The Columbus Blue Jackets are staring a 7 game homestand through the month of the February straight in the face. They opened the homestand with a flat, listless, humiliating loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Last night, they played the Red Wings, and hung on for a 2-1 win, despite the Red Wings owning the third period.
With 5 games to go, plus a bye week, it has become imperative that the Blue Jackets get all ten points available at home. The Jackets have slipped. A lot. The Washington Capitals are all but uncatchable, running away with the division and likely the President’s trophy. The Pittsburgh Penguins have leaped over the Jackets, and the Rangers have closed the gap to four. It is becoming more and more likely that the Blue Jackets collapse and finish in a wild card spot.
That would be a massive disappointment.
But Seeds, the Blue Jackets weren’t supposed to be here! You yourself picked them to finish dead last in the Metro Division this season! How can this be a disappointment if they make the playoffs?
I hear you. It’s true, I did pick them to finish at the bottom of the barrel this season. Given the information I had at hand, I thought that was the right pick to make.
However, the play through the first 50 games this season forced an adjustment of expectations. The Blue Jackets led the entire NHL on New Year’s Day. They were in the midst of a franchise record 16 game winning streak that saw them shatter all expectations and, for the first time in franchise history, earn some respect from other teams in the NHL.
They have not responded well to this newfound pressure and respect. At all.
Torts talks about how the team has lost its edge and the chip on the shoulder they entered the season with. He talks at length in the 30 In 30 podcasts about how the team struggles to take each team’s best shot, and how the team struggles to maintain structure. It’s almost as if the sense of entitlement has crept back into the locker room.
But it shouldn’t because this team has accomplished absolutely nothing yet.
A sixteen game winning streak is awesome. We’ll probably never see that again in our lifetimes from this team. But it means NOTHING if this team crashes out of the playoffs in the first round yet again. They’ll be relegated to a footnote in NHL history, forgotten to the sands of time.
The collapse has already started. Look at how this team has played since the turn of the new year. Weak backchecking, little urgency, a lack of emotion on the ice. Bad sign after bad sign. For a team that led the NHL to finish in a wild card spot would be a massive disappointment, particularly given the way they’ve been playing.
The Blue Jackets have 5 straight home games left to recapture that magic. They were, at points earlier in this season, playing a north-south game, attacking the opposition, and simply overwhelming teams at home. Sergei Bobrovsky wasn’t giving up 4 goals per game, and actually appeared to have a modicom of confidence about him.
To have any chance of success in the playoffs, the Blue Jackets will have to get back to that style of play. They have 5 games at home, practices at home, and some time off with which to get their game back.
Hopefully they can do it.