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Team continues its playoff push out west

For resurgent Blue Jackets and their fans, it’s been one pleasant surprise after another

Raise your hand if you saw this coming:


It was February 26th, a home game against the Dallas Stars.  The Columbus Blue Jackets had entered the game with a record of 5-12-2, and hopes for a playoff push were either non-existent or slim at best.  In that game, the Blue Jackets showed heart, something that has become a trademark of this group this season.  The team came back four times in that game, forcing overtime before losing on a Loui Eriksson goal from the low slot.  Since then, since that seminal moment in this incredibly impressive resurgence by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team has gone 15-4-4, heading into another “must-win” contest against the Ducks of Anaheim.  In those 23 games, Columbus has given up 46 goals.


Raise your hand if you saw this coming:


In that same game against the Stars, Sergei Bobrovsky played a fairly solid game, stopping 34 of 39 shots, many of them good Dallas chances.  But the winning goal looked a bit strange.  Bobrovsky seemed frozen in time as Eriksson moved from his right to his left and swept home the winning goal.  Since then, since that Eriksson goal that moved the Blue Jackets record to 12-5-3, their goaltender has become – maybe arguably, maybe not – the best goaltender in the NHL.  His record since that OT loss vs. the Stars is 14-4-3, with four shutouts, two NHL First Star of the Week awards and one Third Star honor.  He is the first Blue Jackets player ever to win two First Star awards in the same season.  And right now, he is as elite a goaltender as there is in the world.


Raise your hand if you saw this coming:


The game after the OTL to the Stars was in Chicago, on March 1st.  Columbus found itself in need of a defenseman after John Moore was hurt in the morning skate.  Dalton Prout got the call, and after a brutal travel day to the Windy City, joined the team late in the first period at the United Center.  He was even that night in the team’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Blackhawks, who were then still in the midst of their incredible streak of consecutive games with points.  In his total of 23 games with Columbus, the rugged Prout has been even or plus in 22 and stands at a team-leading plus-12 for the season.  He’s plus-nine in his last nine games, and the only time he was a minus was vs. Calgary at home on March 22nd, when he went minus-one in a 5-1 CBJ win.  It would be hard to overestimate the impact Prout has had on the Blue Jackets blue-line mix.


Raise your hand if you saw this coming:


It was April 3rd, and a rather lackluster trading deadline day was nearing its end.  But with about an hour to go, the Blue Jackets absolutely obliterated the ho-hum nature of the day with the blockbluster that brought three-time NHL All-Star forward Marian Gaborik to Columbus for John Moore, Derick Brassard, and Derek Dorsett.  And management followed that with the deal that sent Steve Mason to Philadelphia for Michael Leighton and a 3rd-round draft choice.  The Gaborik deal in particular rocked the NHL world and told the fan base, the players, and the coaches in no uncertain terms that the organization believed the team’s turnaround was for real, and the time to win was now.  And in the process, it kept the franchise’s future intact by preserving all three of the Blue Jackets 2013 first-round draft picks.


Raise your hand if you saw this coming:


It was Monday night, and the Blue Jackets had squandered a one-goal lead and found themselves trailing the Colorado Avalanche 3-2, after a Stefan Elliott power play goal at 17:58 of the third period.  With any realistic playoff hopes likely hanging in the balance, Columbus tied the game 35 seconds later, on a beautiful R.J. Umberger goal to beat J.S. Giguere five-hole.  A little under six minutes later, Nick Foligno completed the unlikely comeback, sniping a short-side wrister by Giguere for the overtime game winner.   It was Umberger’s first goal in eight games and Foligno’s first in nine.  It was yet another reflection of this team’s no-quit persona, and – with five games remaining - the playoff push was very much alive.


So, how many hands are raised out there?  Thought so.  And isn’t that the beauty of this Columbus Blue Jackets season of pleasant surprises?