The Columbus Blue Jackets have five weeks remaining in the season, and 20 games to play. After an eventful trade deadline that saw the Blue Jackets acquire four new players including Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, the team heads into the final quarter of the season in a dog fight for a playoff spot after last night’s loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at home against Nationwide Arena.
There are some important games coming up, games that will determine the future of the Blue Jackets’ franchise. Let’s take a look at them here.
Metropolitain Division games: 8 remaining
@ NJD 3/5
@ PIT 3/7
@ NYI 3/11
@ NYR 4/5
These are the games Columbus must win. With 16 points available from in-division foes, including three games against two teams competing directly with the Blue Jackets for the final two playoff spots, the Jackets must take advantage of these games to maintain their playoff position. Not only can they make up ground to potentially earn home ice advantage in the first round, but they could also help put their opponents in more dire straits than they already were in.
Games that Columbus must win are the New Jersey Devils game (clearly inferior opponent), and home games against Pittsburgh, Carolina, and the New York Islanders. At a minimum, these are the games the Jackets must win down the stretch
Atlantic Division games: 6 remaining
@ BUF 3/31
@ OTT 4/6
Three games against second place in the Atlantic Boston in the final four weeks of the season. Thanks for that one, NHL. Columbus gets the Bruins twice at home, which is a small consolation. The Blue Jackets should be able to take care of the lowly Ottawa Senators in the season finale, with matchups against the Montreal Canadiens (another playoff rival) and the Buffalo Sabres sandwiched at the end of the month.
Western Conference games: 6 remaining
@ CGY 3/19
@ EDM 3/21
@ VAN 3/24
@ NSH 3/30
The most daunting stretch of games against the Western conference comes as the Blue Jackets head to western Canada on the three game road swing against the trio of the Calagary Flames (second in the Pacific), Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks. Taking four points of six at a minimum is critical for the Jackets to maintain playoff pace.
The team hosts two western opponents on a back to back this upcoming weekend, and the team should at the very least split that matchup. Edmonton is worse on paper than Columbus is, and Winnipeg has struggled and has lost Josh Morrissey to injury.
The Blue Jackets, by virtue of so many Metropolitain games this month, maintains control of their own destiny, but they cannot afford to dig early holes as they did last night against the Penguins. It will take a strong effort to make the playoffs from Columbus, and a daunting schedule faces them.
Let’s see if the team is up to the task as we wind down this season.