Columbus Blue Jackets fans like myself are currently biting their nails out of nervousness due to the incredibly tight race for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As of right now, Columbus is barely clinging to the second Wild Card spot, but are only one crucial point ahead of the Montreal Canadiens, a team who defeated the Philadelphia Flyers last night to gain two vital points. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets were defeated by the Calgary Flames yesterday evening, failing to gain any points, cutting the deficit between the two teams to only a single point. The race grows even tighter in the Metropolitan Division specifically, with the surging Hurricanes three points ahead of Columbus, and two points behind the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins. The Blue Jackets recently defeated the Hurricanes in an incredible 46-shot shutout by Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, with a final score of 3-0.
Columbus has certainly shown the ability to win and be successful in big games, such as commanding wins over division rival Pittsburgh and the Boston Bruins earlier this month. However, the team can be extremely unpredictable, such as previous losses to lackluster teams such as Edmonton, Buffalo, and Anaheim. This type of inconsistency can be very frustrating to fans, considering that if the team had won some of the "cupcake games", the closeness of the playoff race would not be a concern. Opponents for the rest of the season include mediocre teams such as Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, the New York Rangers, and Buffalo. These games should be winnable games for Columbus, if some of their more influential players like Artemi Panarin and Pierre-Luc Dubois can break their skids, and the defenseman such as Seth Jones and Zach Werenski continue to play at a high level. But the rest of the season isn't just mediocre teams, it also includes division-leading teams, like the Nashville Predators, New York Islanders, and Boston Bruins. Columbus has beaten Boston and Nashville each once this season, respectfully, but haven't been able to get past the depth of the Islanders. And perhaps the biggest game of the season will happen next week when the Montreal Canadiens come to town. That single game alone could possibly determine who makes the playoffs, and who will be sitting at home watching. With a very short season remaining, and the team currently on a road trip through Western Canada, every point, game, save, block, and second matters to the Jackets in order to secure a playoff spot.