Columbus Blue Jackets Playoff Spot is in Jeopardy

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 20: Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella during the first period of the National Hockey League game between the New Jersey Devils and the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 20, 2018, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets playoff spot is in jeopardy coming down the home stretch of the season. These final games may be the biggest string of games in Blue Jackets history. The Blue Jackets currently hold a two-point lead over the Florida Panthers for the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. With only 14 games left in the season, Columbus may think they have no reason to panic but this is not the case.

Blue Jacket Season Going Down to the Wire

The Tough Schedule

The Blue Jackets have a tough schedule to finish out the season. Eight of the 14 games come against teams either in a playoff spot or in contention for one. Half of the remaining games for Columbus during the stretch is at home. The same goes for the eight games versus Stanley Cup Playoff contention teams.  When it comes to teams against the Metropolitan Division, the Blue Jackets have three games left.

The Threat of the Panthers

While the tough schedule is a reason for fans to panic, there’s a bigger reason. The Blue Jackets have played 68 games so far this season, while the Panthers have played in just 65. This means that the two-point lead Columbus has over Florida right now might not last if the Panthers earn three of the six possible points. If that happened, the Blue Jackets would find themselves watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs from home.

There is good news for Columbus, however. Out of the Panthers 17 games left, 10 of those games are against teams contending or in a playoff spot. One of those games is also against the Blue Jackets in Columbus. That game could be the deciding factor on who makes it to the postseason. When the puck drops for the game, the Blue Jackets will have seven games left in the season. The Panthers will still have 10 games left, but could be down four points if the Blue Jackets win the game. At that point, the Panthers would have to get five of the possible six points in the three games to get to the postseason.

Best Hockey of the Season

There is good news for Blue Jackets fans to take away from this challenging schedule. The Blue Jackets are currently playing their best hockey of the season. Scoring four or more goals in three straight games and winning three games for the first time since November. The three games that Columbus won came against the two playoff teams in the west and the first team out as of now. Even with  Sergei Bobrovksy out with an illness for the past two games, Columbus has still found a way to beat good teams.

If the Blue Jackets are going to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they are going to have to continue to play their best hockey. It would almost be the exact opposite of the Blue Jackets last year. Last year, the Blue Jackets played their best hockey early in the season, capped by a 16-game win streak. Luckily, Columbus got enough points early to cover their bad finish to the season.

Once they got to the postseason, the Blue Jackets were knocked out in the first round by the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games. If the Blue Jackets make it to the postseason this season, they could be a team that no team wants to face. An example would be like the Nashville Predators last season who made it as the final wildcard and made it to the finals.

What’s Next For Columbus

The Columbus Blue Jackets are down the home stretch of the season and currently hold the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers are hot on their tail though – only two points behind with three games-in-hand. The Blue Jackets also have a tough schedule ahead, but are playing their best hockey of the season. This makes them dangerous to make it to the postseason and they can make some noise once they get there.

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