Brad Friedman The Hockey Writers
Save the Date: Columbus’s Top Remaining Games
Don’t leave yet, Blue Jacket fans!
As tempting as it could be to throw in the towel on this injury-laden and disappointing season, the schedule still contains several games worthy of your attention. Winning these games won’t boost Columbus into the playoff race, nor will losing them bump them from said race, but they stand as a good litmus tests to see where the club stands and how it wants to finish.
If anything, the team would like a chance to see what this roster is capable of accomplishing with a somewhat healthy roster.
March 12 @ Detroit
Of the six goals between Columbus and Detroit in two games this season, the Red Wings have scored five of them, but the season series is tied at one. Detroit dismantled Columbus 5-0 at Nationwide Arena in November, but Columbus picked up the 1-0 shootout win the following month. Sergei Bobrovsky was in net for Columbus on both occasions, but he faced ten fewer shots in the win despite playing five more minutes of hockey.
With only five points separating Detroit from the top spot in the conference, the Red Wings still have plenty for which to play. Most importantly, should Jimmy Howard get the nod, the game will provide a serious goaltender match-up with him and Bobrovsky.
March 10 & 16 @/vs. Carolina
Despite wallowing in the basement of the league all season, Carolina has given Columbus fits this season. Carolina beat Columbus 4-2 on Nov. 4 in Columbus and 3-2 in overtime just three days later down in Raleigh. This follows an unnerving trend of Columbus faltering against the league’s worst teams. Against five of the six bottom teams, as of March 10, Columbus is 2-7-1.
In the meantime, Columbus has defeated teams like Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Detroit, St Louis, Chicago and Minnesota at least once. It will be interesting to note whether or not the Blue Jackets can psych themselves up for a weaker opponent.
March 24 vs. Anaheim
As of March 10, the Ducks are the second best team in the league. We just mentioned Columbus has found success against top-tier teams, but not against Anaheim. The Ducks thumped the Blue Jackets 4-1 back in October. That was the same game where Cam Atkinson suffered a nasty eye injury, which you should not view if you are squeamish.
It will also be Columbus’ only home game during an 11-day stretch which includes five road games in various parts of the United States and Canada. It was also be James Wisniewski’s first game back in Columbus since being traded.
The James Wisniewski trade makes Anaheim’s defense core really deep, which is going to be needed in the West playoff-wise #CapitalsTalk
— Chris Cerullo (@CJC_95) March 4, 2015
March 27 @ Chicago
Chicago fans are getting a taste of what Columbus’s season has been like with Patrick Kane’s recent injury. However, Kane was playing when the two clubs meet in Columbus in December when Columbus won 3-2 in a nail-biting shootout. Since that game, the two teams have trended in different directions. Chicago has gone 17-12-4 and Columbus 13-19-1, with two of those wins coming during Columbus’s red-hot month of December.
The United Center is a difficult place to play: the Blackhawks have the fourth-best home record in the West. Columbus has not won there since 2010.
April 2 vs. New York Islanders
The Islanders have outscored the Blue Jackets 11-5 to five in two meetings this season and the match-up will be Columbus’s final crack at the division’s top-dog on home ice. As of March 10, only Tampa Bay has scored more goals than New York (218) and barring a catastrophic run of injuries, New York will continue to pile on goals. If anything, Columbus will have a chance to keep affairs competitive this time around.
April 4 vs. Pittsburgh
After winning the first two games in thrilling fashion, Columbus suffered a lopsided 5-3 loss to the Penguins that was not as close as the score indicated. Tempers have flared between the two teams in the past, so if anything, this will be an entertaining game, especially for those who enjoy watching Brandon Dubinsky getting under Sidney Crosby’s skin.
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