It seemed like last week the Columbus Blue Jackets were in a solid position to net themselves their first playoff berth since 2009. Then, this past weekend happened.
An emotional loss to the New York Rangers – thanks in large part to the return of former captain Rick Nash – was followed up by a lackluster defeat at the hands of the struggling New York Islanders. The Isles, who’ll be missing out on the postseason by a mile, were able to shutout Columbus to the tune of 2-0. For the Jackets, it was a pretty embarrassing defeat, one that has them sitting on the outside looking in when it comes to playoff standings.
Just two points away from the eighth playoff seed, currently held by the tumbling Toronto Maple Leafs, this is hardly a longshot for the Jackets. But if they’re planning on making the postseason, they’ll need to get their act together, and fast. The remaining games on Columbus’ schedule will make clinching a playoff berth an incredibly daunting task.
It all starts tonight as they host the Detroit Red Wings, a team that has been playing very well as of late. Things don’t get much easier Friday when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. A quick breather comes in the form of the Carolina Hurricanes, but this game is followed by bouts against the Colorado Avalanche, Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks, all of whom are currently in position to make the playoffs. So, of their next six games, only one could be considered a pushover. Not exactly what you want to see when you’re desperate for points.
Not helping matters is the fact that the Jackets’ power play has become non-existent. In the past 11 games, the unit has gone 0-for-36. You don’t need to be an expert to know that’s not exactly the recipe for success. If they have any plans of pulling out victories in their upcoming games, they’re definitely going to need their power play to start stepping up.
This will certainly be a true test for a relatively young team, one loaded with players who’ve yet to experience the thrill of the postseason. They’re also playing for a fan base that has only had the opportunity to see two home playoff games, both losses.
The Blue Jackets are certainly capable of pulling off one final surge. They wouldn’t be in this position if they weren’t able to defeat some of the better teams in the NHL. That said, they know the task at hand is about as challenging as it gets. They’ll need to give nothing less than 100% from here on out. Otherwise, the Jackets faithful will have to suffer watching their team fall inches short of the finish line for the second straight year.