I understand that the Columbus Blue Jackets not sucking is a major feel-good story. I get that people on TV have to have something to talk about. And I can see that the Blue Jackets have scratched and clawed their way up to 8th in the official standings. Here’s the problem:
- The Blue Jackets have played more games than every other team in the West.
- They have played three more games than the Blues, who are one point behind the Jackets in the official standings.
- (The Blues are five points-blown ahead of the Jackets in the points-blown standings, which is why there are points-blown standings in the first place.)
- They have played two more games than both Dallas and Edmonton, both of whom are two points behind Columbus in the official standings, but two points-blown ahead of Columbus in my standings.
- If you look just at the official point totals, the Jackets are within three points of sixth place San Jose. But San Jose is ahead of them by seven points-blown.
- Detroit, Nashville and Phoenix have a measly game in hand over the Jackets.
- Even Calgary — currently 13th in my standings and 14th in the official standings — has three games in hand over the Jackets. The official standings have the Jackets up by seven points. In points-blown, they’re up by one point.
- All of the above is the reason the official standings have the Jackets in 8th while I have them in 12th, one point-blown ahead of two teams — one point from 14th.
First tie-breaker: ROWs (regulation or OT wins)
Let’s pretend the Jackets end up tied with one or more of the nine teams fighting for the last three playoff spots. The first tie-breaker is ROWs. How are the Jackets doing by this metric?
They’re dead last in the West. And they’re a whopping four ROWs behind Detroit, St. Louis and Dallas — which means that unless Columbus can somehow make up four ROWs in 12 games, they’re not going to win any tie-breakers against those teams. And those are the three teams currently surrounding them in the standings. So — you know — that’s bad for them.
Second tie-breaker: head-to-head (season series)
Okay, but maybe the Jackets will fare better in the second tie-breaker, assuming of course they survive the first. Let’s look.
- Detroit — Columbus won this season series, so if they are lucky enough to (1) tie the Wings in points, and (2) catch up to the Wings in ROWs, then they’re in like Flynn. But they’re not going to win four more ROWs than the Wings over 12 games unless the Wings suffer a historic collapse.
- St. Louis — they’re not going to end up tied with St. Louis, because St. Louis has three games in hand, and even if they tie them in points they would have to manage four more ROWs in 12 games than St. Louis manages in 15 games, which is simply not possible unless St. Louis has an even more catastrophic collapse than Detroit would have to have. (And, remember, the Jackets may have to get past both Detroit and St. Louis to get in.) But if those several miracles occur, and we actually arrive at the season series tie-breaker: the Jackets are currently down 4 points to the Blues, with two games remaining in the series. So, no, even if they manage to sweep the Blues the rest of the way, the best they can do is send it to the next tie-breaker (see goal-differential below).
- Dallas — sadly, the Jackets would also have to make up four ROWs against the Stars (and the Stars have two games in hand). But let’s pretend that happens: in the season series, the Jackets won the first game and lost the second in OT. Except the win doesn’t count, so according to the rules the Jackets are down by a point, with one game left. Could work out for them.
- Edmonton — the Oilers are two points ahead of the Jackets in PB, and have two games in hand. The Oilers only have a one ROW lead on the Jackets, so that’s doable. The season series? Jackets have already lost it.
- Nashville — the Preds and Jackets are tied in PB, and the Preds are only one ROW ahead and only have one game in hand. In the season series, the teams are even, with two games left.
- Phoenix — the Jackets had better hope they prevail in ROWs (they’re currently tied), because they lost the season series already.
- Calgary — the Flames are only one PB behind, with three games in hand, and a lead of two ROWs. The Jackets won the season series though.
Third tie-breaker: goal-differential
The Jackets are 13th in the conference in GD (ahead of Calgary and Colorado), but they ought to be able to catch all the teams they’re chasing — I assume they would if they managed the Herculean feat of winning nearly all of their remaining games — with the exception of three teams. They are nine goals behind the Wings, and eleven behind the Sharks and Blues.
The Jackets have two games against each of San Jose, Nashville, Minnesota and St. Louis, and one game against each of the Kings, Ducks, Avs and Stars.
That’s eight games against teams with whom the Jackets are in direct competition (San Jose, St. Louis, Nashville, L.A. and Dallas). Three games against even tougher opponents (Ducks, Wild, Wild), and one “easy” game against the Avs.
To get to 54 points, the Jackets would have to finish the season 8-3-1. That’s a rougher road than every other team still fighting for a spot, except for Nashville (9-3-1) and Calgary (12-3-0).
They also have three back-to-back nights, the second games of which are in Minnesota, Los Angeles and St. Louis. That’s brutal. I think they win one of those if they’re lucky. So they would have to go 7-1-1 in the rest of their games.
Oh, and they finish the season against, in order: Anaheim, L.A. San Jose, Dallas and Nashville.
Sportsclubstats.com gives the Jackets a 72% chance of making the playoffs if they get to 54 points (8-3-1 record from here on). 9-3-0 (55 points) would get them over 90%. At 53 points, their odds are about 50%. At 52, about 20%. At 51, about 7%.
But the main issue is this: which of Detroit, St. Louis or San Jose is Columbus going to dislodge? Because it has to be one of them. And they have to fend off Edmonton, Nashville, Dallas and Phoenix.
The Jackets might be able to jump past the Oilers, Preds, Stars and Yotes. But anyone who thinks the Jackets are going to leap past either the Wings, the Blues, or the Sharks, is dreaming.