The Chase is your morning report on where the Blue Jackets stand in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs race. What happened, what's next, and who to cheer for.
Four huge wins in a row. A team that's blowing out its opponents—good opponents, outscoring them 20-4 over that stretch. This is what Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen was imagining when he went all in at the trade deadline.
The Blue Jackets are fighting for playoff position in the final days of the NHL regular season and boy are they swinging. Last night, the Nashville Predators were the punching bag and the Jackets bodied them to the tune of 5-2. Artemi Panarin set a new points record and Cam Atkinson tied Rick Nash's franchise goals record as the top line did work.
Columbus is rolling and that's a good thing, because they didn't get any help from around the league. Carolina, holding the first wild card spot, topped Philadelphia, 5-2, Montreal kept pace with the Blue Jackets with a 3-1 win in Winnipeg, and the Islanders thumped Buffalo, 5-1.
Here's where we stand on Sunday, March 31.
|GP||GR||W||L||OT||PTS||ROW||STRK||L10||Make Playoffs [#]|
|(x) WASHINGTON CAPITALS||79||3||47||24||8||102||43||W4||6–3–1||100% (NC)|
|(x) NY ISLANDERS||79||3||46||26||7||99||42||W2||6–4–0||100% (+0.08)|
|PITTSBURGH PENGUINS||78||4||42||25||11||95||40||L1||6–2–2||98.30% (-0.91)|
|(p) TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING||78||4||59||15||4||122||53||L1||8–2–0||100% (NC)|
|(x) BOSTON BRUINS||78||4||47||22||9||103||45||L1||5–5–0||100% (NC)|
|TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS||78||4||45||26||7||97||45||L1||3–5–2||99.77% (-0.22)|
|CAROLINA HURRICANES||78||4||43||28||7||93||41||W1||6–4–0||87.84% (+1.41)|
|COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS||78||4||44||30||4||92||43||W4||6–3–1||79.83% (+0.86)|
|MONTREAL CANADIENS||79||3||42||29||8||92||40||W1||6–3–1||34.27% (-1.21)|
p - Clinched President's Trophy; x - Clinched Playoff Spot
Blue Jackets remain in the WC2 spot with 92 points and four to play. They're one back of the Hurricanes, and own the tiebreaker over Montreal, thanks to their ROW advantage (and for now, having played one fewer game).
The Islanders clinched a playoff spot with their win over the Sabres, becoming the second Metropolitan Division team and just the fourth team in the Eastern Conference to punch a ticket. Meanwhile, Carolina mathematically eliminated the Flyers from playoff contention.
There exists this Canadiens fan super fantasy in which the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets win out, the Habs win their next two, while the Maple Leafs lose their next three, which sets up a winner-gets-in game between the two teams in Montreal on the season's final Saturday. Montreal believes it's the birthplace of hockey, and Toronto thinks it's the center of the Canadian universe. The love lost between the two fanbases is nonexistent.
More realistically, Montreal needs the following to happen to make the playoffs:
- The Habs must win their final three games
- Toronto loses their final four games –OR–
- Carolina gets no more than five points in their final four games –OR–
- Columbus gets no more than five points in their final four games
Tonight's Game(s) of Interest
|Home||Away||Who to Cheer for|
|BUFFALO (31–37–10, 72p)||COLUMBUS (44–30–4, 92p)||The boys in white.|
|PITTSBURGH (42–25–11, 95p)||CAROLINA (43–28–7, 93p)||Pens. But only if we have to.|
If the Blue Jackets can extend their winning streak to five in a row, they'll start exerting a stranglehold on at least the second wild card spot, with a chance to keep moving up. The Sabres have lost 13 of 14 games (including losses in overtime and shootouts), so this is a game the Jackets should win. If they play like they've played over the last week, that won't be a problem.
In the only other game that matters Sunday night, the Blue Jackets need the Penguins to defeat the Hurricanes in regulation. Doing so, coupled with a CBJ win, puts the Jackets in the WC1 spot with three to play and maintains a three point difference between the Pens and Jackets in the Metro standings, which means we can then turn to cheering against Pittsburgh the rest of the way to maybe catch a break and slide into Metro 3.
Blue Jackets Playoff Odds
|Make It In||2nd Rnd||Conf. Finals||SC Finals||Win SC||Win Metro||2nd Metro||3rd Metro||WC1||WC2|
Odds courtesy of MoneyPuck.com
We didn't see quite the same jump we've seen recently, what with the Islanders, Canes and Habs all winning Saturday night, but at around 80% to make the playoffs, according to Money Puck's model, the Jackets are close enough to the postseason to practically taste it.
Today's stress ball: Can we just appreciate Cam Atkinson this morning?