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The CBJ Final Countdown

8 games left. That’s all there is to it. Twelve days of rapid fire Blue Jackets hockey to get to the playoffs. It has taken us a long time to get here and now there is one more mad dash to go. The final two weeks of the schedule looked daunting when we came out of the Olympic break, and only got harder when the Dallas Stars game got rescheduled for April 9th. In the final twelve days the Jackets play 4 home games and 4 away games with 3 back to backs. I suppose nobody said it would be easy.
Right now the 2nd and 3rd place positions in the Metropolitan Division are still in play for the CBJ, but both the Rangers and the Flyers are playing great hockey and look to be pulling away. Anything can happen in the next twelve days but we can’t control what other teams do (except for the Flyers Thursday night, I suppose). The Jackets currently are in the second wildcard spot, but are only 2 point behind the Red Wings with a game in hand and holding the tiebreaker. The Jackets control their own destiny for the 1st wildcard spot, which is big in avoiding the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs (not that the Penguins are a picnic, but it looks like the lesser of two evils). The opponents the Blue Jackets are up against aren’t cutting us any slack either. Five of the eight remaining games are against teams currently in playoff position, including the powerhouse Blackhawks and the Colorado Avalanche tomorrow night, who currently have 100 points and are surprisingly ahead of Chicago in the standings.
After a gritty come from behind (and then come from behind again) overtime victory against the Carolina Hurricanes the CBJ have been on quite a roller coaster ride since the Olympic break. We briefly held second place in the Metro Division, Ryan Johansen has topped 30 goals on the year, and we’ve had two huge home victories against the Red Wings. There has also been the Rich Peverley situation in Dallas, Rick Nash’s return to Nationwide Arena, and rough losses against the Hurricanes and Islanders. Couple that with the constant questions about who gets scratched from the lineup and Goalie Bob’s recent bout with the flu, and we’ve been all over the map. I never thought having so much team depth would cause so much consternation, but I guess these are the problems playoff teams get to deal with.  When the final horn sounds on April 12th against the Florida Panthers, we’ll hopefully be able to sit back, take a deep breath and really enjoy how we got into the playoffs for the second time in franchise history. If I had to make a prediction now I would have the Blue Jackets hold onto the first wildcard spot in the East and play the Pittsburgh Penguins. The tiebreaker advantage over the Detroit Red Wings is huge (just look at how it turned out last year), and the Maple Leafs and Capitals appear to be fading from contention down the stretch. I’d love it if the CBJ could climb up and out of the wildcard, but anything that gets us into the playoffs is going to be exciting and great for the Team and the City.
Today appears to be the last practice day the Jackets will have for the remainder of the regular season. After that its nothing but crucial games, travel, and (hopefully) some rest. As fans, we only have four more times to go support our team in the regular season and push them to the playoffs. I don’t like to tell people how to spend their money, but I really hope we turn out in droves and rock Nationwide Arena against the Avalanche, Blackhawks, Islanders and Coyotes. I can’t wait to experience this final playoff push, and show this team how much they mean to all of us. Go Jackets!

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