This season has not lived up to new-found expectations.
Columbus has experienced astronomical highs of a 10-1-1 December, and the lows of holding the league’s worst record after two months of play. The playoffs, which were an expectation coming into the season, are on the horizon, but the tide is drifting outwards and there’s little room on the beach.
The Blue Jackets sit 14 points behind Boston for the final wild card spot and 15 points behind the Rangers for third in the Metropolitan. Looking in the other direction, Columbus only owns 12 more points than Buffalo, the league’s worst team.
Columbus has 37 games to make up the ground. Not to mention the importance of late-season collapses from Philadelphia, Florida, Toronto, Boston, Ottawa and Washington. It’s a long shot, but Columbus still has a chance; or maybe it doesn’t. Let’s explore.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) January 22, 2015
Columbus has three* All-Stars. Are you crazy?
Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen have combined for 85 points and have accounted for the one-third of the team’s goal total – that would be 35 of 109 total goals. When they are placed on a line together, especially with Scott Hartnell, it has yielded success.
Between the pipes, Sergei Bobrovsky’s .913 save percentage ranks near the bottom of the league, but his season has been remarkable considering only three teams allow more shots per game than Columbus. Bob has made 953 saves in 33 games, but a groin injury will sideline Bob for 4-6 weeks. No doubt he is still an All-Star, but Curtis McElhinney will have his work cut out for him.
Nope. Columbus spends too much time in its own zone. Jackets can’t keep up.
All eight Columbus defenseman, not including Ryan Murray, currently boast negative turnover ratios. Jack Johnson and David Savard’s ratios of -5 and -11 respectively are by no means among the worst in the league, Drew Doughty can claim that title at -47, but it’s not ideal for a top defensive pairing.
If we’re really trying to get fancy, Columbus ranks 26th in Fenwick percentage (46.2 percent), meaning Columbus doesn’t register as many shots and does not hold a significant amount of possession. Turnovers, especially neutral zone giveaways, partially contribute to Columbus playing in its own end frequently. The other factor? Penalties. Columbus spends about 10 minutes per game killing off penalties, which ranks near the bottom of the league.
Hey, some really crummy teams have made the playoffs before.
You can read the full article by clicking the hyperlink above, but we’ll throw you some highlights. The 1988 Toronto Maple Leafs accumulated 52 points and made it into the playoffs despite a -72 goal differential. The 1970 California Golden Seals and 1969 Los Angeles Kings each got into the big show with 58 points.
Granted, there weren’t as many teams back then and making the playoffs was easier, but those teams had as good a chance at The Cup as the top clubs. As it stands, Columbus only stands 9 points behind the ’88 Leafs.
However, should the Blue Jackets meet last season’s low mark of 91 points, set by Dallas, they would need 48 points in 37 games. Assuming 91 points does the job, Columbus would have to win at least 24 games, if not more.
Boston, Washington and New York are on fire
These three teams make up the two wild cards and third spot in the Metropolitan. Each of the clubs have picked up at least 14 points over the last ten games. Not to mention New York and Boston have playoff pedigree and Washington’s offense is one of the best in the league, thanks to one of the league’s best scorers in Alex Ovechkin.
The schedule ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Columbus will face 22 different teams to conclude the season, against whom it has a 12-16-2 record this season. 18 games will be played at home and 21 on the road. Six of those games will come against the aforementioned group of six wild card contenders mentioned at the top of the article, making those the most important of all.
The end of the season seems like a toss-up, even if the Blue Jackets remain healthy. A slow re-start after this weekend’s break and many of March’s and April’s games could be meaningless. Another hot streak and we could be in for another wild finish.
Brad has been with The Hockey Writers since November 2014 and currently attends Ohio University’s E.W Scripps School of Journalism. During the summer of 2014, he served as an intern with the Columbus Blue Jackets digital media department.