Scoreboard watching is a miserable existence.
You're waiting for things to break your way, but in games that you have no control over.
Sometimes it turns out...and others, it's gut-wrenching. Hopeless.
That's life in a playoff race and a life the Blue Jackets must now embrace. They're in what figures to be a four-team race for two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, and in all likelihood, they'll be aiming for one of the wild card positions. In that mix, the Devils, Islanders, Hurricanes and perhaps Rangers and Panthers will have a say in the outcome.
So that's five teams, but only three have a real chance at it (for now). It can change on a dime.
One look around and you'll see how much assistance the Blue Jackets have received – indirectly, mind you – from some of these teams.
The team they play tonight at Barclays Center, the New York Islanders, has been the bearer of a few gifts lately. On Sunday, they were locked in a 2-2 tie with the Calgary Flames but gave up a late goal in the final 90 seconds before losing in regulation. A win would've pushed them ahead of the Blue Jackets, but alas.
The Rangers, on the verge of a rebuild, have had a tough time stringing wins and points together. The Hurricanes have been up-and-down for most of the season, meanwhile, the Blue Jackets somehow haven't been knocked further down the ladder as no one has made a concerted push up the standings.
They're still right in the thick of it, mostly due to the misfortune of teams around them. Now the script has to be flipped – a positive run of their own could put them in a strong position entering the trade deadline, which is now less than two weeks away. Imagine what a solid week here, with four games in six days and three against Metropolitan Division opponents, could do for the Blue Jackets in the context of a wicked-tight playoff race?
It could mean the difference between buying and selling. Between leading and chasing.
Tonight, it's Brooklyn.
Wednesday, it's the surging Maple Leafs.
And this weekend...oh boy. Friday it's a home date with the Flyers, who have leapt up into third place in the Metro. Sunday is the first visit (weird, isn't it?) for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who will see plenty of the Blue Jackets in the final month-and-a-half of the regular season.
The Blue Jackets have done enough scoreboard watching and gotten their help. Now it's up to them: go on a run, crank up the pressure, and play your best hockey when it matters most.
YOU SHOULD BE READING
- More good analysis this week from Paul Berthelot, who dove deep into what's been a sneaky-good season for Alexander Wennberg.
- Dan Dukart looks at the resurgent Cam Atkinson, who's been a different player since returning from injury.
- Could Ryan Murray get back in the lineup sooner than later? He's on this road trip with the Blue Jackets.