45–25–11 (101 points; .623%)
LINE: PIT -330
7:00 P.M. – FRIDAY, APRIL 29TH
PPG PAINTS ARENA
Bally Sports Ohio
ESPN+ (Out of Network)
With the potential to finish with a winning record in a rebuilding year, the Columbus Blue Jackets travel to Pittsburgh for their regular-season finale Friday against the Penguins.
A 5-2 win in the home finale Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning put Columbus back to .500 on the season. They'll enter Pittsburgh with a 37-37-7 mark knowing that a win over the team they haven't beat since November of 2019 will give the Blue Jackets a finish in which they saw more wins than losses.
Fear not, if you're a "but the draft picks could get screwed up" type. The draft chips have fallen where they may: it does not matter if the Blue Jackets win or lose in Friday's finale.
Columbus is locked into 21st place in the NHL this season. The good news about that is that they outperformed the expectations of nearly everyone across the league; from die-hard 5th Liners to the media experts who pegged them for one of the worst teams in the league.
The bad news is they were just a little too good to have any chance at the number one pick. They'll have a 3% chance to move up to number two, but that's the highest they can go. The Blue Jackets also own Chicago's pick (as long they don't win the lottery), which is locked in at the sixth-best odds to wind up with the top spot.
|PACES & PROJECTIONS|
|23.0%||MONEYPUCK'S ODDS TO WIN||77.0%|
|32.0%||THE 538'S ODDS TO WIN||68.0%|
|82.0||82-GAME POINT PACE||10.2|
It's business as usual for the Penguins. Sidney Crosby leads the team with 31 goals, Evgeni Malkin has been a point-per-game player in the 40 games he's played since returning from an injury, and Kris Letang has a whopping 58 assists as the defensive leader of the Pens.
It's also been another solid season for netminder Tristan Jarry, who has a .919 save percentage and 2.42 goals against average as the number one option between the pipes in Pittsburgh. The club has already announced that backup Casey DeSmith will get the final start of the regular season for the Pens as Jarry rests before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin next week.
The Penguins' opponent in the postseason remains to be seen. With a win or overtime loss against the Blue Jackets, they'll lock up third in the Metropolitan Division and face the second-place finishing New York Rangers. A regulation loss plus a Washington Capital victory would push the Pens into the wildcard spot, leading to a first-round matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes.
BOBBING FOR APPLES
Pending a six-assist effort, Jake Voracek won't break Artemi Panarin's club record for assists in a season. But at 54, he's just one helper away from tying Panarin (yeah, he was good) for second in franchise history. Speaking of assists: Oliver Bjorkstrand already has a career-best with 27 goals, but needs just one assist to also set a new personal best in that category.
THAT'S ALL, FOLKS
With the result of Friday's game unable to change the odds for the Blue Jackets draft lottery hopes, it goes without saying that the Blue Jackets should just have a little fun in the finale. They've been outscored by the Penguins 13-5 in the three losses this season, and the team hasn't picked up a win over Crosby & Co. since before Covid. Changing that Friday wouldn't hurt Columbus' quest for the best possible pick, but what it would do is give a lot of confidence to some of the younger Blue Jackets.
|14||Gus Nyquist||96||Jack Roslovic||93||Jakub Voracek|
|59||Yegor Chinakhov||34||Cole Sillinger||28||Oliver Bjorkstrand|
|50||Eric Robinson||17||Justin Danforth||52||Emil Bemstrom|
|13||Kent Johnson||23||Brendan Gaunce||55||Carson Meyer|
|44||Vladislav Gavrikov||2||Andrew Peeke|
|53||Gabriel Carlsson||5||Gavin Bayreuther|
|46||Dean Kukan||22||Jake Bean|
|90||Elvis Merzlikins||30||Jean-Francois Berube|
*SUBJECT TO CHANGE