The Columbus Blue Jackets biggest week in franchise history starts tonight. The Blue Jackets are currently on the outside looking in of Stanley Cup Playoffs. After going “all in” at the trade deadline, this is somewhat of a surprise to many. Columbus has to have a great week this week if they want to make it to the postseason.
A Tough Schedule Ahead
New York, New York
The first game this week is at Nationwide Arena against the New York Islanders. A while ago it was thought this game would have an implication on who might have home ice advantage in the postseason. This holds for the Islanders but not the Blue Jackets. The Islanders are trying to stay ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second spot in the Metro. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are just trying to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The bad news for Columbus is they have yet to get a win this season against the Islanders. In the last two meetings, one earlier this month, the Islanders held the Blue Jackets scoreless. Good news for Columbus is they get captain Nick Foligno back in the lineup tonight. Foligno has 30 points so far this season and is a big key to getting the Blue Jackets energy level to where it should be.
The next game this week is Thursday at Nationwide against the Montreal Canadiens. This is by far the most crucial game of the season to this point. Montreal holds the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference right now, just two points ahead of Columbus. However, the Blue Jackets have a game in hand and if it comes down to it the tiebreaker. This game is a four-point swing if it ends in regulation. This could very well decide which one of these two teams find themselves playing in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and who will be watching from the couch.
In their only meeting back on January 18th, the Canadiens won 4-1. Carey Price was in net for Montreal, and Joonas Korpisalo was in net for Columbus. This time around it can be assumed that it will be Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Price. With these two in net, it could very well be the first team to two goals will win the game. The Blue Jackets could use Artemi Panarin to step up and take score a big goal or two. Panarin has seemed the same since the trade deadline, which could be a big reason the Blue Jackets are struggling.
A Tough Road Matchup
The last two games of the week are on the road as well as back to back. Saturday the Blue Jackets travel to the Nashville Predators. Nashville is fighting to try to get the number one spot in the Central division, is just two points behind the Winnipeg Jets. Going into a hostile environment on a Saturday night against a good team, it would be a win if Columbus gets a point out of this game. The Blue Jackets did defeat the Predators back in January 4-3 in overtime.
Don’t Overlook Buffalo
The final game of the week is this Sunday, on the road against the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo is a team that is well out of the playoffs and playing for the best draft pick. The season series between the two is currently tied at one win apiece. Columbus won the first meeting 5-4 in overtime, while Buffalo won the second 5-4 in regulation. The Blue Jackets have to be careful not to overlook the Sabres. This will most likely be Korpisalo ’s only start this week, and after playing three tough opponents, this could lead to a slip up to an inferior team.
The Blue Jackets have a tough and vital week ahead of them, with the most critical game coming Thursday. If this week goes well, it will most likely push the Blue Jackets to the postseason for the third consecutive year. If this week goes poorly the “all in” mantra at the deadline will be a complete flop and the Blue Jackets will have some serious evaluating to do.
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