The Fuse: Looking Ahead, and Trying to Climb the Ladder, is the Blue Jackets' Best Course of Action

By Rob Mixer on March 13, 2018 at 6:02 am
The Blue Jackets celebrate a goal by defenseman Seth Jones

Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports

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Listen – everyone scoreboard watches. If they say they don't, they're lying.

It's human nature to be concerned about your surroundings and to be cognizant of your situation. We practice defensive driving as teenagers. We teach our kids "safety first." We're generally mindful of what's going on around us, and the NHL's playoff race is no different.

I like to use a comparison to tournament golf. The best players on the PGA Tour – think Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson of the 2000s, and Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson of the present generation – want to know exactly where they stand in a tournament. It changes your mentality and strategy; if you're trailing, do you want to play conservative? No. You want to win and you'll do what it takes.

The Blue Jackets are acutely aware of where they stand. They know the Florida Panthers are coming in hot, have games in hand, and seem allergic to losing at home. 

They also know they're essentially in a three-horse race for two playoff spots, and rather than worry about what's behind them, one of their young stars openly spoke about chasing down a higher seed. Pretty impressive stuff from 20-year-old Zach Werenski, only in his second NHL season and first time in a true playoff race (the Blue Jackets had essentially clinched a playoff berth at this point last season).

Werenski said the Blue Jackets should be, and are, focused on moving up the ladder. They don't want to settle for hanging on to a spot because the math doesn't exactly favor them in that scenario. The Panthers have a clear advantage based on their schedule and how they've been playing.

If the Blue Jackets keep winning, they keep applying pressure to New Jersey and Philadelphia ahead of them. Neither team has exactly pulled away from the pack and would appear to be well within range if the Blue Jackets continue to win. They'd won four straight entering Monday's home stand finale against Montreal but created zero separation from either New Jersey or Florida, with the Devils pulling out an impressive shootout win in Nashville on Saturday.

Columbus' schedule isn't exactly easy over the final dozen games; they'll play more games on the road, have generally tougher opponents (though Florida plays Boston four times) and still have to go to western Canada for three games later this month.

Anyone who gets in, especially in the East, is going to have to earn it. The Blue Jackets have the right mentality by trying to catch those ahead of them.


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