The Blue Jackets were shut out today 2-0 in a lackluster performance by Columbus and a monumental game by Evgeni Nabokov and the New York Islanders. No less than two days ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets had games in hand and a small, but very helpful two-point lead over the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. The Blue Jackets have not made the playoffs since Rick Nash helped bring them to a first round series loss in the 2008-2009 season. Hopes, however, are beginning to dwindle. Now, after dropping two in a row and failing to get a single point, the Columbus Blue Jackets find themselves in tenth place and find their playoff hopes in jeopardy.
The Islanders, coming off of a 6-0 shellacking by the Minnesota Wild at home, were playing for little more than just a chance to spoil. However, the Blue Jackets did not lose this game for lack of effort. Nabokov in the game was just simply perfect, stopping all 41 shots he faced, including 17 in the final period. A key factor in this game would be the failure to take advantage of the power play. The Blue Jackets were shut down a total of six power plays, four of which came in the third. Columbus’ inability to convert on the power play could become the reason they ultimately do not make the playoffs. The Jackets are 0 for 32 on the power play in their last nine games, a stat no playoff hopeful can have with 11 games left to play.
To top everything off, the remaining schedule for the Columbus Blue Jackets does not bode well for them and also completely jeopardizes their playoff hopes. Tuesday, the Blue Jackets take on a fellow team vying for playoff position in the Detroit Red Wings. Seven of their next 11 games are against playoff teams, four of which are fighting to keep their own playoff hopes alive. The other three teams are in the top three of their respective conferences (Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche) and will not be easy foes. Luckily, the Blue Jackets face those three teams at home where they boast a pretty good 19-13-3 record. They have six remaining home and five remaining away games. The away games have the potential to really be a problem for the Blue Jackets down the stretch. Columbus is roughly .500 on the road this season (17-16-3) and finishes off the year with three straight away games, a daunting task for any team trying to make it to the playoffs.
The Columbus Blue Jackets playoff hopes are dwindling for now, but one key stat could keep them from being completely jeopardized in all of this end-of-season chaos. Should the Blue Jackets, Red Wings, Capitals and even now the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs end their seasons in a points tie, the first tie-breaker goes to the team leading in the category of Regulation and Overtime Wins (ROW), and that team is none other than the Columbus Blue Jackets with 31. Four wins ahead of their closest competitor. Business for the Blue Jackets still needs to be taken care of, but if they can fight long enough to tie with one of these teams, they will make their first playoff appearance in five years.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles