By the time the season is over, we might look back at last night’s game as having been the biggest game of the year for the Columbus Blue Jackets. They defeated the San Jose Sharks 6-5 in overtime, capping off a wild night where both teams decided to just play offense.
We needed that one. No, that’s not what I meant! We needed to lose that one. The Jackets came out with one of their best offensive outputs of the season at exactly the wrong time. Led by a 5-point effort from star forward Johnny Gaudreau, the Jackets threw 48 shots at the San Jose net – many of them high danger.
Boone Jenner (2 goals), Patrik Laine (2 assists) and Gavin Bayreuther (2 assists) all had multi-point efforts for the Jackets as well, on a night when they outlasted the Sharks in a high scoring affair. Daniil Tarasov took the crease for the Jackets, making 27 saves on 32 shots, also picking up an assist on the night. Gaudreau got the winner in OT to cap off his huge night:
The outcome of this game is that the standings just got a lot tighter, and the race for Connor Bedard has really heated up. The Jackets (21-38-7, 49pts) now sit just two points back of the Sharks (19-36-13, 51pts) for the worst record in the NHL – but they have two games in hand to catch San Jose.
Fortunately, they got help elsewhere, with Chicago beating the Boston Bruins (!?!?) last night, pushing the Blackhawks (23-38-6, 52pts) three points ahead, with just one more game played than the Jackets. Still, it’s not an ideal outcome for this team, who desperately needs to have a top-3 (ideally, top-2) pick in this summer’s draft.
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With 16 games remaining on the season, it’s hard to see the Jackets catching up with Philadelphia (59pts), or even Anaheim (54pts), barring any long losing or winning streaks here. This is doubly tough when you realize that 10 of their games are on the road; the Jackets have the fewest road wins in the NHL, with just 7 through their first 31 away games.
On top of the road heavy schedule, 9 of those remaining 16 games are against teams currently in playoff position, and they still have three different sets of back-to-backs – including a homestand against Pittsburgh and Buffalo on the final two days of the regular season.
My gut feeling says that 60 points is going to be enough to bring them out of the cellar. So, they can’t win more than 5 of their remaining 16 games and realistically have the best odds in the draft lottery. It’s going to be an interesting storyline to follow as guys are playing for jobs next season and beyond.
Hey, at least they gave the Sharks the loser point.