The Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins enter today with identical records of 45-29-6 through 80 games. Tonight’s winner will be all alone in 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division with one game remaining. The puck drop is scheduled for shortly after 7:00 PM ET.
Columbus finds themselves with plenty to gain and (potentially) plenty to lose on Thursday night as they host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena:
A win would put the CBJ in position to clinch home-ice advantage, while a loss could possibly keep the team from clinching a playoff berth if some scenarios don’t work in their favor.
All those scenarios, however, will pale in comparison to the intensity and anticipation of the Pens coming to town.
Pittsburgh easily took care of business the last time they came to Nationwide Arena, defeating the CBJ 5-2 on Sunday, February 18th to drop the Jackets’ record at the time to 29-25-5.
Since then, the CBJ have been hot, going 16-4-1 in their past 21 games and feeling primed to make some noise in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Here are a few CBJ stats from the aforementioned 21-game stretch:
- Sergei Bobrovsky has started (and played) in 16 games, with a record of 13-3-0 and a .931 save percentage (the exact save percentage of Marc-Andre Fleury for the season, leading all National Hockey League goaltenders in the category).
- Cam Atkinson has found his groove playing in all 21 games, scoring 13 goals along with 11 assists.
- Defenseman Seth Jones has put up some eye-popping numbers, playing in 18 of the games with 21 points (eight goals and 13 assists).
- Artemi Panarin, also known as “The Breadman” has been electric. In the past 21 games he has a rating of plus- 13 along with 11 goals and 22 assists.
- Defenseman Ian Cole, who was traded from the Pens to the Jackets at the trade deadline; has made a nice impact for his new club. In his first 18 games with Columbus, Cole has two goals, five assists and a plus- 11 rating. Not to mention he has the perfect initials for a hockey player (I.C.). Just sayin’.
- In regulation the Columbus Blue Jackets are averaging 3.62 goals per game in their last 21 matchups. Tampa Bay currently leads the NHL, averaging 3.51 GPG.
- Thomas Vanek was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline. He’s found a solid role with the CBJ, with seven goals, seven assists and a plus- 12 rating with the squad through 17 games.
- Pierre-Luc Dubois, the 19-year old sensation at Center, has found his stride as well. He’s had 11 assists and scored seven goals in the 21 games since losing to the Pens on home ice.
Oh yeah, the Pens, by the way. They’re ok with where they’re at, as the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions.
It’s been Center Evgeni Malkin who’s had the most noteworthy year for Pitt, with a whopping 42 goals and 54 assists.
Of course Sidney Crosby is still the face of the franchise. He hasn’t disappointed this year, with 28 goals and 58 assists.
Fasten your seatbelts, it’s about to be a wild ride at Nationwide Arena tonight with each team having plenty to play for with only two games left in the 2017-18 NHL Regular Season.