After earning a split in Ontario, the Oilers continue their five-game swing with a matinee match in Columbus. Here are your game day notes.
1. The Blue Jackets went all-in at the trade deadline. Not only did they acquire Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingle, Adam McQuaid, and Keith Kinkaid, they also hung on to their key impending free agents, Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Panarin probably would have been the most sought after rental player on the market had the Blue Jackets decided to shop him, but they ultimately decided to capitalize on the window he’s creating for them.
2. In going for it, the Blue Jackets have taken a massive risk as they now have only two picks in this year’s draft (their third and Calgary’s second). At some point, though, you have to live in the present rather than worrying about the future. The Blue Jackets are now in their 18th season as an NHL franchise and they haven’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs. With the Jets (Thrashers) reaching the Conference Final last spring and the Golden Knights coming out of the gate on fire, the Blue Jackets are the only franchise left without any playoff success whatsoever.
3. Columbus didn’t make the playoffs until 2008-09, their eighth season in the league. The team led by Ken Hitchcock would end up getting swept by the Red Wings in the first round. They wouldn’t make the playoffs again until 2013-14. Columbus would finally pick up their first-ever playoff win in thanks to a double-overtime goal in Game 2 from Matt Calvert, but they dropped the series 4-2. The Blue Jackets have since become a perennial playoff team, but they can’t get past the elite of the Metro Division, the Penguins and Capitals, in the first round.
3. The Metro is probably the tightest division in the NHL this year. There are five teams all within six points of one another vying for the top spot in the division. The Islanders are this year’s surprise team and they currently sit at the top of the division. Washington, last year’s Stanley Cup Champions, sit tied with the Islanders, but they’ve played one more game. Another surprise team in Carolina sits third, five points back of first, and the Blue Jackets and Penguins are right behind them, six points back of the Islanders.
4. The Blue Jackets going for it this year reminds me a lot of the Oilers in 2006. Kevin Lowe pulled the trigger on some big deals leading up to the trade deadline, giving away his first- and second-round picks for Dwayne Roloson and Sergei Samsonov, and pulling other deals to bring in Jaroslav Spacek and Dick Tarnstrom. That Oilers team wasn’t a sure bet to make the playoffs and didn’t even clinch their spot until the final few days of the season. That Oilers team was much, much better than their eighth-place seed indicated. I think the Blue Jackets are also a much better team than indicated by the fact they’re right on the bubble.
5. Jussi Markkanen, Ty Conklin, and Mike “The Shootout Guy” Morrison combined to put up a save percentage around .880, which resulted in the Oilers finishing in the middle of the pack in goals against despite allowing the fewest shots against in the league over the course of the regular season. The Blue Jackets’ goalies have an ugly .900 save percentage this season which, like the Oilers in 2005-06, puts them in the middle of the pack in terms of goals against despite being one of the best teams at suppressing shots.
6. While Panarin would have been the most coveted rental on the market, he’ll also be this summer’s best free agent forward on the market. Erik Karlsson will still be the top free agent prize, but Panarin is definitely going to be the best forward out there since Mark Stone signed an extension immediately after getting traded to Vegas. Since entering the league as an undrafted 24-year-old with the Blackhawks in 2015-16, Panarin has posted 113 goals and 304 points in 303 games.
7. Panarin’s looming free agency is what makes this playoff run so important for the Blue Jackets. It seems inevitable Panarin isn’t going to stick around in Columbus as he wants to play in a larger market, meaning the window with him on the team closes after this season. While trading him for futures seems prudent, he’s possibly the best player in Blue Jackets franchise history, and they really need to capitalize while they can.
8. Most would argue that Rick Nash is the best Blue Jacket of all-time given his success and his longevity, but I don’t know if Nash had two back-to-back seasons as good as the ones Panarin has put up these past two years. Regardless, Nash was the face of the franchise for a decade and Columbus did nothing with it. They don’t want that to happen again with Panarin.
9. We can’t spill 1,000 words on the Columbus Blue Jackets without talking about the most hilarious thing about the franchise — the cannon. The team has this cannon they fire off that makes an incredibly loud and jarring noise. Opposing players can’t stand it but the fans in Columbus love it. General manager Doug MacLean knew he was going to get fired and he felt he had to leave a stamp on the organization. How was the best day to do that? Saddle the stadium with this insane cannon. This is honestly one of the funniest stories I’ve heard. Listen to MacLean just straight up say that he left that cannon in the arena like a fart in the room right before getting fired.
10. Where do we stand when it comes to the Oilers playoff/tank drive? Edmonton is seven points back of eighth in the Western Conference and they’re 12 points up on Ottawa for dead last in the league. There’s no way they’re out tanking Ottawa at this point, but that seven-point jump in the West is still sort of possible!
From peewee to the pros, Albertans loves the atmosphere, energy, and life lessons that take place at rinks across the province. And where there’s an arena, you’ll find an ATB branch nearby—with our team members cheering and fundraising along with you. See more information at ATB.com.
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 3/2/2019 – 7:00 am MT