A matchup featuring the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets may not look like much, but this game has massive implications on the playoff picture. The Blue Jackets and Hurricanes are currently in a battle with one another as wildcards. The Blue Jackets are the last team in as a wildcard, while the Hurricanes are in possession of the other slot in the Eastern Conference.
The Canadiens are right on their heels with 81 points, which puts them in a tie with the Jackets. Montreal has played one more game than Columbus, as they fell by a score of 2-1 to the Islanders last night, so as it stands now, the Blue Jackets are the last team in. It’s of course a razor thin difference between playing spring hockey and going home.
The Hurricanes are thrilled to be in this position. I don’t think many people were expecting much from this group, especially with the departure of Jeff Skinner to Buffalo in the offseason. However, they’ve battled hard and have made it work. This is a team that also found their starting goaltender at the last second, acquiring a castaway from Toronto to provide some depth, which was the objective at the time.
Petr Mrazek was expected to be the starter, with Curtis McElhinney providing some help when needed. McElhinney has been the starting netminder more often than not when healthy, though. He’s never been in a situation like this before, but he’s been handling it well. Lately, though, I can’t say that it has been his best look.
Maybe the pressure is starting to get to him, or he’s just finally showing that he’s 35 years old, or lastly, it’s just a rough patch and he will respond nicely. He gave up 8 goals against the Jets and hasn’t seen the net since. Mrazek is coming off a shutout, so perhaps he takes control between the pipes. Head below for our free Hurricanes vs. Blue Jackets pick.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Pick
It is going to be a long offseason for the Blue Jackets if they do not reach the playoffs. Out of anyone who may not reach the playoffs, the Blue Jackets might have the most to lose. They ended up buying at the trade deadline and acquiring Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel from the Senators, as they held their fire sale. Many people viewed it as the Jackets going all-in since they are going to have several expensive free agents on their roster in the offseason.
No way are they going to be able to keep everyone in Columbus, so the chances of them having a better team next season look slim. The Blue Jackets did some out of hibernation against the Boston Bruins, as they rattled Rask with a 5-goal onslaught, and then two additional goals for a 7-4 final. The offence needed something like that to happen against an elite defence. It’s a pretty good time to get hot with not much time left in the regular season. We’ll see if it carries over into Friday night.
The Hurricanes’ offence has been scoring at a pretty nice pace in their last ten outings. It’s been the case often for them this season, as their offence has exceeded expectations in 2018-19. They’ve led the league in shots per game pretty well all season long and continue to do so with 34.7 shots a game. Hit the net enough times and the goals will come.
In their previous ten outings, they’ve recorded an average of 3.5 goals per game. Columbus haven’t been as fortunate, but they certainly looked like a different team against the Bruins with a total of 7 goals. Whatever John Tortorella worked out to give the offence a spark worked brilliantly against the 2nd best blue line in the NHL.
The Hurricanes and Jackets have been on a nice UNDER run, with the last a push on January 4th, but this looks like a nice spot for it to come to an end. Expect Columbus to continue to find goals at home after making it look easy against the Bruins. A close 3-3 game late in regulation looks pretty dandy to me. It should be a close game that ultimately goes OVER the total at Nationwide in Columbus.