Especially in a shortened season, this record after twenty-one games was completely contradictory to any aspirations of competing in the post-season in the NHL. This was the Columbus Blue Jackets’ record on March 2nd, no less. It was abysmal.
And yet, with one away and one home match-up remaining, the once-last-place-in-the-entire-league Blue Jackets are potentially two victories from making the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history. Wow! How did this happen?
Let”s start with two words: Jarmo Kekalainen.
No, this isn’t a Finnish delicacy, but the name of the Blue Jackets’ current general manager. In fact, according to the Associated Press’s “Jackets hire Jarmo Kekalainen as GM” on ESPN.com from February 13, 2013, the general manager shift mid-season was quite a big deal.
“Just more than 24 hours after firing Scott Howson, they announced the hiring of Jarmo Kekalainen of Finland as the first European to be a general manager in the National Hockey League.”
Hard to believe, but it’s true. What seems even more unlikely is that Columbus could be playing hockey in May. And yet, on April 24th, it’s still a possibility.
Following the entrance of Kekalainen, the Blue Jacket’s continued with their losing ways, temporarily. There was a three-game and a four-game losing streak. Then came their battle at home hosting the Colorado Avalanche. Including this March 3rd victory versus the Avalanche, Columbus has achieved two five-game and two three-game winning streaks. Currently, they have won nine of their last twelve. An away game at Dallas this Thursday and the home finale against Nashville on Saturday will determine whether or not their hope of earning the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference will even be attainable.
The Columbus hockey faithful know a third three-game winning streak to end the regular season is a must.
The Blue Jackets have played in seventeen (17) overtimes and nine (9) have gone to shootouts this season thus far. They have won five of the shootouts. While Sergei Bobrovsky continues to play sensationally down the stretch, he is 5-4 in shootouts. For Jacket’s fans though, having Bobrovsky conclude the regular season with a potential 7-4 record would be viewed as a tremendous and celebratory achievement.
If the Blue Jackets are to make the playoffs, then their mission has to continue to be met: win nearly every single game starting in late March. So far, the summit is still visible. It’s cloudy with some gusting winds and blinding snowfall, but the top is still within reach.
And by reach, I literally mean that of Sergei Bobrovsky. Hopes of earning a spot in the playoffs may come down to a shootout.
I wonder if Bobrovsky is a fan of Julie “The Cat” Gaffney?