Columbus has been playing surprisingly good hockey as of late, now that they have no pressure on their shoulders. The most pressure the Blues have is to finish the season with home ice advantage and preferably a Presidents Trophy.
When Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason went down with a hand injury, it would be disingenuous to say that fans of the Jackets or hockey fans in general were upset. Mason has been a trainwreck this season, with a 3.30 GAA. He left the game against the Los Angeles Kings Thursday, with backup Curtis Sanford coming in to stop the final 13 shots. That was the Blue Jackets' surprising fourth win in a row. Surprising why? Because the Blue Jackets' season has been less than stellar. The Blues have 21 more wins than the Jackets' do, and are fighting for first in the NHL. Columbus? They're fighting for the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Why bother playing good hockey now? Well, why not? There's no pressure here anymore, and there's something to be said for playing spoilers -- which the Jackets certainly did on Thursday for the Kings, who're fighting for that last playoff spot in the West.
Tonight'll be the Blues' first look at Jack Johnson on the Columbus blue line. Another Columbus blue-liner, James Wisniewski, caused some buzzer beating problems for the Blues the last time these two teams met up, a 2-1 Blue Jackets win on February 14th. That game's notable for the Blues, because they've killed off every penalty that they've faced since then to move up to 9th in the NHL for the PK. The power play hasn't been a slouch recently either. The Blues won their game over the Anaheim Ducks behind the strength of two power play goals, and what was once the worst power play of the year is now 15th in the league.
The Blues' 28-4-4 home record is absurd, as is the fact that they're 7-1-1 in their last eight, but they only have five more games to add to it. The Blue Jackets as the road team is 9-20-4, so tonight might be a good chance for the Blues to add to their home win total before heading out on a seven game road streak. Columbus has only managed nine wins in their last 28 games against the Blues, you can't underestimate the Blue Jackets, though. For a team with nothing left to lose, it loosens them up to get the win.