directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: 10 "musts" on road to playoffs

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Monday, January 26, 2009

10 "musts" on road to playoffs

The stretch run is about to begin on Tuesday and here the Jackets sit just 2 points out of the playoffs with a record of 22-20-5 with 35 games left to play.

With that in mind here are 10 keys that I believe are "musts" for the Jackets to nail down a spot in the big dance for the first time in their 8 year on ice history.

1. Powerplay must improve.
It is what it is up to this point and the Jackets have managed to survive without it but as the heat gets turned up the Jackets must get key goals from their special teams to consistently grab points in this tough Western Conference.

2. Penalty kill must improve.
I list this second because even though its been bad it hasn't been 30th out of 30 teams bad. That said this team is built on defense and should be much better than 19th overall in the league -- no excuses, it must be better.

3. Now is the time.
With 10 of the next 13 at home this is the time for the Jackets to make a push. They must come out of the gate strong and win at a .700 clip or better at home.

4. Health.
Although their depth has been tested and responded to keep this thing afloat, the Jackets can ill afford to keep having those injuries pile up. Must stay relatively healthy.

5. Howson.
Still over a month away from the deadline but assuming the Jackets stay alive, Howson must get some more help to fill in the remaining holes -- especially a PPQB and a center -- they don't have to be superstars that mortgage the future. Jason Williams type adds are fine by me.

6. Nash.
He has shown some unbelievable signs this past 4 to 6 weeks of having the ability to elevate his game and make players around him better and really become that franchise player we all hoped he would become. He must continue to take those strides and carry this team into the postseason.

7. Road wins.
15 of the 35 remaining games are on the road. The Jackets must go .500 or better to secure a playoff birth.

8. Secondary scoring.
Nash can't do it all. He has gotten and must get more of the secondary scorers to contribute on the score sheet. The Jackets have 7 players over the 20 goal mark. They have 4 players in double digit scoring. While it seems like they have scored more they are still the 5th worst scoring team in the conference -- they need even more goals down the stretch. Veterans like Malhotra, Chimera, Modin, Peca, Umberger & Huselius must lead the way.

9. Beat the west.
26 of the 35 games left are against Western Conference opponents. 16 of those are against division opponents. Those are the big 4 point swingers... must beat those teams and limit any 3 point opportunities.

10. Watch the burnout.
As much as I love Mase the organization has to be carefull not to burn this kid out. Must give Dubie some starts and Mase some rest.

HM: Kids need big second half.
Guys like Russell, Mason, Voracek, Boll, Dorsett and Methot have all played well and contributed thus far. Must get even more production over the next 35 to get in.

Fire away - what are your "musts" for the Jackets to grab a spot?



Skraut said...

It's sad that this has to be mentioned, but...

The War Room must be involved in as few decisions as possible.

LTL said...

Haha... great point Skraut! That should have been a "must" in my list.


eplagge said...


Agree with all your points but IMHO you are forgetting the most important one.
Every single roster player has to step up his game at least one notch..
This is the tightest playoff race that I can remember.... and it's simple... those teams who step it up are in... those who don't are out.. Remember separation will come in the next couple of weeks.. Here is my assessment of everyone's chances...

Phoenix Coyotes

Trajectory: UP

Playoff birth probability: 85%

Assessment: Playing some of their best hockey as of late (hottest team in the West right now), putting away top teams and have momentum, I am predicting a playoff birth.

Edmonton Oilers

Trajectory: UP

Playoff birth probability: 50%

Assessment: 7-3-0 in last 10 games, getting points (even ugly points) and starting to get momentum. The Oilers have the talent to go on a run, but will they?? First 10 games after the break will be crucial..

Vancouver Canucks

Trajectory: DOWN

Playoff birth probability: 50%

Assessment: 2-4-4 in last ten… If the lack of chemistry continues the Nucks are toast. If Luongo and Sundin turn up the heat this could be the team to watch in the West. The first 10 games after the break are make it or break it for this team.

