The Columbus Blue Jackets are making a push for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With five games left in the season, Columbus is flipping between the third playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division and a wild-card spot. Just one point behind the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins and the third-place Philadelphia Flyers. However, the Flyers have played one more game than the Blue Jackets so far this season. The New Jersey Devils are a team Blue Jackets fans cannot forget about either holding the final wild-card spot and only three points behind Columbus. With how close the race for positioning is there could be a couple different teams the Blue Jackets could face first round.
Possible Columbus Blue Jackets First Round Matchups
The Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lighting are in first place in the Atlantic Division. With 106 points this season the Lightning are second in the NHL and first in the Eastern Conference. For Columbus to face Tampa Bay in round one the Blue Jackets would have to fall four points to the second wildcard spot.
In their three matchups, this season the Lightning swept the Blue Jackets three games to none. There was only one game that was even a close contest was back on November 11th. The Blue Jackets rallied from down two goals to force overtime, from there the Tampa Bay went on to win in a shootout.
The Lightning is the team the Blue Jackets want to avoid the most. Goalie Andrei Valisevskiy is having a fantastic season and is likely a Vezina candidate. Valisevskiy has played that way against Columbus as well, shutting out the Blue Jackets in two of the three meetings. The Lightning also has one of the best offences in the league scoring a league-high 273 goals to this point in the season.
The Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins currently hold the second playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. With 105 points this season the Bruins are third in the NHL and second in the Eastern Conference. For Columbus to face Boston in round one the Blue Jackets would have to fall four points to the second wildcard spot. The Bruins would then have to pass the Lightning who have a one-point lead and have played one more game.
In the three meetings, this season the Blue Jackets won two games both going past regulation. The only game that ended in three periods was a 7-2 Bruins victory back on December 18th. The first meeting back in October went into a shootout after Columbus blew a 3-0 lead. The most recent game on March 19th the Blue Jackets had to recover from giving up three goals in the second. Columbus recovered in the third period and the game went to overtime where the Blue Jackets would win.
The regular season success may make fans think that the Blue Jackets should want to face the Bruins. The regular season was somewhat deceiving. Columbus should not want to play Boston. The Bruins have 105 points so far for a reason. They are sixth in goals scored this season and third in goals allowed, that puts the Bruins tied for second in goal differential. The Bruins are a good all-around team that could make some noise in the postseason.
The Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals are currently in first in the Metro Division, and barring a total collapse should finish there. For Columbus to face Washington in round one the Blue Jackets would have to lose the one more game than the Flyers. This would put the Blue Jackets in the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
In their four matchups this season, the Capitals won the series 3-1 with a couple close games. Two of Washington’s victories were by one goal the other by two goals. The only game Columbus won this season was the most recent game. The Jackets won a 5-1 rout on February 26th. While a 3-1 Washington lead may not seem promising to fans three of those games were before the Blue Jackets made trades to bring in key players. When those three losses are looked at closely there were a couple minutes in the game where the Columbus hurt themselves. The team either allowed quick back to back goals or allowed bad late goals.
The Capitals do not look like a favourable matchup given the history of games this season. However, they may be the most favorable of the three options. The Blue Jackets beat themselves the first three matchups this season by having mental lapses. The game Columbus didn’t beat have any mental lapses they won 5-1.
The Pittsburgh Penguins
The most likely first-round opponent for the Columbus Blue Jackets is a team they are too familiar with. The Penguins are currently in the second spot in the Metro Division with 92 points. For the Columbus to face Pittsburgh in the first round they would have to finish ahead of the Flyers. If everything continues like it has whoever wins the game on April 5th between these two teams will most likely have home-ice advantage.
There have been three games between these two teams so far this year, Pittsburgh has won all three. The good news for Blue Jackets fans is that two were tight contested games that went into a shootout. The bad news is that in each game the Blue Jackets had a bad period which cost them the game.
Fans might enjoy getting a crack at a rival in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blue Jackets might not want to see Pittsburgh just yet. Given the fact the Penguins have swept the season series is part of it. These two teams have faced off in the first round two of the last three years with neither series going in Columbus favour. This could factor psychologically as well for players like Sergei Bobrovsky, who has not played well against the Penguins in the playoffs.
Columbus will most likely face one of these four teams in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Pittsburgh is the most like opponent as of now, but the Capitals are also a strong possibility. The worst case scenario is that the Blue Jackets fall to the second wild-card spot have to face the Lightning or the Bruins.