Blue Jackets: Playoff push?

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

For anyone who has followed the Blue Jackets through this season, you might be wondering, who the hell is this team?

Is it the one that followed a 14-6-0 start with a precipitous December dive that again threatened their season before it was halfway over? Or is it the one that roared back to life recently and found itself in the running for the franchise's second-ever playoff spot?

Guess we'll find out soon enough.

So what has led to the possibility of some springtime hockey action in Nationwide Arena? Here are some keys to the playoff push.

Unexpected reinforcements

The Jackets have finally found some help from within the organization - and from some unexpected faces.

For starters, look at Matt Calvert's recent heroics against Phoenix, scoring the second rookie hat trick in Jackets history. An uncanny lookalike for "Christmas Story" bully Scut Farkus, Calvert is piling up points and fast becoming a fan favorite.

On the blueline, the big boost has been Springfield call-up Grant Clitsome - and not first-round pick John Moore, who has looked outmatched in his brief CBJ stint.

Clitsome has been a spark for an anemic power play and easily leads all Jackets defensemen in points per game.

Returns to rookie form

Jackets goaltender Steve Mason looks like a rookie again - and that's a good thing.

The confident Mason that led the team to its first playoff appearance in 2008-09 has been missing for a while, but he's back to making spectacular saves. And more importantly, he's shrugging off bad goals and keeping the team in games.

Fellow 2008-'09 rookie Derick Brassard was in the midst of a smoldering hot streak before being sidelined by a hand injury. The Jackets hope to still be in contention when he returns.

Working-class swagger

Memories of the team that frequently embarrassed itself - often on home ice - seem distant. Those white-flag performances we saw have been replaced with gutsy comebacks, like last Friday's raucous 5-3 win over Phoenix at Nationwide.

It's hard to quantify confidence, but the current Jackets seems be oozing it. They no longer curl up and die after giving up early leads. They're getting great efforts from all lines.

They look like a team that might be playing past April 9. You might want to start saving for those playoff tickets.

Blue Jackets vs. St. Louis Blues

7 p.m. Wednesday, March 9

Nationwide Arena

200 W. Nationwide Blvd, Arena District