35–11–5 (75 points; .735%)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7:00 P.M. – THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 24TH
|ESPN Hockey Night (ESPN+/Hulu)|
Facing the Florida Panthers has not been a pleasurable experience for the Columbus Blue Jackets over the last year or so.
Dropping their last six to the Panthers last season, the Blue Jackets went just 1-5-2 against Florida during the 2020-21 season. A pair of losses last month — by scores of 9-2 and 8-4 — sent Columbus to their eighth straight loss against the Cats, and just four of a possible 20 points over the last two seasons.
When the two teams battle it out on national television in their third and final meeting of the season Thursday night, the Blue Jackets have the chance to flip the script on the atrocious results that were handed to them in January.
Columbus enters Thursday's game as hot as they've been all season. They've won three straight and eight of ten. They're scoring goals at a record pace — the 46 goals in those ten games are a franchise record for the most goals over any ten-game period. The contributions are coming up and down the lineup, from Patrik Laine's incredible ten-game point streak to the surprising play of Brendan Gaunce and J.F. Berube, two players who had spent most of this season with the AHL's Cleveland Monsters and whose NHL careers were in limbo.
A win Thursday would put Columbus just seven points from a potential wildcard spot, at least temporarily — the Boston Bruins, who hold the last spot, play in Seattle later Thursday night. That deficit would mean the Blue Jackets halved their gap from a postseason slot, as it was just last month that they were 14 points out of contention.
|PACES & PROJECTIONS|
|22.4%||MONEYPUCK'S ODDS TO WIN||77.6%|
|29.0%||THE 538'S ODDS TO WIN||71.0%|
|86.9||82-GAME POINT PACE||120.6|
Same ol', same 'ol with the Panthers this season. Their offense is number one in the league, which more than makes up for a defense that ranks in the middle of the pack in most key statistics. They're the only team averaging more goals than the Blue Jackets dating back to January 27th (4.63 to Columbus' 4.60), and they generate 56% of the shots when on the ice in 5-on-5 action, leading the league there as well.
Jonathan Huberdeau is cruising to a 100-point season; he's got 72 to lead the team and is on pace for 115. Among those points include 55 assists, a category in which he leads the league by double-digits.
Four Panthers have 40 or more points so far, with two more (Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair) within two points of that mark. By comparison, Boone Jenner become the first player on the Blue Jackets to hit 40 points in Tuesday's win over Toronto.
Oh, and they have Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes. He's having a year comparable to his time in Columbus: a .917 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.58. He's not going to be a Vezina finalist, but those numbers are more than enough with the offense that plays in front of him.
You don't give up 17 goals in two games without making your share of mistakes, and Columbus has done just that in the two lopsided losses. Keep it simple: play smart, minimize the mistakes, stay out of the box, and don't give Florida anything — they'll create enough on their own.
ALL ABOUT LAINE, TO THE SURPRISE OF NO ONE.
A ten-game point streak. Five multi-goal games during that stretch. Twelve goals on a total of 33 shots. It's ridiculous, what Laine has done over the last few weeks. He'll go for 11 straight with a point Thursday; if he gets it, he's just four behind his career-high of 15 games. That seemed like an unfathomable pipe-dream a week or so ago, but it seems well within distance now.
|29||Patrik Laine||38||Boone Jenner||93||Jakub Voracek|
|16||Max Domi||34||Cole Sillinger||59||Yegor Chinakhov|
|14||Gus Nyquist||7||Sean Kuraly||28||Oliver Bjorkstrand|
|23||Brendan Gaunce||96||Jack Roslovic||17||Justin Danforth|
|8||Zach Werenski||2||Andrew Peeke|
|44||Vladislav Gavrikov||27||Adam Boqvist|
|5||Gavin Bayreuther||46||Dean Kukan|
|90||Elvis Merzlikins||30||J.F. Berube|
*SUBJECT TO CHANGE