Get on the 'Bus! Blue Jackets Look for Perfect 10 vs. Panthers

jackets panthers

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, March 21, 2018 3:45 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 21, 2018 3:45 PM UTC

The hottest team in the NHL right now is Columbus as the Blue Jackets go for a 10th straight victory Thursday night against the visiting Florida Panthers.

Florida Panthers (81 points) at Columbus Blue Jackets (87 points)Free NHL Pick: Blue Jackets (& Under)Best Line Offered: SportsBetting

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Lot of good matchups on the 10-game NHL slate on Thursday, but perhaps none bigger than Florida visiting Columbus with a 7 p.m. ET puck drop from southern Ohio. No team is currently even close to Columbus’ nine-game winning streak.

It’s the third and final meeting between these teams, and the Blue Jackets already have clinched the season series – which could prove crucial for a postseason tiebreaker. On Nov. 2 in south Florida, the Blue Jackets had their best offensive performance of the year in a 7-3 victory. Oliver Bjorkstrand and Josh Anderson both scored twice for the Jackets, and they were the game’s first two stars. Bjorkstrand’s first, on the power play at 9:11 of the third, was the winner. Columbus had 40 shots and was 2-for-4 with the man advantage. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 31 shots, while James Reimer was pulled from the Florida net after allowing four goals on 19 shots.

On Jan. 7 in Columbus, the Jackets won 3-2 in a shootout. Anderson scored the deciding goal in the eighth round of the shootout. Bobrovsky was the No. 1 star with 42 saves. Reimer was a tough-luck loser with 46 stops and was the No. 2 star. Florida tied it at 18:26 of the third thanks to Aleksander Barkov.

The home team has won six of the past seven in the series.

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🍞🍞🍞 Another hatty for @9Artemi. #NHLTonight @BlueJacketsNHL

— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) March 21, 2018

Last-Season Surge For Jackets

A couple of weeks ago, the Blue Jackets were 32-28-5 and were on the outside looking in regarding the Eastern Conference playoff field. Funny what a nine-game winning streak, currently the NHL’s longest by a wide margin, can do. Now as of Wednesday, the Jackets are tied for second in the Metropolitan Division, with that title still very much up for grabs.

Columbus isn’t a great offensive team, ranking 22nd in scoring, but has 38 goals during the winning streak (4.2 per game) and has scored fewer than four just twice. On the flip side, the Jackets have surrendered more than three goals only once. Bobrovsky has been the winning netminder in six of the nine, including 5-3 at the Rangers on Tuesday in the second of a back-to-back.

Artemi Panarin, stolen from Chicago in an offseason trade, had a hat trick and an assist vs. the Rangers. The "Breadman" has 15 points during the winning streak (22 in his past 16) and leads the clubs in goals (25) and points (68). He’s the only Blue Jacket with at least 50 points. It was Panarin’s second career hat trick, with his first also against the Rangers on Feb. 17, 2016, while with the Blackhawks. Star defenseman Seth Jones missed his third straight game Tuesday with an upper-body injury and is day-to-day.

Florida is just behind New Jersey for the final wild-card spot in the East; there’s a large drop-off behind the Panthers so it’s likely to come down to them or the Devils for that No. 8 seed. Florida is 2-0 on its three-game road trip, winning 2-0 in Montreal behind Roberto Luongo on Monday and then 7-2 in Ottawa on Tuesday with Reimer in net.

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“We’ve done well the last couple of games on this road trip, but on Thursday we’ll have to work for everything we get against Columbus... It’s going to be a great contest between two desperate teams.” -Coach Boughner

— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) March 21, 2018

The seven goals vs. the Sens were by seven different players. With three points from defensemen, the Panthers now lead the league in points by blueliners since the All-Star break with 69. Winger Nick Bjugstad had a goal and an assist and has 23 points in his past 23 games. Evgenii Dadonov had a goal and an assist and has 19 points in his past 14 games, including a team-leading eight goals. It was the fourth time this season the Panthers scored at least seven. It should be Luongo back in there Thursday.

Columbus has lost just once at home this decade to Florida, in 2016, and only three times overall in 13 meetings. The Panthers could be a bit gassed with their fourth game in six nights. They are just 3-11 in their last 14 in that scenario. Take Columbus for a Thursday NHL pick and I do like the ‘under.’

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