Columbus is a market that gets dogged a lot by hockey elitists who refuse to understand the obvious about it: They’ve been to the playoffs once in their history.
How do you expand the fan base? How do you make people live and die with a team? How do you build a legacy that’s shared through generations? You don’t, unless you win, unless you make the playoffs and advance.
Team president John Davidson gets it: “I know it’s a good market,” he said one year ago, “we just have to do our part. I think we’re on our way.”
Well, now they’ve arrived: The Columbus Blue Jackets made the playoffs for the first time since 2009 with a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars, completing the March 10 game that was postponed due to Rich Peverley’s health crisis.
(Detroit and Columbus get realigned and both make the playoffs. And Winnipeg … doesn’t.)
The Dallas win was text book: Getting scoring from the few consistent offensive weapons on the roster, as Artem Anisimov scored and Ryan Johansen assisted on Mark Letestu’s power-play goal; taking advantage of the Stars’ miscues; and then relying on Sergei Bobrovsky to carry them, as he did when the Jackets were outshot 18-2 in the third period.
It’s worked so far; now Todd Richards’ group gets to bring their gritty game to the playoffs.
The question is … where will they be?
Columbus now has 91 points, the same number as Detroit, meaning they have the first wild card by virtue of their tie-breaker in ROW. That means a first-rounder against the Penguins.
However, they’re also tied with the Flyers in points, although Philly has a game in-hand and the ROW tie-breaker. If by some happenstance the teams are tied in points and ROW, the Blue Jackets would win the tie-breaker based on season series wins, going 3-1.
Wherever they finish, it’s going to be a tough out for the higher seed. And Nationwide Arena should be rocking with five years worth of pent up energy.
Just don’t let the Penguins fans buy up all the tickets, OK?