Oh, what a difference a few months make. The Columbus Blue Jackets, picked by most hockey pundits to finish last or near last in the Western Conference, are sniffing around the last playoff spot. The Blues, picked by most hockey pundits to be a Western Conference powerhouse, are also sniffing around the last playoff spot because the term "consistent hockey" might as well be Greek.
The Jackets have rattled off three wins in a row, helped last night against the Nashville Predators by the team's newest addition, Marian Gaborik. Gaborik wound up with a goal and an assist in his debut, which probably caused people to be very thankful that the Jackets are heading East next season. As a whole, though, the Jackets are playing quality hockey, and there's a good chance that the reason that they are is in net. Sergei Bobrovsky, who was re-joined by fellow former Philly goalie Michael Leighton on Wednesday, has a teeny 2.09 GAA and an excellent .930 save percentage. The Jackets are obviously comfortable with their netminder, and that confidence shows in their team's play.
The Blues are also confident in their netminder, as long as that netminder is named Jake Allen. Allen, who was recalled when Jaroslav Halak went down with another groin injury at the end of the first period on Monday, has played very well for the Blues. He's 8-3-0 on the season, and will get the start tonight. Brian Elliott, however, was very good on Thursday. He stopped 33 of 36 shots, and has stopped 52 of the last 56 that he's faced. Is he finally returning to form? Hopefully. It's a shame that he's been out of form at all this season.
Adam Cracknell and Chris Porter, along with Ryan Reaves, seemed to be out on the ice a lot last night making things (like two goals) happen. I wouldn't be shocked if they weren't out there more tonight. It would be cool to see Vladimir Tarasenko's ice time get bumped up a bit. If you want to reward someone for buying in, that'd be a good way to do it.
Captain David Backes finally scored a goal again last night. Will he do it tonight again too? It'd be nice.