s day, but luckily for the Columbus Blue Jackets, it was Steve Mason’s. Tyutin took three penalties in the game, the first of which turned into a Brad Richards goal from the corner. Luckily for the Jackets, Matt Calvert popped a Kari Lehtonen rebound right past him and into a wide-open net. Calvert looked good in his spot duty on the second line during Kristian Huselius’ temporary demotion, but since returning to the fourth line has elevated the play of the trio with Derek MacKenzie and Jared Boll.

The game would move into the second period in a 1-1 tie until Rick Nash did his Tricky Ricky thing and deked Lehtonen into sprawling across the crease so he could roof it. 2-1 Jackets, and that’s where the score would stay. Lehtonen was very good in the game, turning away 37 of 39 shots, but Steve Mason stood tall and turned away 29 of 30 at the other end. Mason has been very good lately, winning four of his last five starts, 7-3-1 in his last 11, allowing three goals or less in all but two of those.

And how about Anton Stralman? Since John Moore was up to fill the spot vacated by Rusty Klesla and his ailing knee, Stralman has elevated his play to a whole new level. He’s been solid, both on offense and defense, and helped set up Calvert’s goal early in the game. Hopefully as Moore returns to Springfield and Klesla becomes healthy, Stralman’s game remains solid.

Today’s Stud: Steve Mason (29/30, .967)
Today’s Dud: Fedor Tyutin (6PIM). Luckily for him, the PK was 5 of 6.

Where we stand: 28-23-5, 61 points, -4 from 8th place Minnesota
What’s next: Wednesday vs. Kings, 7pm

 

(Photo: Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

It started off ugly, and much like many nights the Columbus Blue Jackets have seen this year: lazy defensive plays, penalty trouble, screened shots, and a 2-0 opponent lead before the first period had even settled down. RJ Umberger ignited some life into the team late in the first when some criss-crossing plays with Derek Dorsett cut the deficit in half. It would be just the beginning of what would turn out to be one of Umberger’s career nights with the Blue Jackets.

Kristian Huselius, who one night before in Detroit had become the most recent victim of Arniel’s doghouse, returned in place of Chris Clark. Combined with Umberger, the two were responsible for all four goals and creating opportunities that prior to his benching, Huselius was not finding. The game was tied at two in the second period when Umberger and Huselius connected in front of the net, drawing Khabibulin aside to allow Huselius a half-empty net to shoot at.

John Moore in his NHL Debut (Photo: Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

The third period would be a brand new game. One that, as usual, the Oilers would jump out to an early lead in, when Paajarvi would net his second of the game. But Umberger, with two points already in his pocket, wouldn’t let the game go so easily. He took the puck from Kris Russell and worked through all kinds of traffic to get the puck past Khabibulin and tie the game yet again on his nineteenth goal of the season. Huselius would give the Jackets the lead for good just over two minutes later when Russell – the puck moving defenseman – did just that and moved it up the ice to Umberger, who handed it to Huselius to beat Khabibulin. 4-3 Jackets, and that would be the final score. For a team who looked awful in the early going, they recovered nicely on a monster night by their second-line forwards.

Tonight’s Stud: RJ Umberger, of course. Two goals, two assists, and yet another three-period 100% effort by Umberger. Honorable mention: Kristian Huselius.
Tonight’s Dud(s): Russell and Clitsome were out for all four Columbus goals, but gave up a few brilliant chances to the Oilers. Can’t happen that way. Honorable mention: the first line – combined for 13 shots, but all three were minus two with little legitimate offensive impact.

 Notes:
Despite penalty trouble early on, all seven goals were even strength.
— Umberger now has 19 goals, just 7 off his career-high of 26 with the Jackets in 2008-09. Twelve points off his career high of 50.
— Russell, probably partially responsible for the first Oilers’ goal, managed to finish the game a +2 with two assists. The fourth-year defenseman had an ugly night, but was out for all four Columbus goals.
John Moore made his NHL debut and played 12:05. He was a -1, but had a relatively quiet night on the ice. He didn’t look overly nervous or jittery at all.
— Rookie Matt Calvert played just 5:07, only taking four shifts after receiving a high stick in the first. Back on the fourth line after a one-game promotion, he and his linemates all played five minutes or under.
— Three players had a multi-point night: Umberger (4), Huselius (3), and Russell (2).
— This team is not afraid to throw their weight around: Methot & Murray each had six hits. Derek Mackenzie had 3 in just 4:17 TOI.
Rick Nash had eight shots on goal. Yes, eight.

NEXT GAME: Tuesday at Pittsburgh, 7pm.

AP Photo

Due to a roller derby commitment, I’m watching this game on a sixteen hour delay, so have some observation notes on last night’s game versus Detroit:

Kristian Huselius was a healthy scratch. He became the eleventh player on the current roster to fall victim to Arniel’s willingness to sit his expensive underachievers.
– How good is Matt Calvert? The kid plays like a guy with more intensity and maturity than a rookie should. He stepped up to the second line in place of Huselius and brought breath of fresh air to the line. He complements Umberger’s style very well, giving Vermette two wings that battle and can get him the puck – as they did on his laser beam of a shot that beat Howard. But can Arniel continue to keep Huselius out of the lineup?
Rick Nash had a goal waived off for goaltender interference (by Brassard) shortly after Vermette’s goal. Normally that causes a momentum shift, but it didn’t slow the Jackets at all.
– Detroit had plenty of opportunities, but couldn’t capitalize on any of them. Steve Mason stopped all 34 shots thrown his way (another 12 shots were blocked, and 12 more missed the net). He showed Vintage Mason, with poise and confidence. Hopefully the team’s recent roll has him feeling good.
– That was the first-ever shutout by the Blue Jackets in Joe Louis Arena. Yes. The first.
Jared Boll potted his sixth goal of the season, his single-season career high, and the nineteenth of his career. He currently sits at 10 points in 42 games. His career-high is 14 in 75 games.
– Since being paired with Grant Clitsome, Kris Russell has begun playing like he has been expected to all season. He hasn’t buried the puck recently, but he’s moving the puck out of the zone and creating opportunities for the forwards, without sacrificing his defense. It’s a surefire sign he trusts his defense partner. Everybody’s a Clitsome fan.
– Alyssa over at Hockeytown Beat has a great recap of the game. Be sure to check it out.