The Columbus Blue Jackets made their first playoff appearance since 2008-09, finishing atop the Eastern Conference Wild Card standings at 43-32-7, good for 93 points. They were also just 1 point back of Philadelphia for third in the Metropolitan Division, and 3 points back of the New York Rangers for second.
In a tough first-round matchup against the heavily favoured Pittsburgh Penguins, the Blue Jackets lost in a hard-fought six-game series, giving the Penguins everything they could handle.
After just missing out on a playoff spot in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, prognosticators were fairly optimistic about the 2013-14 campaign. With a young core, the reigning Vezina-winning goalie, and a move to an easier conference, a playoff spot was certainly within reach.
- Young center, Ryan Johansen, broke out for 33 goals (tied for 11th league-wide) and 63 points. At just 21 years of age, Johansen looks like the offensive cornerstone of this franchise.
- Since becoming a big off-season acquisition in Columbus, James Wisniewski had failed to live up to his 6 year, $33 million contract. However, this season, he looked a lot more like the player the Blue Jackets thought they were getting. In 75 games played, Wisniewski racked up 44 assists- good for first on the team by double-digits.
- Depth contributions played a major role in Columbus making the top-8 in the East. Up front, Artem Anisimov, Nick Foligno, RJ Umberger, and Brandon Dubinsky chipped in with 22/18/18/16 goals apiece. Cam Atkinson, a 2010 6th-round pick, surprised many with 21 goals and 40 points. On the back end, Fedor Tyutin and Nikita Nikitin stepped up for the Blue Jackets, and Ryan Murray earned some valuable experience.
- As a follow-up to his Vezina season, Sergei Bobrovsky was steady between the pipes. In 58 games played, Bobrovsky had a 2.38 GAA and .923 save percentage, to go along with 5 shutouts. Most importantly, he didn’t give an opportunity for Jay Onrait to be genuine in screaming, “BOBROVSKY, you’re off the case!”
- Although he bounced back with a strong playoff showing, Jack Johnson had a tough regular season in Columbus. At one point a surefire defencemen for America’s 2014 Olympic squad, Johnson failed to crack the roster. The backbone of the Blue Jackets defense, Johnson finished tied-for-last on the roster in +/-.
- According to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline, RJ Umberger requested a trade during his season-ending exit interview. With the team reportedly agreeing to accommodate the request, Umberger will be missed next year. He was a major presence in the team’s renowned physical forecheck and has consistently been a reliable secondary scorer.
PROGNOSIS FOR NEXT SEASON
After an impressive regular season and, in many ways, an even more impressive postseason showing, the future looks extremely bright in Columbus. Although predicting a deep playoff run may be getting a little too ahead of ourselves, Columbus will certainly be in the thick of the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division playoff races next year. With no major holes at any positions and great young talent at forward and on defence, the Blue Jackets will need to be a team on the Eastern Conference radar for years to come. It was also great to see the Columbus fans come alive during the playoffs after a lengthy drought. One can only hope there’s more of that to come in Ohio.