After a brief two-game road trip in Dallas and Denver, the Columbus Blue Jackets (23-16-3) will take on the Florida Panthers (17-18-5) at Nationwide Arena on Sunday. The puck is scheduled to drop shortly after 5:00 PM ET.
After winning five games in a row to close out 2017, the Florida Panthers have dropped their first two games of 2018 on the road in Minnesota and Detroit. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, have started the year just as they left off the previous one: inconsistent.
The CBJ offense, which ranks 28th in the National Hockey League, has scored more than two goals just three times in their last ten games. With numbers like that, wins come almost solely on the backs of their goaltenders.
For the Jackets, that shouldn’t be much of a problem with last year’s Vezina winner in net. Sergei Bobrovsky, who played out of his mind in November by allowing two or fewer goals in eight out of 11 games, had a rough December. He held opponents under three goals in only four of his 12 starts.
He’s two-for-two so far in 2018.
While John Tortorella can hope the offense finds its way soon, Bobrovsky himself can keep the CBJ afloat until that happens.
What would benefit the Blue Jackets the most would be a matchup with a team that’s struggling defensively. The Florida Panthers could provide just what the doctor ordered. They’ve allowed 3.2 goals per game this season, which ranks 26th in the NHL.
Goalie James Reimer, who allowed four goals on 19 shots in his last start on Thursday against the Red Wings, comes into Sunday’s contest with a 3.06 goals-allowed average and .910 save percentage. His career numbers against the CBJ aren’t any better. He’s 2-6 in eight starts with a 3.90 GAA and .875 SV%.
The most consistent player offensively for the Jackets this season has been Artemi Panarin, who has 34 points in 42 games. He’s been held off the score sheet for three straight games, so look for him to get back at it in a primetime matchup on Sunday evening.
Many CBJ fans are frustrated with the play of the team over the last month. This game against the Panthers, however, should be one in which the boys right the ship. The Jackets have scored three or more goals 20 times this season. In those games, they’re 14-4-2. Don’t be surprised if they pick up two more points on Sunday, with the fans in attendance getting some free chili as a result.