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Blue Jackets bob into playoff picture

At 13-13-6, Columbus sits only one point out of eighth in the West. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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At 13-13-6, Columbus sits only one point out of eighth in the West. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

They’ve won seven of their past 10 games and, after a slow start to the year, are back up in the playoff race, one point out of eighth.

Given that statement, you might think we’re talking about the NY Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, or even the Phoenix Coyotes.

But Columbus? Really?

That’s right, the team everyone thought was predestined for 30th overall and more worthy of a spot in the American League than the NHL, is now, somehow, in the thick of things in the West. But for how surprisingly efficient the team has been of late, it’s hard to believe they’d be seeing this same success without castoff Sergei Bobrovsky standing on his head.

If there is something in Columbus’ way besides depth of skill and the odds, it’s their remaining schedule. While the Blue Jackets have somehow dominated Detroit this season (4-0-1), they are done facing them. And though they’ve made up most of their ground at home, 11 of their final 16 games – and six of their last seven - are on the road. The last time Columbus won a road game against anyone other than Detroit was Jan. 19 in Nashville – the first game of the season.

 

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
P10
THE SCOOP
1
Pittsburgh Penguins
3
25-8-0
10-0-0
Could we have two historical winning streaks in one year? Penguins on a roll with 12 wins in a row and Brenden Morrow adds further depth and experience.
2
Chicago Blackhawks
2
24-3-3
7-3-0
Hawks have looked a little more human the past two weeks. Corey Crawford putting his hat in the ring for Team Canada consideration in 2014.
3
Montreal Canadiens
4
20-6-5
7-2-1
Brendan Gallagher’s .67 points-per-game average is second to Cory Conacher among full-time rookies. Habs have recorded at least a point in 18 of their past 20 games.
4
Anaheim Ducks
1
22-5-4
7-2-1
Ducks won their second game in two tries against the Blackhawks, but were outscored 7-2 by Red Wings in back-to-back losses at home.
5
Minnesota Wild
6
18-10-2
8-2-0
Don’t look now, but the Northwest is legitimizing itself again. Wild outscored opponents 13-7 on a concluded three-game road trip and have won five in a row. After a slow start, Ryan Suter is once again firmly entrenched in the Norris race.
6
Vancouver Canucks
15
17-9-6
6-3-1
The bad news is the Canucks desperately need a top-two center to help get them back on track. The good news is Jannik Hansen is excelling with an increased roll. His average of 17:02 of ice time is more than a two minute rise from last season.
7
Toronto Maple Leafs
9
17-12-3
4-3-3
Got a monkey off their back with a win over Boston on Saturday. James Reimer has allowed four goals five times over his past nine games. Is he their guy to make a push with down the stretch?
8
Boston Bruins
5
20-7-3
6-4-0
Bruins score only six goals in four-game road trip, which has prompted coach Claude Julien to change up his lines. Despite offensive struggles, it’s hard to bet against a team that guards so well against the man advantage (92.4% on the PK).
9
Detroit Red Wings
11
16-11-5
6-3-1
Back-to-back wins in Anaheim shows why you still can not underestimate this team. Wings have scored two goals or fewer in nine of their past 13 games, but still managed 7-4-2 record. Jimmy Howard starting to trend towards Vezina contention.
10
Ottawa Senators
12
17-9-6
5-2-3
Have recorded a point in seven of their past eight games. Pending UFA Sergei Gonchar didn’t score a point in the first eight games without Erik Karlsson, but is on a 10-game scoring streak, during which he has logged 15 points.
11
Los Angeles Kings
7
17-12-2
5-5-0
Have lost four of seven, including back-to-back shutout losses at home. Kings need more consistency from Jonathan Quick. Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown have one goal between them in past four games.
12
Winnipeg Jets
16
17-14-2
6-3-1
If it weren’t for the Capitals, the Jets would have the inside track on a playoff position. Take out their matchups against Washington and the Jets have won their last five at home. In the three MTS games against Washington, however, Winnipeg is 0-3 and has been outscored 13-1.
13
St. Louis Blues
13
17-12-2
6-4-0
