Winter Is Coming: 14 December Games Will Reveal What The 2021-22 Columbus Blue Jackets Are Capable Of

By Ed Francis on November 29, 2021 at 1:45 pm
With 14 games in December, including a five-game road trip that spans from Vancouver to Buffalo, the Columbus Blue Jackets are set to begin a pivotal month of hockey.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports


With just one game until December, the Columbus Blue Jackets are hitting the quarter point of the season and find themselves where most did not expect: playoff position.

If the postseason were to begin today, the Blue Jackets would own the top wildcard spot and have a first round matchup with a team they've met in the postseason before: the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The final month of the calendar year, though, is shaping up to be very telling of what this year's version of the team is capable of. Does this team — the youngest in the NHL — have the ability to keep up their current pace of 104 points? If so, it would be the club's second-best season of all time, trailing only the 2016-17 team that finished the season with 108 points. 

How did the Blue Jackets get themselves into playoff positioning? Exceptional goaltending from Elvis Merzlikins, the sixth-highest scoring offense in the league by goals per game, and rookies who are playing above their age in Yegor Chinakhov and Cole Sillinger.

But it's not all that simple. Depending on which metrics you want to use, the Blue Jackets have had somewhere between the 7th and 12th easiest schedule. Beating Colorado twice in four nights is a tremendous accomplishment, particularly considering they've went 7-1-0 since the second loss. But the Blue Jackets' first three wins came against teams with a losing record, as have three of their last four. 

From here out, Columbus will be tested more. The average points per game of their remaining opponents is at 1.13; that's tied with Pittsburgh, another Metro division team, for the second toughest schedule through the end of the season.

Those tests start in December. Here's a look at the 14 December dates for the Blue Jackets. Teams in green have a winning record, with teams in dark green more than five games above .500. In red are the teams with a losing record, with the dark red more than five games below .500. 

Date Opponent Opponent's Record (as of 11/29)
Thu, Dec 2 Dallas @ Dallas 10-7-2
Sat, Dec 4 Washington @ Washington 14-3-5
Sun, Dec 5 San Jose San Jose 11-9-1
Tue, Dec 7 Toronto @ Toronto 16-6-1
Thu, Dec 9 Anaheim Anaheim 11-8-3
Sat, Dec 11 Seattle @ Seattle 7-13-1
Tue, Dec 14 Vancouver @ Vancouver 6-14-2
Thu, Dec 16 Edmonton @ Edmonton 15-5-0
Sat, Dec 18 Calgary @ Calgary 12-4-5
Mon, Dec 20 Buffalo @ Buffalo 8-10-3
Thu, Dec 23 Buffalo Buffalo 8-10-3
Mon, Dec 27 Toronto Toronto 16-6-1
Tue, Dec 28 Chicago @ Chicago 7-12-2
Thu, Dec 30 Nashville Nashville 11-9-1      


December starts with five straight games against winning teams. Home games against the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks can be categorized as "should wins", but the road contests against Dallas, Washington, and Toronto are tough games. 

The next five games are all on the road, and it's Columbus' longest road trip of the season. It starts with two in the pacific northwest against Seattle and Vancouver, two teams the Blue Jackets have beat at Nationwide Arena already. Winning just one of the two after that — against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames — would be impressive. 

For the second time this season, a west coast road trip ends very much not on the west coast, with a game in Buffalo against the Sabres. That's the first half of a home-and-home with the Sabres leading into Christmas, two games that Columbus should have a greater than 50% chance of winning.

In all, Columbus faces a team with a winning record (as of November 29th) in nine of the 14 games. Of the other five, all but one are on the road. 

What's a successful December? Let's split the difference and give the Blue Jackets one point in November's final game Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators. If Columbus can go .500 in December — 6-6-2, let's say — that puts them at 18-13-3 (with an overtime loss Tuesday, 11/30 in Nashville). 

That would put the Blue Jackets at 39 points in 34 games heading into the new calendar year. That's 94 points, which would put Columbus right on the borderline of a playoff spot based on data from past seasons. 

Strap in, 5th Line. We're about to find out what the Blue Jackets are made of.


View 3 Comments