In a vacuum, pummeling the lowly Vancouver Canucks 5-0 didn’t technically mean that much for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
After all, they still end the weekend on the outside looking in on the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They’re two points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the East’s final playoff spot, and while there’s no doubt that things look brighter — Columbus also has a game in hand on the Habs — the Blue Jackets are likely fully aware that they have a long way to go.
Yet, nights like these restore some hope that there truly might be a light at the end of the tunnel.
The Canadiens and Hurricanes engaging in a three-point game (Carolina won in OT, and did another goofy win celebration) was described as a worst-case scenario for Columbus, but consider the circumstances and Columbus is probably breathing a sigh of relief.
- The Blue Jackets won after GM Jarmo Kekalainen called them out for not playing “like a team.”
- Columbus ended a three-game losing streak, and the Blue Jackets were at least able to end a four-game road trip with a win (going 1-2-1).
- Some of the Blue Jackets’ big guns broke through against Vancouver.
As much attention falls on potentially leaving players like Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, along with newly added players like Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, it was a serious concern that sophomore center Pierre Luc-Dubois was mired in a terrible slump. He looked more like a first-line center on Sunday, however, with a goal and an assist.
While there might be some valid concerns about the Blue Jackets’ team play, it’s been easy to forget just how unlucky Columbus has been lately. With that in mind, it must have been nice to get a bounce or two, such as with this Dzingel goal:
It would certainly comfort Kekalainen to see Bobrovsky play to his potential during this stretch, so Sunday was promising in that regard, as Bob generated a 21-save shutout.
(Josh Anderson had the best Sunday of any Blue Jackets player, scoring two goals and one assist.)
Again, this win doesn’t heal all wounds. The Canucks, after all, aren’t very good, and that’s especially true with Brock Boeser on the shelf. It’s also worth repeating that Columbus remains out of the top eight, even after this win:
WC 1: Hurricanes: 42-26-7, 91 points, 75 games played, 40 regulation/OT wins
WC 2: Canadiens: 40-28-8, 88 points, 76 GP, 38 ROW
Blue Jackets: 41-30-4, 86 points, 75 GP, 40 ROW
Now that the Blue Jackets avoided a “trap game” of sorts against Vancouver, they turn their attention to two challenging upcoming games against opponents with a lot more on the line. They’ll host the Islanders on Tuesday, and then what might be their biggest game of 2018-19: a Thursday matchup against the Habs in Columbus.
Winning Sunday’s game doesn’t bail the Blue Jackets out, but it at least allows them to fight for their season. We’ll see if they can carry this momentum over to these next, much bigger tests.
If nothing else, things look a lot better mere days after their GM aired his grievances, and panic seemed to be creeping in.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.