In December, the Columbus Blue Jackets had less than a 20% chance of making the playoffs. Their season was trending in the wrong direction and it seemed to be another lost campaign in Ohio. Then a switch was flipped somewhere, and the team started playing outstanding hockey. Now the Blue Jackets have forced their way out of that hole, and have close to a 90% chance of making the dance, according to SportsClubStats.com.
They have a monster game against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight, and they'll get one of their most steady defenders back in the lineup just in time for the contest.
Ryan Murray hasn't been in the lineup since March 3, but Columbus has continued to battle. With 20 points in 61 games played, the former second-overall draft pick is quietly having a strong rookie season as a 20-year-old.
He wasn't eased into the role of a top-four defender. Instead, the Blue Jackets have used Murray nearly 20 minutes a night according to ESPN.com. Usually veterans of more than a few seasons are placed on a pairing to bail the rookie out. That isn't the case in Columbus though. Murray plays nearly 70% of his five-on-five shifts alongside James Wisniewski (as per Dobber Hockey's Frozen Pool line tracker tool) and it's his job to bail the offensive-minded defender out when he misplays a pinch.
They've been a solid pairing for the Blue Jackets, and they'll need to play a strong game against Chicago. The team's playoff chances could jump into the low 90's with a win—an outstanding improvement over where the team was just four months ago.