The red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets picked up their fifth win in a row in Buffalo Sunday night. Couple that with Pittsburgh's win over Carolina and the Jackets are in a place they haven't been seen in since March 16: the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
With three games remaining, the Blue Jackets have 94 points, one point ahead of the Hurricanes and just three points behind the Penguins for third in the Metropolitan Division.
|(x) WASHINGTON CAPITALS||79||3||47||24||8||102||43||W4||6–3–1|
|(x) NY ISLANDERS||79||3||46||26||7||99||42||W2||6–4–0|
|(p) TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING||78||4||59||15||4||122||53||L1||8–2–0|
|(x) BOSTON BRUINS||78||4||47||22||9||103||45||L1||5–5–0|
|TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS||78||4||45||26||7||97||45||L1||3–5–2|
|COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS||79||3||45||30||4||94||44||W5||7–2–1|
p - Clinched President's Trophy; x - Clinched Playoff Spot
It's been a long climb back to the top wild card spot, but the Jackets find themselves in position to make a run on something bigger than a wild card.
Should the Blue Jackets win their final three games – vs. Boston on Tuesday, at New York Rangers on Friday, and at Ottawa on Saturday – and the Pens finish 1–1–1 or worse, the Jackets will finish third in the Metro and face the New York Islanders in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Penguins finish at Detroit Tuesday, vs. Detroit Thursday, and again at home against the Rangers on Saturday. Not exactly murderer's row, but the Pens are just 4–2–2 in their last eight.
Should the Jackets not catch Pittsburgh, there's an outside chance they could catch the Islanders if things break perfectly. New York finishes vs. Toronto, at Florida, and then at Washington to end the regular season. If the Islanders drop their final three games, and the Blue Jackets win out, the Columbus will finish with 100 points, to the Islanders' 99.
Even if the Jackets can't catch the Pens or Islanders, they can take solace in keeping the WC1 spot and avoiding the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.