The Columbus Blue Jackets showed their resiliency against the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night. They came back from a 2-1 deficit and looked as though they were going to win the game in regulation, but Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s goal with just under 15 seconds left sent the game into overtime.
The two points on the line were crucial for the Jackets, especially after the Detroit Red Wings‘ 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. In the end, it was 21-year-old Ryan Johansen who was the hero and continued to play well beyond his years. He may just barely be old enough to drink in the U.S., but Johansen has most likely led the Blue Jackets to only their second playoff appearance in franchise history.
When Rick Nash left, there was an absence of a superstar in Columbus who could consistently produce offense. Slowly, Johansen is beginning to fill that role.
In his third season with the Blue Jackets, Johansen has already surpassed the point total for his first two seasons combined, and it was only right that arguably the biggest goal in four years for the Blue Jackets came off of his stick. He also had an assist on the first goal of the game, which puts his current point total to 59 for the season.
Barring an epic collapse, the Blue Jackets are going to be playing in the postseason, and although they will most likely be facing the Boston Bruins, Johansen will add some much-needed playoff experience to his resume when it’s all said and done.
The only way the Jackets even compete in the first round of the playoffs is if Sergei Bobrovsky is unbeatable between the pipes, but just understanding the difference in the flow and atmosphere of playoff hockey could pay serious dividends for someone with as much talent as Johansen. When Sidney Crosby took the Pittsburgh Penguins to the playoffs for the first time, they were ousted by the Ottawa Senators in the first round, but he took that experience and led them to the Stanley Cup Finals the next year.
Johansen is perhaps the most under-the-radar talent in the NHL, but if he continues to play the way he has all season, he will definitely make his mark come playoff time.