Familiar Territory


Blue Jackets General Manager Andrew Payeur finds himself in a tight playoff race for the final Wildcard playoff spots in the Lemieux Conference and it's unfortunately a position he's familiar with. Coming to the end of his fifth full season at the helm of the Jackets, Payeur's teams have twice been eliminated from the playoff race on the final game of the regular season and he hopes not to make it a third. The playoff race is heat up with a few weeks to go with the Maple Leafs, Islanders, Devils, Panthers and even the Capitals all vying for two wildcard spots. 

For the longest time, it seemed that a both wildcard teams would come from the strong Metropolitan division, with the Islanders primed to walk in comfortably to the first spot. But over the last month and a half, the Isles have stumbled towards the finish and allowed teams behind to catchup. The Devils (12-7-1) and Maples Leafs (14-6-0) in particular have been red hot over their last 20 games and made up lots of ground. The Panthers also were very hot as well before succumbing to an ongoing five game winless streak. The Metro has been the best division in hockey all year, with an average points percentage of 57.78% and three of the league's top eight teams, making points hard to come in inter-divisional games. Meanwhile, the reverse is true of the Atlantic division which features three of the worst eight teams in the league, offering an advantage to those within the division to pick up points on bottom feeders. 

The Blue Jackets have been inconsistent over the final stretch, going through impressive win streaks and miserable losing streaks but thanks to a strong start to the season, banked enough points early to stay in the race.  The Jackets will have a game against both the Devils and Islanders next week, which could end up being the difference in who makes it and who misses. Their remaining schedule also features tough matchups against division leaders in the Hurricanes and Coyotes as well as a surging Red Wings team. And all these games will happen without a clear starter in net, as the team continues juggling Matt Murray and Chris Dreidger from game to game, chasing the hot hand. Things don't look good for Payeur and the Blue Jackets odds, but they'll fight until the bitter end, just they like always do. And if things once again come down to the last game of the season, hopefully history doesn't repeat itself.