The Columbus Blue Jackets currently sit at 21-20-4, or 7th place of eight teams in the Metropolitan Division and 13th in the 16-team Eastern Conference standings. Their season has basically been an up-and-down, injury-riddled campaign, in which every surge in wins is followed by an equally disappointing losing streak.
However, in Eastern Conference and especially in the mediocre, at best, Metropolitan Division, the Blue Jackets are still in the thick of the playoff race, a mere three points out of the wild card position with 37 games left to play.
After patiently waiting for landmark unrestricted free agent signee Nathan Horton’s arrival after off-season shoulder surgery as well as reigning Vezina trophy-winning recipient Sergei Bobrovsky’s five-week injured reserve stint following a groin injury, the Blue Jackets, save for Marian Gaborik’s broken collarbone injury, are as healthy as they’ve been all season.
They have now won four of their past five games and have eight of their next ten games at home at Nationwide Arena with both of their road games against teams which they’ve done very well against in their respective arenas. And while several of those eight home games are against some of the best teams in the National Hockey League, they are also against teams in which they’ve played very well against at home.
So, with an impending, brutal three-game Pacific Coast road swing – Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose – prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics break, if there is a window of opportunity for the Blue Jackets to make a playoff push, this is it.
In short, it’s “Go Time” for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Save for a pounding at the hands of the elite St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center, a game in which they burst out to a 2-0 lead after the first period, only to be victim to a six-goal Blues’ onslaught for the remaining two periods, the Blue Jackets have rebounded to win three games in a row and have done it with tight checking, timely goal scoring and the return to form of the Bobrovsky, who has posted a record of 2-0-0, with a .962 save percentage and a goals against average of 1.44.
While Horton is still attempting to round himself into game shape after missing the entire first half of the season without the luxury of a training camp or preseason and while former 4th overall pick Ryan Johansen has recently hit a bit of a wall after scoring at more than a point per game played pace, several other Blue Jackets have picked up the slack to provide timely goal scoring and leadership – namely, defenseman James Wisniewski, forwards Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson, rookie Boone Jenner, Nick Foligno and, recently, Mark Letestu, who finally snapped a 38-game goal-scoring drought by scoring three goals in his past four games.
READ MORE: The Ascent of Ryan Johansen
As for their upcoming eight home games prior to the Winter Olympics break, six will be against teams who currently rank above them in the Eastern Conference standings and, save for the Tampa Bay Lightning, are teams who they are within striking distance of the last few playoff positions, were the Stanley Cup playoffs slated to begin today.
So, with their improved play, an improved overall health of the Blue Jackets squad and a favorable schedule prior to the Winter Olympics, if there is an opportunity to surge for the Stanley Cup playoffs, this is it.
It’s “Go Time!”