This is always a bizarre road trip.
For Eastern Conference teams, you really never know what you're going to get – mainly because the results out of Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver have fluctuated so much in recent years. The Blue Jackets' annual pilgrimage to Alberta and British Columbia has provided some good memories in recent years, but also some disappointments (remember that thrashing in Edmonton a couple years ago...?).
And now, after getting five out of six possible points against Boston (twice) and Carolina, the Blue Jackets have passed one of their big tests down the stretch. The next is this road trip, which features the Flames – the NHL's first team to clinch a playoff spot – an underperforming Oilers team and a Canucks team that flirted with playoff contention before falling off.
One thing they all have in common? They've all beaten the Blue Jackets this season, with all three coming at Nationwide Arena.
Oh, and all three were pretty bitter defeats.
Let's wind it back to Dec. 11 at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets had taken a third-period lead deep into regulation, seemingly on their way to an important bounce-back win after a 4-0 throttling by Washington earlier in the week. Nope. The Canucks scored twice in the final three minutes to steal two points. Brutal.
The Calgary Flames dropped nine on the Blue Jackets, and that's a game we'd all rather soon forget. And speaking of memorable performances, who could forget the Oilers' 4-0 spanking of the Blue Jackets in Columbus a few weeks ago? Now, one presumes the Blue Jackets to be playing much better now than they were at the time, but if you thought they were getting any sort of reprieve after the PIT-NYI-BOS-CAR-BOS gauntlet, you'd be mistaken.
The Blue Jackets have had a bad habit of taking opponents lightly – and it reared itself in that Edmonton game – which cannot happen again. The Flames are one of the NHL's best teams. The Oilers have slowly bowed out of the playoff race, as have the Canucks, but that's no excuse. If anything, it's an opportunity for the Blue Jackets to take the other road, and put together a successful trip that buries the Montreal Canadiens.
Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself on this road trip, because the Blue Jackets (unlike their opponents) desperately need the points.
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