Push for the Playoffs: Another chance for the Blue Jackets

Adam Gretz
NBC Sports

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2018-19 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

After getting shut out by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night the Columbus Blue Jackets’ playoff chances were looking pretty bleak. They had fallen four points back of the Penguins and were still two points back of the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens for a Wild Card spot, with both teams in action on Friday night. It was entirely possible that they could be entering tonight’s home game against Pittsburgh four points back of any playoff spot and having to face a team they have lost to now eight times in a row.

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That is why they play the games.

After the Hurricanes and Canadiens were both thoroughly routed on Friday night, with both of them giving up eight goals in the process, the Blue Jackets are now in a position where, with a win on Saturday, they could move back into a playoff spot, jumping ahead of the Canadiens with still one game in hand and a head-to-head meeting remaining.

The key is finally finding a way to beat a team they have dropped eight consecutive games to.

Carolina is in action again tonight in Nashville while the Canadiens have the night off.

Over in the Western Conference, the Arizona Coyotes have a chance to capitalize on Minnesota’s loss to Florida on Friday night and could pull to within a single point of the Wild if they can beat the Los Angeles Kings. The Coyotes would still have a game in hand on the Wild.

The Avalanche, meanwhile, are facing what has to be considered a must-win game against the Buffalo Sabres. With Gabriel Landeskog now out for what looks to be the remainder of the regular season their playoff chances are already looking bleak, but failing to get two points against a fading Sabres team would be pretty crushing to whatever is left of their chances.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

Eastern Conference

Lightning vs. Canadiens
Capitals vs. Hurricanes
Islanders vs. Penguins
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

Western Conference

Flames vs. Wild
Jets vs. Stars
Sharks vs. Golden Knights
Predators vs. Blues

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS

Sabres vs. Avalanche (3 p.m. ET)
Blues vs. Sharks (4 p.m. ET)
Maple Leafs vs. Oilers (7 p.m. ET)
Senators vs. Bruins (7 p.m. ET)
Red Wings vs. Lightning (7 p.m. ET)
Flyers vs. Islanders (7 p.m. ET)
Penguins vs. Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET)
Kings vs. Coyotes (8 p.m. ET)
Hurricanes vs. Predators (8 p.m. ET)
Blackhawks vs. Stars (8 p.m. ET)
Golden Knights vs. Canucks (10 p.m. ET)

EASTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Sports Club Stats)

Tampa Bay Lightning — Clinched
Boston Bruins — 100 percent
Toronto Maple Leafs — 100 percent
New York Islanders — 99.7 percent
Washington Capitals — 99.6 percent
Pittsburgh Penguins — 97.3 percent
Carolina Hurricanes — 84.5 percent
Columbus Blue Jackets — 60.7 percent
Montreal Canadiens — 52 percent
Philadelphia Flyers — 4.1 percent
Buffalo Sabres — 1.1 percent
Florida Panthers — 0.9 percent
New York Rangers — 0.0 percent
Detroit Red Wings — 0.0 percent
New Jersey Devils — 0.0 percent
Ottawa Senators — Out

Western Conference

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Sports Club Stats)

Calgary Flames — 100 percent
San Jose Sharks — 100 percent
Winnipeg Jets — 100 percent
Nashville Predators — 99.8 percent
St. Louis Blues — 98.5 percent
Vegas Golden Knights — 97.9 percent
Dallas Stars — 89.2 percent
Minnesota Wild — 42.2 percent
Arizona Coyotes — 38.2 percent
Colorado Avalanche — 27.8 percent
Edmonton Oilers — 4.4 percent
Chicago Blackhawks — 1 percent
Vancouver Canucks — 0.7 percent
Anaheim Ducks — 0.0 percent
Los Angeles Kings — 0.0 percent

JACK OR KAAPO? THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE

Ottawa Senators — 18.5 percent*
Los Angeles Kings — 13.5 percent
Detroit Red Wings — 11.5 percent
New Jersey Devils — 9.5 percent
Anaheim Ducks — 8.5 percent
Vancouver Canucks — 7.5 percent
Chicago Blackhawks — 6.5 percent
New York Rangers — 6 percent
Edmonton Oilers — 5 percent
Buffalo Sabres — 3.5 percent
Florida Panthers — 3 percent
Colorado Avalanche — 2.5 percent
Arizona Coyotes — 2 percent
Philadelphia Flyers — 1.5 percent
Columbus Blue Jackets — 1 percent**

(*OTT’s 2019 first-round pick owned by COL)
(**CBJ’s 2019 lottery-protected first-round pick is owned by OTT. If top three, moves to 2020)

ART ROSS RACE

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning — 108 points
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 96 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers — 94 points
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins — 87 points
Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche — 85 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals — 46 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 41 goals
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 40 goals
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — 37 goals
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning — 37 goals

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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