A team flying under the radar that you might want to know about is the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets enter Thursday with a record of 21-12-2 and are just 2 points behind the Capitals for 1st in the Metropolitan. The Capitals are looking behind them and probably didn’t expect to find the Blue Jackets as close as they are. While everyone is paying attention to the Buffalo Sabres as the kids on the block in the Eastern Conference, look out for the Blue Jackets as a sleeper.
Much of their success will fall in the hands of Sergei Bobrovsky. If he plays how he should play, the Blue Jackets should be alright. Remember, the Jackets were the closest team last season to knocking off the Capitals in the playoffs. They came out of Washington with a 2-0 series lead through the first two games. No one else made the Caps sweat.
That’s part of the problem playing in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals, Maple Leafs, and Lightning are all top Stanley Cup favourites. Then don’t count out a veteran Penguins squad who just need a goaltender to play well. That leaves the Jackets with a tough path in the playoffs.
They can make it easier on themselves if they get a solid seed, though. With four wins in a row heading into tonight, they’ve been playing like a contender. As Bobrovsky heats up, everything else falls into place for Columbus. Hopefully the time off doesn’t hurt the rhythm that he was in. Meanwhile, the Rangers enter Thursday night with a record of 15-14-4 and losses in eight of their last ten games. Get our free Blue Jackets vs. Rangers pick on Thursday night in NYC.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. N.Y. Rangers Pick
The Rangers started this season off playing pretty good hockey and it’s kept their head above .500. How much longer can they hold back the floodgates from opening, though. Between October 30th to November 19th, the Rangers went 9-4. Since that point they’ve gone 3-10. This is a team on the cusp of a complete rebuild, so that’s more along the lines with we expected from the Rangers this season.
They would be better served just tanking and going after the first pick in the draft, rather than provide false hope with meaningless wins the rest of the season. After the trade deadline, this team is likely going to look different and not for the better.
I’d be surprised if they don’t fall to the back of the NHL after they start wheeling and dealing. Kevin Hayes is the most likely to get moved. The Rangers are 26th in the league with 2.77 goals allowed per game. Expect that to get even worse later in the year. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are in the top-10 with 3.25 goals per game.
The Rangers have a good record at home thanks to Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist has stood on his head at MSG, with a 2.28 GAA and 0.93 save percentage. However, the Rangers have been relying on him all season long at home. If he suddenly goes cold, that’s another scenario that would put the Rangers at the back. Don’t fear Rangers’ fans, there is still hope to get the 1st pick in the draft.
Bobrovsky enters this evening with a 2.68 GAA and 0.913 save percentage. He’s had a couple of outliers in net, with 8 goals allowed in two games this season. Subtract those two awful performances, and Bobrovsky has a 2.21 GAA and 0.928 save percentage. He’s allowed 2 or fewer goals in five of his last six appearances.
That’s more in line with the kind of production expected from him. While there have been rumours about a possible trade, it’s going to be tough to trade him when the Blue Jackets are right behind the Capitals in the division. The Blue Jackets have been good on the road with a record of 11-5-1. So, while the Rangers have been better at MSG, the Jackets haven’t had any problems winning away from Ohio. They are scoring 3.29 goals per game on the road, compared to 2.95 goals per game for the Rangers in NYC. I’d side with the Blue Jackets to get started with a win following the Christmas break.