Anaheim Ducks

Trajectory: DOWN

Playoff birth probability: 60%

Assessment: Let’s just say it JSG is not playing his best hockey.. the ducks are 4-6-0 in the last ten and they are struggling.. However with the talented veterans on this team (Teemu will soon return) you know they are going to have a good ending to their season.

Minnesota Wild

Trajectory: DOWN

Playoff birth probability: 40%

Assessment: Minnesota’s key ingredient Defense has been missing as of late, this team is just not deep enough (especially when it comes to forwards) to make it. I expect them to slowly fall off..

Columbus Blue Jackets

Trajectory: UP

Playoff birth probability: 55%

Assessment: Need to finish their chances, and improve the PP/PK. If the Jackets are able to turn up the heat they should be able to take advantage of their 11 of 13 at home and secure a little bit of a buffer.

Dallas Stars

Trajectory: Stable

Playoff birth probability: 60%

Assessment: Shocked, that’s all I can say.. Watching last year’s playoffs the Stars where the 2nd best team in the league. I was sure they would be in the top 3 at this point in time. They have too much potential and quality to miss the playoffs, I am predicting a comeback for the Stars. I wouldn’t rule out a run to the conference finals.

Colorado Avalanche

Trajectory: DOWN

Playoff birth probability: 35%

Assessment: Too old and too little organizational depth. After the all-star brake the competition will turn it up a notch and the Avs won’t be able to keep up.

Los Angeles Kings

Trajectory: DOWN

Playoff birth probability: 25%

Assessment: They have a good nucleus of rookies, but they are still 1 to 2 years away from making an impact.

Nashville Predators

Trajectory: DOWN

Playoff birth probability: 25%

Assessment: Years of budget cuts are finally starting to catch up with the Preds (3-7 in the last 10), they might have an upward spasm (trading a D for an FW) but they are simply unable to get enough momentum to catch up with the other teams.

St Louis Blues

Trajectory: DOWN

Playoff birth probability: 2%

Assessment: Injuries, bad luck and lack of depth beyond the 2 lines all add up to a rebuilding mentality. Look out for the Blues in 2011.

LTL said...

Wow.. great post eplagge! Points definitely well taken!

If you don't mind I'm going to post that on the big page with full credit to you. Just give me the thumbs up.


eplagge said...

go ahead thumbs up

roadman said...

eplagge: Great assessment. Loved reading it. Thanks.

PHX is flying but their financial situation may and I say may catch up with them. If they end up having a fire sale it would seriously hurt their chances at the end.

Agree with all the "musts" set out but would add one more. We absolutely must play 60 minutes every night. Not 50, not 55, not 59. 60 minutes every night. And remember how we got to where we are, Checking, Checking, Checking.

Thanks to all who share here.

Skraut Loved the Video man. TOP SHELF all the way.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with everyone's assessments; espcially Roadman's. The next 35 games are the CBJ's "Battle of Gettysburg". (Just had to use a Civil War reference there) Grant aka Hitch needs to rally the troops, take no prisoners and not look back. I can almost hear the drum line playing cadence on our way to the playoffs.

JAL said...

Forgive me if I take a slightly different tack, as I usually do. However, between the Puck-Rakers post this morning and this, I think we are generating way too many "musts". I have my 2nd half preview in the works, to be posted later tonight, but a few points:

--At the beginning of the season, people were saying we "must" have a top notch power play, "must" stay healthy, and we "must" have a big year from Leclaire. Uhh, not so much. Yeah the power play has to get better, but our 5 vs 5 play has been near the top of the league.

--What we "must" do is play better than the guys around us. Just like the old joke -- we don't need to outrun the tiger, just the guy behind us. ;-)

With this team, this skill level, and this attitude, it is tough to come up with true "musts", as they find a new way to garner points every game.

Compete every night, finish our chances, and keep the "never quit" attitude. The youngsters have gotten us this far -- the veterans will pull them home.

A Shot From The Point