Sometimes in life, they don’t ask how. They ask how many. That’s the way of life these days with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The how many in this case is how many points do they have in the standings. And is it enough to qualify for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? As of Sunday morning, the answers are 76 and amazingly yes.
Alive and Kicking
So despite the injuries and their recent struggles in all phases of their game, the Blue Jackets wake up to a new day in the second wildcard position in the East. Granted, their position is on very thin ice given the games in hand situation. But the point remains the same. They are in a playoff spot despite everything that has happened to them of late.
They don’t ask how, they ask how many. This season has been one crazy roller-coaster ride from the bottom-five to the top-10 and then trying to hold on. The Blue Jackets are in 13th place in the overall standings. But remarkably, they sit just four points from third in the Metro and five from second in the Metro.
They can do this. The goal of making the playoffs is still right there. Yes, Seth Jones is gone. Yes, so are many others too. But, at the end of the day, the Blue Jackets are in position to give this their best shot.
Now let’s be honest for a minute. If the Blue Jackets continue to get their recent results, it’s game over. They will fall out of the race and could conceivably get a higher lottery pick.
But the Blue Jackets aren’t interested in that at this point. There’s a spot in the dance on the line. So we need to ask a question. What do they have to do to ensure themselves a spot in the dance? What has to happen for them to turn this thing around? Seth Jones isn’t stepping on the ice tonight or all March long for that matter. This team will have to find a way to make it happen.
There are plenty of issues going around the team. But in reality, they need to do one important thing and the rest will fall into place.
The Columbus Blue Jackets need to simply get back to basics. If they do, the rest of their game will follow.
Back to Basics
What do we mean by getting back to basics? This means the Blue Jackets need to get back to what makes them successful. They have to bring the energy from the drop of the puck. They need to play tight defense. They need solid goaltending. They need timely scoring.
How does all that happen? They need to stay patient. If there’s one thing on tape that stands out about this team, it’s that they haven’t have the patience required in their game to be successful.
When you’re struggling and in the midst of a long losing streak, it is easy to want to try and make something happen even if it isn’t the best idea. Just look at their game Friday against Minnesota. Forwards were out of position trying to make something happen on offense. Then a predictable counterattack leads to a goal and now you’re chasing the game again.
The Blue Jackets’ margin for error is razor thin and getting smaller and smaller with each passing day. They cannot afford to get away from their formula for success. Make the smart pass. Make sure the puck gets deep. It’s boring hockey but who cares at this point? They need to win. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to get the job done.
The Blue Jackets don’t have the skill that most of their competition has up front. They can’t outscore you 6-5 night in and night out. They have to win 2-1, 3-2 and so on. But to do that, the Blue Jackets need to get back to basic, fundamental hockey. It has worked most of the season for them and it can work here. But they have to bring energy from the word go or else this is nothing more than a good idea on paper.
Their recent games have gone south in a hurry because of their poor starts. Their starts are poor because there’s not enough energy being displayed. Then you’re wasting your energy trying to catch up. This method of playing usually results in putting up goose eggs in the standings.
In their last six games, the Blue Jackets played just one first period that would be classified as good. That was the second Philadelphia game on Feb 20. If we don’t count that game, the Blue Jackets have been outscored 9-2 in the first period in the other five games.
Opportunity Awaits Them
Sunday night is a golden opportunity to take points from a tired team traveling the country and playing a lot of hockey. The Canucks come to Nationwide Arena playing their fourth game in six nights on a road trip that has taken them through Eastern Canada and now Columbus. They lost in Toronto 4-2 on Saturday and now have to play a team in the Blue Jackets who have been waiting for them.
If energy is a problem in this game, then it’s fair to sound the alarms on this season. The Blue Jackets know what’s at stake and it’s up to them to take advantage of the opportunity in front of them.
After Sunday, the Blue Jackets will have just 15 games left in their season which include just five home games. Their schedule is brutal to say the least. The only Metro team they don’t see the rest of the season is Philadelphia. The opportunity is there but they have to defeat a team playing their fourth in six nights. They just do.
If the Blue Jackets get back to basics, they can do this. But it’s up to them. Can they find a way to fight through any fatigue to bring the required energy and make this happen?
It’s a one-game season. It starts Sunday night against Vancouver. Take care of business then move to the next one. That has to be their formula. Otherwise, start planning those spring and summer tee times.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.