The Columbus Blue Jackets face the Colorado Avalanche tonight in another must-win game for Columbus. In order to keep their Playoff hopes alive, the Jackets will have to find a way to shut down a team that is almost 20 points better than them in the standings.
Both these teams are in the mix of very competitive, tight divisional races. The Jackets, however, are outside looking in. They trail the Metro’s third place Philadelphia Flyers by four points, and second place New York Rangers by six. The Jackets have a chance to cut the deficit with Philly in half with a win tonight, but the Flyers play tonight as well. Hopefully the St. Louis Blues will do us a favor and take them down in regulation. Then all we have to do is beat a team at the one hundred point mark. No big deal, right?
As for Colorado, they are sitting in second place in the Central Division with exactly 100 points. They are seven back from the aforementioned Blues, and only one point ahead of the third place Blackhawks (who we’ll have the pleasure of seeing in Nationwide Friday night). Past that, there is a significant gap, with the next closest contender being Minnesota with 87 points. The top three in the Central Division are still vying for spots, but it’s quite probable that Colorado will finish in a Central Division Playoff Spot.
Columbus’ chances of making the Playoffs are not so certain, however. Detroit’s win over Tampa Bay Sunday didn’t help, pushing the Jackets to the final Wild Card spot in the East. Washington is only one point behind the Jackets, and Toronto only two. Both of them play tonight as well. If Washington wins and the Jackets don’t, they’ll will no longer be in the Wild Card spot. If Toronto wins and the Jackets don’t, assuming Washington loses, the Jackets will still be in the spot because they will have two games in hand on Toronto.
That is a cause for hope. Games in hand. While we unfortunately don’t have any on Philly, we have one game in hand on Detroit (although we won’t after tonight since they don’t play until tomorrow). We have one on Washington and two on Toronto and the Rangers, and will still after tonight since they all play tonight as well. Keep in mind that one of those games will be the game against Dallas, which the Jackets will go into already winning by one.
Hopefully the Jackets can pull off a win tonight against Colorado, and hopefully the Flames, Stars and Blues pull off regulation wins against the Leafs, Caps and Flyers respectively. If the Jackets come out on their game tonight after having two days off, I think they have a good chance of winning this game. However, if the inconsistent, lazy Jackets show up after a two-day siesta, it’ll be quite the struggle. Hoping that’s not what happens. Go Jackets!