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The final 8 games update: Two down, six to go

Last night went pretty well. The game between the Blue Jackets and the Flyers started out slow. The first period was full of Columbus penalties and Philadelphia heavy hits. Escaping the first period scoreless seemed like a moral victory, but did look a lot like the starts of many of the recent games. The offense has been struggling to put pucks in the net in the first 40 minutes the past couple of weeks. This has left us in a bad spot where one or two opponent goals in the third period finish us off. James Wisniewski let us all breathe a little easier in the 2nd period when he shot one past Steve Mason at the end of a very successful power play. The CBJ stayed deep in the Flyers zone the entire power play and completed numerous crisp passes and good shots on goal. It was a nice change for a team that has struggled so recently with the man advantage.
Going into the third period up 1-0 still had everyone on the edge of their seats, but Brandon Dubinsky’s goal at 3:20 appeared to take the wind out of the sails of Philadelphia. Much of the remainder of the game was spent with the Jackets creating turnovers and getting shots on goal, and with the Flyers unable to sustain any offensive pressure. The final score of 2-0, showed us that our team can play a full 60 minutes and support our excellent goalie in a pressure filled game in his old barn. The Philadelphia fans spent much of the third period booing their team, but did give Sergei Bobrovsky a nice round of applause after he was announced as the first star of the game. Always a class act, Goalie Bob acknowledged the Philly fans and gave them a cheer of his own. It was a nice moment and had to feel great for him. He even did a short postgame interview for the first time since he’s joined the Blue Jackets.
As for the push for the NHL playoffs not much changed at the bottom. The Toronto Maple Leafs won in overtime against the Boston Bruins, which keeps them one point behind Columbus for the final wildcard. Toronto has played two more games than us, so it is not quite as close as it appears. The Washington Capitals were idle, remaining four points back with the same number of games played. The Detroit Red Wings were also off last night and are now one point ahead of the Jackets for the first wildcard spot. The Blue Jackets hold tiebreakers over all of the teams in the wildcard race.
Where last night made the playoff race interesting is in the Metropolitan Division. The New York Rangers remain in second place with 91 points, but have played two more games than the Flyers and Blue Jackets. The Flyers are 4 points back of the Rangers, and 2 points ahead of the Jackets for 3rd place. Columbus does not hold any tiebreakers against the teams above them, with the tiebreakers matching the current standings. The Rangers are hot right now and will be hard to catch with six games to go. The Flyers and Jackets both face daunting schedules the final week. Philly has to play (in order) the Bruins, Sabres, Panthers, Lightning, Penguins and Hurricanes. That’s three playoff bound teams out of six and includes the best two teams in the East. Columbus has to play the Blackhawks, Islanders, Coyotes, Stars, Lightning and Panthers. That’s four playoff teams of six, but only includes the Blackhawks as a top tier powerhouse. The sprint between the Flyers and Blue Jackets could now very well come down to the final game, which wouldn’t be the case if Columbus lost last night.
It was a big night, a big win, but nobody is under the impression we’ve accomplished anything yet. This team has used the slogan “brick by brick” all year, and this final stretch run will be no different. Tonight’s game is against the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationwide Arena at 7:00. Go Jackets!

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