From a shutout one night, to a loss on a bad-angle goal the next, Jaroslav Halak’s past two games said all you need to know about his season so far.
14
Columbus Blue Jackets
25
13-13-6
7-1-2
Rick Nash and Jeff Carter both have one goal in eight games. Guy Boucher, who passed up Columbus’ coaching job for Tampa Bay’s, got fired. Meanwhile, Jack Johnson munches minutes, Sergei Bobrovsky, rises into Vezina contention and Columbus has won seven of 10. Wow. Time to give them some love.
15
New Jersey Devils
24
15-11-6
5-4-1
Surprise, surprise: Devils get two wins in Martin Brodeur’s first two games back from injury. But they’re not in the clear yet, since Ilya Kovalchuk will miss two-to-four weeks with a shoulder injury.
16
Washington Capitals
18
15-16-1
5-5-0
The Caps are 9-3-0 in their own division, but only face those teams in six of their final 16 games. Alex Ovechkin has 16 points in those games, meaning he has 15 points in 20 games against the rest of the conference.
17
Nashville Predators
23
13-13-6
4-5-1
If you think Nashville would be a markedly better team with offense, check this: Nashville has scored three goals or more in seven of their past nine games and hold a 4-3 record in them.
18
Dallas Stars
20
15-13-3
5-4-1
Trading Brenden Morrow will hurt at least a little this season, but the return of Joe Morrow was as good as Stars fans could have hoped. But they’re still in the thick of things this season. No Pacific team has a better record in the division than Dallas, who plays nine of their final 17 in-house.
19
New York Rangers
10
15-13-3
4-5-1
We assumed the Rangers would have started coming on by now, but it’s getting late in the game. When you drop three of four to Southeast teams you have issues. Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash and Brad Richards have combined for five points in seven games.
20
Carolina Hurricanes
8
15-13-2
4-5-1
Since trashing Washington 4-0 on the road, Carolina has scored six goals in five games, for an 0-4-1 record. If visors do hinder players’ vision, at least Eric and Jordan Staal won’t be able to see their grip on a playoff spot slip away.
21
New York Islanders
19
14-15-3
5-4-1
Islanders had great chance to make up ground at home, but failed miserably. Are 0-4-1 in last five games against teams currently in a playoff position.
22
San Jose Sharks
14
13-11-6
3-5-2
San Jose ships out Doug Murray for draft picks and stand with worst offense in the NHL. Are we watching the once-great Sharks crumble before our eyes?
23
Buffalo Sabres
29
13-15-4
4-3-3
Within their own division, Buffalo has three straight wins and points in four consecutive games. The problem is, they’re 6-10-2 against the rest of the East and are especially bad against the Southeast, who they play three games against this week.
24
Edmonton Oilers
26
11-12-7
3-4-3
Returning home from a nine-game road trip was supposed to help cure ills, but the Oilers lost three of four at Rexall, too. Only four points out, Oilers showing they’re not taking that next step yet.
25
Philadelphia Flyers
22
13-16-2
4-5-1
Ilya Bryzgalov’s stat line: 13 W, 2.75 GAA, .900 SP. Former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky’s line: 11 W, 2.17 GAA, .927 SP. *Laugh track*
26
Phoenix Coyotes
17
13-14-4
3-6-1
Offense has never been the Coyotes' strong suit, but being held to three goals in five games is ridiculous. It won’t get any easier down the stretch either, as Phoenix plays 10 of its final 16 games on the road.
27
Calgary Flames
28
12-14-4
4-6-0
Looking at the bottom of these rankings, the Northwest and Southeast are proving why they are the worst divisions. Miikka Kiprusoff has allowed 27 goals in his past seven games. Is there any trade market for the 36-year-old anymore?
28
Colorado Avalanche
21
11-16-4
3-7-0
The Avs haven’t won a road game since the Wild showed them a little love on Feb. 14. As Semyon Varlamov struggles, it’s worth noting Filip Forsberg – who the Caps got in that trade – the best under-20 player in Sweden’s Allsvenskan.
29
Tampa Bay Lightning
27
13-18-1
4-6-0
In offensive rankings, the Lightning are surrounded by Pittsburgh, Chicago, Anaheim and Montreal. In defensive rankigs, they’re surrounded by Philadelphia, Buffalo, Colorado and the Islanders. Until the defense and goaltending is addressed, no coach will find much success with this team.
30
Florida Panthers
30
9-18-6
2-7-1
Worst goals-against average + worst penalty kill = worst NHL team. Too bad there’s no relegation, because the Panthers are outclassed.

 

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