Every Tuesday, WFNY’s The 5-Hole brings you up to date with the goings-on of the CBJ…
The Week That Was
Wednesday, 3/9 in Columbus – Blues 4, Blue Jackets 3 – OT – (box) – Highlights
Friday, 3/11 in Columbus – Kings 4, Blue Jackets 2 – (box) – Highlights
Saturday, 3/12 in Raleigh – Blue Jackets 3, Hurricanes 2 – (box) – Highlights
There isn’t much exciting to report here, though the Jackets did finally end their losing streak. Contrary to some reports, I didn’t think the Jackets played all that well on Saturday night, and they also blew a 3-0 lead against St. Louis on Wednesday. I don’t think they were ever really in the LA game.
So, while they’re still hanging on, I just haven’t seen much that leads me to believe that they’ve turned a corner. The heat is going to be turned up over these last 14 games as teams sprint for the finish. It remains to be seen whether the Jackets can handle the heat, or whether they will get out of the kitchen.
The Jackets are smack in the middle of this crazy 16-game month, and have another four-game week, with three of them at home this time. One way or the other, this week will be the tipping point. They probably need six points out of eight to have a realistic chance to remain alive for the playoffs. Here’s the lineup: Tuesday night the Boston Bruins (38-21-9, 85pts) come to town. On Thursday, it’s the sixth and final matchup with the Detroit Red Wings (41-20-8, 90pts). Saturday finds a trip to face the co-playoff-hopeful Minnesota Wild (35-28-7, 77pts), and Sunday sees the nuclear-hot New Jersey Devils (32-32-4, 68pts) coming to town. Don’t let New Jersey’s record fool you. Since early January, they are 22-3-2, That’s right; 46 points in 27 games. That’s just sick.
By The Numbers
Let’s take a quick look at the Jackets by the numbers, through 68 games:
2.71 gpg (20th NHL)
2.96 gapg (23rd NHL)
15.1% (27th NHL)
81.1% (20th NHL)
Rick Nash – 29
Jakub Voracek, Rick Nash – 31
Rick Nash – 60
Steve Mason – 23
Mathieu Garon – 2.61
Mathieu Garon – 90.5%
Somr good news: center Derick Brassard is back, and despite a sore ankle after blocking a shot on his first shift back, he’s played in the past three games. The bad news: the team is still without winger Kristian Huselius, defenseman Anton Stralman, forward Andrew Murray, and forward Chris Clark, who is now out for basically the remainder of the season. None of those guys is a must-have player, but with so many games this month if certainly affects their depth and their ability and desire to roll four lines. Defenseman Marc Methot missed Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury, but looks to be dressing for tonight’s game vs. Boston.
“Can We Move East?” Quote of the Week
It’s such an odd thing that the Jackets are so good—10-2-1—against the Eastern Conference this season:
We were talking about that in (the dressing room) earlier. It definitely feels like there may be a different style (in the East), more of a run-and-gun. That sets up well for our club.
–Center Derek MacKenzie, commenting on the team’s success against the Eastern Conference this season.
The Jackets have gone 6-0-1 in their last seven games against the East. Granted, their wins against Montreal and Philadelphia came early in the year, and their one win against Pittsburgh was when the Pens were missing their top three scorers, but for whatever reason the Jackets have had much more success against the East in the past few years. I don’t know if it’s a talent gap (I think that’s a large part) or a different style (some part, but much less than the talent gap), but one thing Columbus fans have always lamented is that if they could move to the Eastern Conference they’d likely be a playoff team almost every season. Consider this year: they just beat Carolina, who is in the 9th spot in the East with one fewer point than Columbus. If the league ever re-aligns, the Jackets would be one of the first candidates to move East, but the problem is that there aren’t any teams from the East that can realistically move to the West from a geographic standpoint. Hope springs eternal!
…With a Little Help from My Friends
The Hockey Writers’ Rick Gethin is sayin’ there’s a chance, though it’s not going to be easy:
With just 14 games to go in the regular season and 8 points back from the 8th (and final) playoff position, the Columbus Blue Jackets still have an upbeat attitude about them. In deference to Yogi Berra, they know it ain’t over till it’s over.
They have at least one game in hand, if not more, on every team in front of them. That means nothing if they don’t win those games, though. They’ve proven that they can compete, and beat, any team in the Western Conference. They have the skill and the work-ethic; it’s been seen this season. The issue has been mainly mental, at least from where I sit. The slumps that they’ve gone through have seemed to coincide with them “over-thinking” the game.
When they go out on the ice and just “play their game”, they play with a relaxed confidence that sees them win more than they lose. … The Boys in Union Blue need to win and they need to win now. Arguably, it will take them winning approximately 11 of the remaining 14 games to make a playoff appearance. It’s sure to be a wild ride.
11 of 14 is a tough row to how. The closes the Jackets have come to that is their 11-3-3 run in late January through February. That’s as close to precedent as we can get.