As far as playoff implications are concerned, the most important game Tuesday night was between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings. Both teams entered the game with 71 points, tied for the final spot in the Eastern Conference.
Thanks to three third period goals, the Blue Jackets got the best of the Wings, defeating them 4-1 in front of a capacity crowd at Nationwide Arena.
Ever since the Blue Jackets joined the league, their fans haven’t had a lot to get excited about. They were the joke of the league for a good stretch of years and were run under questionable management. A new general manager has spiced things up within the organization and things are finally looking like they’re heading in the right direction.
Last year, the Jackets could taste the playoffs. They finished the season tied for eighth place in the Western Conference but lost the tie-breaker to the Minnesota Wild for the final spot in the postseason. The Blue Jackets have only made it to the playoffs once, which was back in 2009 and they were swept by the Red Wings in the first round.
With the exportation of Rick Nash, and the addition of Sergei Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets have finally found a core group of players to start a winning program around. Bobrovski is an elite goaltender, which is normally the hardest part of the equation to find. Two years ago when the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup from the 8-seed in the Western Conference, it wasn’t because they had the most offensive firepower, it was because they played solid team defense and had remarkable goaltending from Jonathan Quick.
I’m not saying the Blue Jackets are a Stanley Cup caliber team — probably far from it — but they are making serious strides in the right direction, and Tuesday night’s game against the Wings displayed that they are serious playoff contenders.
Bobrovski was stellar, turning away 39 shots and only allowing a single goal; Nathan Horton contributed two assists just one day after his good friend Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench in Dallas; Brandon Dubinsky had a huge goal to put the Jackets up by two midway through the third and is displaying the leadership ability up front that this team has been lacking.
Tuesday night’s game against Detroit was one of those games that had to feel like a playoff game to the Jackets, and unlike in years past, Columbus took care of business and sent their rivals home with their tails between their legs for a change.