By Tom T
March is playoff time. Columbus plays 16 games in this critical month and only 5 of them against teams that are not in the playoff race. Depending on how you view EDM that number is as low as 3 (they play EDM twice). Six of the CBJ games are part of a back-to-back and 9 of their games are on the road, including a four-game swing that starts in BOS and 9 days later ends in VAN. Nine games in March are against teams in the top ten of most sportswriter’s power rankings.
What This Means
It means 2 things, 1) that the CBJ ‘collapse’ isn’t really a collapse and 2) that if Columbus runs this gauntlet of 16 games in March and comes out with a playoff spot they will have been well tested and ready at the end of the season.
It has been widely talked about how the CBJ went ‘all-in’ and then have played sub-par. That they have even collapsed or will collapse. Truth is that they have not played well, no doubt. They are 4-5 since the trade deadline. But of those 9 games, eight have been against teams fighting for a playoff spot (including EDM and PHI). While play has been inconsistent, they have not collapsed. And, for those of you keeping track they still have a playoff spot as of this morning.
The March schedule certainly poses a big test for the CBJ. From here on out they must play playoff-urgent hockey. This will be good preparation going into a playoff run. They will also need to right-the-ship as they say. Results will come with consistent play. Getting shutout one night and bouncing back with 7 goals the next is not consistent.
Four Point Game
The way the NHL playoffs are set up today means that are 3 divisions in each conference. In the East there is the Atlantic, Metro and the Wild Card. Three teams get in from the Atlantic and Metro while only two make it from the Wild Card. It is an interesting way to view the conferences. This is not my original idea. I read this somewhere else and if I could remember where I would give that writer credit.
It is time to start looking at that third division more carefully if you are a Jacket fan. Currently Columbus is 2 points back of the lead in the WC division behind CAR. Tomorrow’s game either puts the CBJ back 4 points or pulls them even for the lead. Given that CAR would have a game in hand they would have the tie-breaker. Neither CAR nor CBJ can catch the 3rd place team in their division with one win. But, MON can overtake the Union Blue with a victory tonight and push them back outside the playoffs.
What do we know about CAR? I know that they were sellers at the deadline and were hypothetically moving players like Ferland, Hamilton and Faulk. That was a bad information. They traded their star player Skinner at the beginning of the season and this was a rebuilding year for them. Again, fake news. Their goaltending is poor as they don’t have a real starter with two journeymen, castoff backstops. But wait both their tendy’s numbers (GAA and Sv%) are better than Bob’s. The answer to the initial question I posed is that I (we) may know nothing about these Canes.
Facts about the Canes
Hamilton and Faulk are legit top pair defensemen. Aho is a budding star with 30 goals and 47 assists. All Justin Williams does is make deep playoff runs (I mean an entire career worth). Secondary talent is not a problem for this team with Teravainen, Stall and TvR. Last but not least, McElhinney is a goaltender that is extremely familiar with the current CBJ line up (notable exceptions are Duchene and Dzingel).
This CAR team is a TEAM in every sense of the word. They don’t rely on a superstar to score, they have come together and gotten hot at the right time. And those home win celebrations…this is a tight bunch of players. I hope they make the playoffs because they would be a great story in the post season. I just hope they don’t do it at the expense of the CBJ being on the outside.
Who wins Thursday’s game? CBJ or CAR?
With 12 games left does the CBJ show some consistency and make the playoffs?