Straight Jackets: Home Stretch, don't forget to breathe
Two things (among many others) have happened since the last installment of Straight Jackets. First, the CBJ reeled off the final six wins of a 10-game winning streak, making the team only the third in league history to have double-digit winning streaks in back-to-back seasons. And second, I don't feel any more confident in the Jackets' chances to make the postseason.
Let me say here that history is what it is, and that was sufficiently covered in the last installment. The numbers are what they are right now, too, and they paint a pretty rosy picture of the Jackets' odds of qualifying for this season's playoffs.
Moneypuck.com places the CBJ's odds of making the postseason at 93 percent. That's down a little after the loss to St. Louis on Monday, but dramatically up compared to where the team was even two weeks back, and well in front of chasers from New Jersey and Florida. Despite only having five games remaining, the Jackets' schedule is arguably the most favorable of the teams battling for the last two to three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. And did I mention the Jackets have played well of late, winning 10 straight games?
So sure, all that is good. And I'm not a pessimistic fan, just an anxious one. Disclaimer: Not everyone's experience will be the same. This is a fun and nerve-wracking time of year.
Another thing that happened is that, for one game, both Jack Johnson and Brandon Dubinsky were healthy scratches for the same game. These two proud vets helped set the tone for this current crop of Blue Jackets, and it was a little sad to see, even if their recent play warranted it. I can't help but feel any success — late-season or postseason — the team has will require their services. (Dubinsky's for sure, given Nick Foligno's regular-season-ending injury sustained earlier in March.)
Obviously, the news isn't all bad, given the winning ways. As former Head Coach Ken Hitchcock used to say, “Your best players have to be your best players.” That's been the case for the CBJ, provided you are up-to-date with whom the best players are. Players fueling the recent streak include Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones and, of course, Sergei Bobrovsky.
One brief non-Jackets, NHL-related note: Congrats to former NHL defenseman Andrew Ference, who has been named by the league as its new (and first) NHL Director of Social Impact, Growth and Fan Development. NHL players are, by and large, good dudes. They do good work in their communities, and their foundations support worthy causes. But few take the kinds of stands Ference did as a player, when he spoke out about environmental causes, among other issues, helping to develop the NHL Players' Association's Carbon Neutral Challenge and working on the NHL Green initiative.
In his new post, Ference is also tasked with creating and leading inclusiveness initiatives for the league. It's an idea whose time has come.