Talk about ships heading in opposite directions. The Columbus Blue Jackets can do no wrong these days and the Nashville Predators, well, they’re like the old country-and-western lament that were it not for bad luck, they’d have no luck at all. And at the end of this season it won’t be hard to identify this just-completed five-game trip that turned into the trip from hell as the moment the Predators’ playoff dreams turned to dust.
The Blue Jackets made it 11 straight games with at least a point (7-0-4) with a 4-3 win over the Predators Tuesday night in Columbus. The Blue Jackets got goals from four players and another strong outing from Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped 31 of 34 shots to replicate the template for their unprecedented stretch of play; just enough timely, balanced scoring and stellar goaltending.
The win gave the Blue Jackets 30 points, which puts them tied for eighth in the Western Conference with San Jose and Phoenix. Now, as well as the Blue Jackets have played, they are not assured of anything. They have played 30 games, which means a lot of teams around them in the standings have a game or two in hand, and they don’t have an attractive tiebreaker (regulation or overtime wins) compared to other competitors for the final two or three playoff spots in the West.
But if you’re a Blue Jackets fan, this is as good as it has been for a long time. While Paul MacLean might have sewn up the Jack Adams as coach of the year in Ottawa, Columbus coach Todd Richards will get a strong look for getting things turned around under trying circumstances if he can get the Blue Jackets into the postseason dance for only the second time in franchise history.
As for the Predators, after beating Dallas 4-0 to start this trip, they have lost four straight and been outscored 20-12 during the four-game slide. There was a time when averaging three goals a game would have given the Preds a pretty decent shot at winning pretty much every night. But even though the offense has come around, the team defense and goaltending have suddenly abandoned the Preds.
Is it too late to save the season? They too have played 30 games and are only two points out of eighth, but they’re in 13th place and they need to find their mojo pretty darned quickly or the Preds and their fans will definitely be singing the playoff blues.